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At 40, we are poised to celebrate our founding fathers

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Feb 2021

The Association of Nigerian Authors ANA, is 40 years. Formed at Nsukka in 1981 by the likes of Chinua Achebe, JP Clark, TM Aluko, Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare and a host of other renowned Nigerian writers, ANA has grown over the years to nurture, accommodate and produce more vibrant writers. Even as it celebrates, there is also time to remember some of the old members who just passed on, like Jerry Agada and others. In this chat with Edozie Udeze, Maik Ortserga the national secretary of the association elaborates on the programmes to make the anniversary a historic and eventful one come April.AS the Association of Nigerian Authors prepares to celebrate 40 years of its formation, what exactly do we expect'The celebration is expected to start in April and it will to take place in ten cities with relevant historical and cultural significance: Nsukka, Port- Harcourt, Makurdi, Lafia, Kano, Bauchi, Ibadan, Lagos, Minna, culminating into the International Convention to be held at Mamman Vatsa Writers Village in Abuja towards the end of the year. Through this celebration of 40 years across the land, we foresee a future of rapid increase in literary activities that will quicken the nations heartbeat in the search for a better world. We expect intense imaginative and productive thinking as well as grooming of minds to inspire positive actions that will take us out of the present day socio-political inconsistencies in Nigeria.With the absence of some of the founding fathers like Achebe, J.P Clark and others, what mostly will the clan of writers be missing about them'You see, Achebe and the other writers of his generation like J.P Clark. T.M. Aluko, Cyprian Ekwensi and the others are firmly ensconced in our hearts even as they are not here with us today. Their path finding roles and their quest for identity has always been one of the predominant factors in the literature they handed over to us. The first generation of Nigerian writers of Achebes variety went to universities at a time when there was no African literature on the curriculum, strictly speaking, therefore, not until they themselves began to write and publish their own books. Only then, was it possible for the continent to evolve literary canons and critical scholarship. We will miss their struggle to etch our identity, culture and history in an expansive world through literature. They will also be remembered for their involvement in the establishment of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).With the demise of Professor Jerry Agada, a former national president, a former minister of the federal republic and one of the back bones of the Benue State chapter of ANA, what serious vacuum has this absence created.Agada will seriously be missed by ANA both at the national and state levels. As a writer, he was significant, versatile, and a good mentor to several up-and coming writers, the astonishing candor with which he stepped out to support the Association was quite unprecedented. Prof. Agada was in a class of his own in encouraging young authors to have their works published. In 2005, he created an opportunity for several young writers to be published by editing and sponsoring the most encyclopedically ambitious volume of poetry in Nigeria entitled Five Hundred Nigerian Poets (volume one).There is a literary prize instituted in Agadas name, what does this mean to the literati and the people concerned'Yes, the prize endowed by Professor Moses Tsenongu, the head of the Department of English at Benue State University is tagged ANA/Jerry Agada Prize for Idoma Language Literature. This means a lot to the literati since it is a platform for continues development and celebration, management, promotion, sustenance and continuation of literary/ creative activities in ANA in the memory of Jerry Agada. It will also afford most of our young writers, especially of Idoma extraction, the opportunity, not just to win prizes but to develop the language.As the General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, what role did Agada play in resolving the crises that rocked the association recently'Agada carried out a challenging but rewarding task when he stepped out on the orders of the Advisory Council and the Board of Trustees of ANA to chair an Emergency General Meeting (EGM), at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic, and work towards putting in place a new National Executive Council led by Camillus Ukah in order to ensure the continuity that was broken during the botched Enugu Convention in 2019. In carrying out this assignment, he received insults on social media platforms from young people who were supposed to be his children. They even peddled rumors that he was arrested in Makurdi. In his characteristic humility, Agada bore all the knocks in good faith and continued with his cool intellectual approach toward returning ANA on the path of glory that the founding fathers will be proud of. There is no doubt that Agada has gone home to give a report of the last assignment he did diligently to Chinua Achebe, T..M Aluko, Flora Nwapa, Cyprian Ekwensi, John Munonye, Chukwuemeka Ike, Festus Iyayi, Buchi Emecheta, Mammam Vatsa, Ken Saro-wiwa and the others who had gone before him.What are his unfulfilled dreams for ANA'Jerry would have loved to see the gains of his efforts in resolving the crises that rocked the Association. He had desired to see a more united and prosperous ANA. He also desired to bring out the second volume of his Five Hundred Nigerian Poets project.
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