Literature and generally, literary education, which shaped Nigerian polity in the First Republic appears to be losing grip on Nigerian education system today. Students, most of the times, take up the study of literature just for the purpose of making up the number of subjects required for the course they intend to study at the tertiary level. Two top stakeholders of the association contesting for the leadership of the body spoke to LOUIS OKORO UGBAGHA on the issue. The observation by most Nigerians that literature is losing its shine among contemporary Nigerian students does not go down well with some of the key leaders in the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA. In fact, to them, it is a negative campaign against the promotion of literature in Nigeria.
The observation by most Nigerians that literature is losing its shine among contemporary Nigerian students does not go down well with some of the key leaders in the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA. In fact, to them, it is a negative campaign against the promotion of literature in Nigeria.
Mallam Denja Abdullahi is the Vice President of ANA. He is not comfortable with the remark, which, to him underrates the dogged effort of the association to bring back the glory of literature in the country’s education system.
“ I disagree with the remark that students of today do not like literature. They really do, going by the response we get from them whenever we go for school outreach programmes under the aegis of my Association, ANA and under other literary platforms. What I suspect is lacking is the way students are taught the subject in our schools today.
“During those days we went to school, literature teachers were very passionate people who enlivened the subject as they taught it. Some of us fell in love with the subject and even decided to follow its trail to higher education because of those teachers’ passion. I can still remember lines and dramatic situations in those students’ days of mine, of course, powered by iconic and very dramatic teachers.
“We also have to look at the kinds of books in the literature curricula of our schools of today. We as authors can come in to help change the situation by contributing to enhancing teachers’ education in matters of teaching literature and participating in curriculum review and development”, Mallam Denja stated.
He submitted that government educational agencies charged with overseeing this are not getting it right because they do not involve writers’ bodies and authors’ groups in education policies that has to do with teaching of literature in schools..
Mallam Abdullahi pointed out the imperative of maintaining the body’s age long role as the conscience of the nation, ever protective of the general quest for an egalitarian society where every citizen is a stakeholder in the progress and advancement of the nation.
He, however, disclosed his intention to prod the association towards keeping the members of the on their singular role of influencing political culture in Nigeria through their writing.
“Writers, to me and to many who belong to my Association, do not have any other role. We will not be laid back, we will stake our claim to participation in governance at all levels within the areas of our core competence .
“We have a lot to offer in contributing to the development of this country from the educational and cultural perspectives and much more. We will partner with government without sacrificing our independent spirit as writers and creative people”, he assured.
3. If you agree with me that to the average Nigerian, there is hardly anything called ANA that oversees matters of literature and literary education, especially in our public schools, what programme are you contemplating for schools- both public and private – to increase awareness and imbue in the school children the penchant for creative writing?
Mallam Abdullahi, a former lecturer at the University of Jos, now Director at the National Council of Art and Culture, argued that the assertion that ANA is not so familiar with Nigerians is no longer true, especially going by the over 30 years history of the Association with its plethora of schools-based literary programmes that the body has permeated the Nigerian society with.
“The Association exists strongly in nearly all the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT. In all the places you find ANA, it has programmes and projects centered on the book, reading and writing designed for students and pupils in competitive atmospheres.
“Our Association has been in the vanguard of many schools’ libraries equipping projects; workshops for budding writers in schools and even publishing young people in book forms and some of them have gone on to become accomplished writers themselves. For the last four years, we have been engaged nationwide in the ANA/Yusuf Ali literary awareness campaign involving over 20 public and private secondary Schools in each State of the Federation and the FCT” he argued.
The Vice President further explained that the ANA/ Yusuf Ali venture sponsored since the start in 2011 by the renowned Nigerian lawyer, Yusuf Ali (SAN) is entering another phase this year with a national creative writing workshop being planned for students of tertiary educational institutions.
“In ANA’s history, we do not lack programmes for schools nor the competence to carry them out. What we need now is more support to bring forth innovative programmes that will further the objectives of creativity and linguistic and literary competence in our students”, Mallam Abdullahi appealed.
Speaking on the contribution of ANA to job creation, he said literary competence may not immediately solve the problem of unemployment, it will equip the youths with life-long skills that can help solving unemployment and many more problems.
Another key stakeholder of ANA, B M Dzukogi, gave a different angle to the mission of ANA in rebuilding the perceived collapsing structure of literature and literary education in Nigeria.
He highlighted the impact of literary education development in a state like Niger, where, according to him, the revival of literature and literary education came as wind of change, and blew across the entire state, leaving a more informed citizenry.
“Changing this situation started in ANA Niger over twenty years ago. First, we designed a programme in 1995 called Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs, ASCAFS, which was my proposal to the then State Executive Council as a contribution to refocusing the minds of secondary school students to literature, creative writing and other forms of artistic expression.
“The programme is in its 21st edition, this year. Similarly, I founded an Arts Centre in Hill-Top Model School, Minna, over ten years ago to primarily take care of literature and creative expressions. Many of the graduates of the centre like Maryam Bobi, Saddiq Dzukogi, Paul Liam, Deborah Oluniran, Halima Aliyu, Fodio Ahmed who are all published and a lot more who are yet to be publish are now atop the emerging names in Nigerian literature.
“Some have even gone international by the level of the acceptance of their works in journals around the world. ANA spearheaded a literary revolution in Niger State by staying the course while others that we started out together appear to have dropped or relapsed in the journey.
Dzukogi disclosed that in a bid to refocus the mind of Niger State students from primary to secondary school and to create young writers, ANA Niger State fought for the establishment of the Niger State Book and other Intellectual Resource Development Agency to further appropriate the heritage of Niger State in literary development right from the time of Abubakar Imam whose book appeared thirty years before Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
“The agency is the first and the only one of its kind in Nigeria. To promote reading and interest in literature, we created the MBA Book-hawker which sells books in neighbourhood, we have Minna Creative Writing Class where students horn their talents in literature.
“In my capacity as a key ANA leader in the state, I have been at the centre designing and implementing these programmes. Yet there are still a lot ground to cover. As a national leader of ANA, we will vigorously pursue the establishment of Book Development agencies like the one in Niger through various ANA branches to achieve the promotion literature and creative writing in the country.
“We have done it in Niger, it is achievable in other states. we have the credibility, the will, the capacity and the energy to prosecute this. My position as a General Secretary gives me the advantage of piloting the affairs of the body even as the overall leader.
Dzukogi stated that Nigerian writers must take the lead in redesigning and redirecting the operational systems and the attitudes of citizens to it, adding that writers cannot be contented with theorizing and penning philosophies, mirroring society and advocating good without standing up to help to participate physically in its development.