By VICTOR NZE
Well over 500 delegates to the 36th Annual national Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) had a good cause to ruffle the feathers of the usually serene, methodical and near regimented life of Makurdi, the little known but expansive and impressive capital city of Benue State.
“Makurdi city is far from everywhere in Nigeria, but once here, you won’t wish to go back,” enthused Vitality Oda, a commercial motorcyclist.
Ironically, he is not far from the fact. Accessing Makurdi is not child’s play; devoid of a functional airport, the city is at the mercy of the first-time visitor’s endurance meter considering also that it is least four hours from the nearest state by road, and what a road!
For the Makurdi residents, it was therefore, rather strange seeing so many strangers of sorts, from different parts of the country milling around the city centre.
However, these were no ordinary visitors. It was the turn of Benue State to host the annual national convention of the biggest writers’ confraternity in Nigeria, the ANA. And whenever this literary gang storms town, residents usually know it.
The Makurdi ANA convention provided a rare but veritable opportunity to explore the city and see things as they are. It is impressive, expansive with a network of roads that is awesome and spacious. You might even mistake it for the Abuja metropolis with its similar land markings, layout, design and street signposting.
With relatively fewer cars and buses on exceptionally good roads, this situation leaves the commercial motorcyclists as kings here. Sitting on of those machines along the new and impressive George Akume Road, you imagine yourself on an airport runway!
“The former governor Gabriel Suswam did a lot for the capital city. That’s why it’s like this. We didn’t understand what he was doing then, but now we appreciate him for it,” Oda continued; in reference to the embattled former chief executive of the state.
Makurdi city has a life of its own, it appears. And when visitors come in, they find their level without unsettling or ruffling up the terrain. This is also the state with the ‘Ortomatic Governor’ so everything here is automated, near regimented and ordered.
“Even for us as motorcyclists, we can’t force them to change. There’s nothing like rush hour here. So we follow them. People are not in a hurry to go anywhere unlike what you find in other state capitals. Makurdi is just different, but in a good way too,” Oda submitted.
However, from Friday, October 26 through to Saturday, 28, the city came alive and was lifted as Nigerian authors came to town to celebrate their annual national convention, which was also an elective one.
The 36th Annual National Convention of ANA held in Makurdi city under the theme of; “Cannons, Prizes and Boundaries: African Writers and Writing in World Literature.”
Declaring open the just-concluded 36th Annual International Convention of the Association of the Nigerian Authors (ANA) at the Auditorium of the College of Health Sciences, University of Makurdi, the state capital, last Friday, State Governor Samuel ‘Ortomatic’ Ortom explained his administration’s decision to host the authors to their national convention, saying: “We accepted the host the convention in spite of grave financial challenges because of our conviction that ideas rule society and solutions to our problems lie with the propagation of ideas which is the preoccupation of writers. We also believe that the event would add value to the development of the state as indigenes would interact with literary icons who would mentor, encourage and ginger them.”
Represented by his Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar, the governor, assured the authors of his readiness to partner with them on whenever the need arose.
In his remarks, Member, House of Representatives, Hon, Jerry Alagbaoso, disclosed that the 8th National Assembly will soon commence public hearing on the proposed Authors’ Fund, also called the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Fund.
Alagbaoso who sponsored the bill during the 7th Assembly, said the document has now been represented at the current session, added that the importance of reading and writing in the Nigerian society cannot be overemphasized.
“I will continue to reiterate the importance of reading and writing in the life of the nation. This has informed my continued advocacy for the passage of the ANA Fund,” said Alagbaoso.
Earlier, National President of the ANA, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, remarked that the 38th national convention was remarkable in the sense that it celebrates those he described as ‘fallen heroes of the pen.’
“We strive to engender creativity in the society using the platform provided by the national convention. We are also committed to doing bit in strengthening the society through various literary advocacies put up. On this convention, we remember our fallen heroes of the pen like late Gen. Mamman Jiya Vatsa, Major Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, Dele Giwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Adebayo Faleti, Chinua Achebe, Chukwuemeka Ike, Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa, Daniel Fagunwa, and others, and others who died advocating the literary cause to save the Nigerian society,” said Denja.
According to Denja, the writers’ confraternity in the country had lost ‘great men and women who had strived to elevate the consciousness of the masses through their works.’
Highlight of the convention was the launch of the ANA Writers’ Series which was performed by a former president of the association and one-time Minister of State for Education, Dr Jerry Agada.
Other events that also added colour to the convention include; The Convention Play/Cultural Night at the JS Tarka Centre, Makurdi, the AGM, the Book Chat/e-Marketing Talk.
Modifying the convention theme to, “Issues in the Evaluation of Contemporary Literature in Africa,” keynote speaker, Prof Saleh Abdu Kwami, of the Gombe State University, called on African writers to carve out or create a space for themselves and their works in the broader world literature landscape so as to remain relevant and also for their audience to locate them.
Benue State did not just host the convention, the state also hosted to win, as home boy Mr Maik Ortserga, editor, poet, critic and publisher, clinched a position in the National Executive Council as Assistant General Secretary.
In the same way as most other positions were either returned unopposed or incumbents returned unopposed, an attestation of the approval of the serving National Council.
With delegates from the 36 states of the federation including those from the Federal capital Territory (FCT), the Benue National Convention of ANA could aptly be tagged a quiet storm which left its mark on the enduring ‘Ortomatic’ capital city of Makurdi.