Thursday, 19 May 2016

DENJA: I thought my election would be a walkover.



Mallam Denja Abdullahi is the president of Association of Nigerian Authors. He has BA and an MA in English and Literature and far gone towards a PhD. He has worked as a teacher, Journalist and  lecturer in the past before veering into public cultural administration. He is currently a Director in the National Council for Arts and Culture, Abuja.


YOU RAN A HIGHLY CONTESTED ELECTION, WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE PARTICULARLY AS YOU HAVE SERVED IN DIFFERENT CAPACITIES IN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN AUTHORS (ANA)? WERE YOU THINKING IT WOULD BE A WALKOVER?

I had thought it will be an easy glide to the ANA Presidency because I had paid my dues overtime and have remained in the staunch service of the Association even when others fell out. I got into the National Executive Council in 2001 as an ex-officio member, became Assistant General Secretary, then General Secretary, reverted to ex-officio and became Vice President afterwards; all these within an unbroken period of 14 years. With this record, I was already seeing myself as an Edaiken (heir apparent or crown prince in the Benin parlance), whose ascendance to the Achebe throne (in the case of ANA) will be incontestable.



Contest came from a most unlikely source and I braced up for it and gave it my all and here we are! When I expressed my consternation to a very cerebral friend in the course of the contest, he said ‘Denja,it is better that way so that it does not look like a coronation.’ 


The contest was interesting and had never been that heightened in the history of ANA.


WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE ASPIRING TO BECOME THE PRESIDENT OF ANA?
I will tell the person that ANA Presidency is an elephant’s head, it is not a load for the weak or the unprepared to carry. You must be at the peak of whatever profession you practice, have a lot of time for public service, be cerebral ,must possess a measure of financial independence and innumerable goodwill to burn before you can aspire to be ANA president.


NOW THAT YOU ARE HEADING ANA A FEW PEOPLE THINK YOUR EXECUTIVE IS SILENT. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION?
Whoever thinks like that must be in another planet not called earth. My Executive has been over active and we have exploited all the available channels to air our activities and communicate to our members. The dynamics of information sharing has changed in this executive and I am at the top of it.


In April this year, we released our first quarter briefing and in those three months as contained in the briefing, we have done our modest best to keep the Association alive.

WHAT PROGRAMS DO YOU HAVE FOR ANA?
We have the routine programmes which are already on-going like the Yusuf Ali nationwide literary campaign. We have sent out several proposals to places and soon we will begin to harvest programmes upon programmes. We have a strategic plan development workshop to tackle and we have commissioned a film producing company to shoot a documentary on ANA. We are also in the process of creating a digital database for the association to streamline our membership structure.

We have floated new committees and an advisory council which have all started working. Go back to my manifesto which I tagged “The Pragmatic Deliverables,” and which my Exco has adopted as our guiding map. I intend to achieve everything as stated in that manifesto and I am already working towards that.

THIS YEAR’S CONVENTION IS IN ABUJA, PEOPLE ARE A BIT WORRIED WHETHER IT WILL BE A SUCCESS BECAUSE THE LAST ONE THAT HELD IN ABUJA THOUGH NOT UNDER YOUR WATCH, DID NOT GO SO QUITE WELL. WHAT ASSURANCES DO YOU HAVE FOR THE PEOPLE?
Abuja 2016 ANA Convention which coincidentally is our 35th Anniversary  will be a differently organized convention. It will be celebrative and we have started planning for it and reaching out to people, organization and bodies. Remember, Comrade Senator Shehu Sani, requested for the convention to be held in Abuja under his sponsorship. We are latching on to that and also doing our bits to deliver a very memorable Convention with a systemic kind of organization. I talked of ‘unbundling’ the ANA Convention, the process  towards that starts with this 2016 convention. I am well experienced in organizing ANA Conventions and many other literary and cultural events; so I will not, with God’s help and that of ANA members, allow the first convention under my watch and within my city to be a non-show.


SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE READING CULTURE IS ON THE DECLINE. WHO DO YOU THINK IS TO BLAME IF YOU AGREE WITH THE ASSERTION?
I try to sound positive always about the reading culture because far more reading is being done now on many platforms than we used to have. People read these days on Smart phones, e-book reading devices, on-line etc. It may be that the traditional form of reading from the pages of a book is suffering, ironically because of the introduction of the platforms I enumerated earlier. Also, we live in a world of intolerable distractions: phone calls, TV channels, FM Stations, eking out a living, family and all sorts that to read a book with adequate concentration has become a heroic exercise.  Reading is still the only way out of ignorance to knowledge and we must continue to devise ingenious ways to promote reading in our society.



AS A WRITER OF MANY BOOKS WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BUDDING WRITERS?
The only advice worth giving is that of hard work, dedication, practice and more practice until you find your own unique voice that will set you apart from others.





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