16 December 2012

Nigeria: ANA Nigeria PLC - the Incorporation of Sycophancy

For beginners, ANA is "Association of Nigerian Authors". And for those in the know, ANA is touted as the biggest association of writers in Africa. In 2009 a friend, Gimba Kakanda, in an article titled "The Funeral of Nigerian Literature" published then in some of Nigeria's leading newspapers, lamented the decay of the nation's literary fibre; he detailed in that wonderful and brilliant piece how overtime the nation's literary landscape became the convergence spot of writers seeking political relevance, and how their incautious romance with government turned them away from development of writing, writers and elevation of the written texts, which were their actual aims.

Consequently, many literati across the lengths and breadths of Nigeria ascribed the outburst then to some form of literary delinquency just to nail the young, vibrant and promising writers. But unfolding events in the nation's literary community since my encounter with that piece have neither presented Gimba as a unique mad-man nor a 'sane delinquent' craving for attention.

The just concluded 2nd Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu (MBA) National Literary Colloquium organized by the Niger State Government seems to be a standing testimony to this fact. While the event deserves a commendation for serving as platform for intellectual discourse of Nigeria, the set-up is overtly flawed. The anomaly now experienced with an event of this nature as earlier noted by Gimba is the unfortunate scenario where unscrupulous elements within the literary circle hijacked the event and swerves it to serve their own selfish interests.

ANA was founded by Professor Chinua Achebe to cater for the increasing demands of developing and expanding the literary spirit of this country. But the successive admirations veered off the missions embarked on by the founders that now the association is open even to non-writers, who have succeeded in ruining any connection ANA has to intellectualism. The question has always been whether ANA can actually criticize a government that feeds it fat. ANA, as read elsewhere, is supposed to be the intellectual engine of Nigeria, but now that it's being oiled by government, especially one known for empty promises (endless words, little actions), how can the masses have their voices heard through balanced critical assessments? This was the reason why Gimba Kakanda, upset by their hypocrisy during the fuel subsidy removal protest last January, renounced his membership.

Every year, ANA converges for their conventions, but my experience of such event is depressing. They only meet for politicking. This politics means more membership, especially for those whose interests are just to gain access to their respective state governments. This shameful departure from the literary and the intellectual prospects makes ANA the largest collective of mediocre intellectuals in Nigeria.

Alas... Commonwealth, Orange and Caine prizes are now won by authors outside ANA membership coverage, with Nobel prospects and Booker longlist no longer in sight. The worst tragedy is, ANA prizes are somewhat like compensations for membership, as the shabbily produced books that annually clinch the prizes are testimonies of ANA's departure from the path of literary excellence.

That's why I find what their sycophancy stunts recently brought them is quite ironic; it's indicated in the programme of events gazette (page 11, item 13) circulated at the 2nd MBA Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu National Literary Colloquium held on 11th December, 2012, that Governor Babangida has presented ANA with a cheque of 10 million for introduction of a Nigerian Writers Series. What writers? Does ANA really comprise members worthy of such acclaim? Its antecedents say otherwise. Who would expect a genuine piece of literature from an association that dedicates its books, supposedly meant to mirror the society, to failed politicians? This union is a death of reasons. Scouting for money from just any source without paying mind to the honour of the donors is what I refer to as the death of reason.

What Nigerian literature needs is structure; a publishing outfit to assess polished manuscripts and outlets to market published books. Not series? Littering the country with a series of bad books by writers who couldn't write a grammatically decent essay is a great disaster to the arts and history of Nigeria. For instance, African Writers Series (AWS), to which ANA's ancestor Professor Chinua Achebe was an editor, was run under a functional publishing climate. The series produced politically relevant books that intervened in the political evolution of Africa and deconstructions of anti-Africa propagandas, portrayals, campaigns, and stereotyping.

The aforesaid therefore call for sober reflections on the affairs of things in modus operandi of ANA and question the category under which the association was incorporated at Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) when it was registered. Because if this trend is to continue unchecked, it would present the association as a body incorporated as nothing other than an orphanage in dire need of charity support or better still a corporate body with capacities of offering both Ordinary Public Shares and Right Issues and possibly getting listed on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Lasisi is from of the Federal University of Technology, Minna

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