By Japhet Alakam
Mallam B. M. Dzukogi, is a noted writer, mentor, activist, teacher, lecturer and Director General of the Niger State Book and Research Development Agency [NSBREDA]. He was elected General Secretary at the 2011 Convention held at Abuja . The Bida, Niger State born administrator, who has played and is still playing a very significant role towards the development of Literature in Nigeria for over two decades recently announced his intention to contest for Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA Presidency. In this interview, the versatile craftsman and philosopher par excellence who has given the world nine published books explains why he wants to be the ANA president and a whole lot of issues. Excerpts:
As the convention draws near, the wish of all literary writers and lovers is to have a good leader to lead ANA, why do you think that you are qualified for the exalted office?
First of all, I am a child of the association haven joined it in 1991. I have spent over twenty years helping to grow the association to the point of becoming the national secretary. However, my scorecard is about the developmental activism. I have spent most of my time in creating for the association in Niger State and the national. I challenge members of my generation to come-forth with anyone whose scorecard is finer than mine in the present circumstance in terms of projects and programmes for ANA. In 1995, I designed for ANA Niger the Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs (ASCAFS) which has ran for twenty one years now, I founded the HillTop Arts Centre which is the first of its kind in Northern Nigeria. In fact, many of my colleague-writers say they are not aware of any of its kind in Nigeria.
At the art centre, students become authors of their own books from primary and secondary school age. Today, they are full blown authors, and Nigerian writers know them. The Nigerian Teen Authorship Scheme is our proprietorship in ANA Niger, a programme we exported to the national when I became the secretary, the Nigerian Writers Series (a replica of the African Writers Series) for which ten novels were published by the Association of Nigerian Authors is my idea and facilitation, we have a similar series in Niger state which I introduced with six books published so far.
Through my activism in government, the Niger State Book Development Agency was established in 2012 for writers by the Niger State Government. There is no such thing in any state of the federation. These are just a few of the things done. In 2008, I spearheaded the inauguration of the first Northern Nigerian Writers Summit. These are outside other smaller initiatives we do in Niger state.
These are some of the reasons why I am vying for the office of the national president. There is an annual colloquium tagged Nigeria’s Apex Literary Discourse Platform, it is in its fifth edition. We had guests like Odia Ofeimun, Prof Wole Soyinka, Prof Kofi Anyindoho, former Mozambican President; Joaquin Chisano as previous Keynote speakers including Prof Pius Adesanmi. I am the pilot of the programme. So, who else is fitter than me to be President of ANA at the moment?
In this period of change, what is that new change you intend to bring to transform the body that the past leaders did not do?
We shall seek the creation of book agencies in states of the federation, create an African literary platform; African Writers Summit, to discuss the African condition and development, we shall mobilize national institutions to partake in the capacity building of young writers in the federation by enlisting us on the national intervention schemes in sure-P, MDGs, NAPEP, SME etc. We shall expand the Nigerian Writers Series and the National Teen Authorship Scheme which we started during my tenure as the Secretary, it was financed by the wife of the Niger State governor where five states were published in a national anthology. Our voices would be heard in Nigeria as opinion moulders and as advocates of order and development agenda as well as education.
In one of your write up, you said that ANA needs to have a plan and do other things outside convention. If elected as the ANA president, what is that plan?
Regional submits of writers, partnership with other literary platforms outside ANA where a lot more of us will attend, selecting programmes by state chapters and marking them as national literary events where members across the federation will attend. We shall speak with home governments of such chapters to nationalize beautiful events domiciled there to be mark as national through greater sponsorship and participation by us.
So we shall design a National Literary Circuit based on the existing events at state chapters. We shall also adopt any programme run by any non-ANA organisation who will subscribe to our circuit. Here-in we shall have many programmes known to writers in the country and indeed around the world to enable people plan ahead and participate. I am the only one with a tangible agenda being published into a manifesto. I am the one who ever did in a book form and the one doing it again. Each time I contest, I bring up a published document as manifesto so that members can call me to order or call me to account. That’s me!
Much is expected from ANA as a body of writers, but recent developments indicate that not much is heard from them, why?
This notion arises from the fact that in the early days of ANA some thirty years ago, writers were at the forefront of national discourse because the first generation and the second one believed and practiced craftsmanship. They were active participants in the process of literary and societal development. They also made sure that they had disciples following them, imbibing the spirit of nationalism, freedom and nation building. Then came upon a time or period when lull set in and writers basically withdrew into their shells, perhaps, because of the increasing demand of life on the individual as the Nigerian society degenerated. So, a majority of them receded into pure craftsmanship only.
The association itself almost lost its voice too unlike the voices of the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Medical Association, Nigerian Union of Journalists or the Nigerian Labour Congress who have been alive to national issues. As part of my Presidency, we shall revive the spirit of nationalism in literature vie vigorous participation in the Nigerian Affair. This would be through advocacies across the country and national institutions by getting them to partner with us towards the revival of the nation’s heritages in intellectualism, scholarship and the general stability of affairs for growth and development.
However, more than enough has been heard of ANA members through successes recorded in creative writing which is the primary focus of writers and their association. There is hardly any country in the world where you have a large concentration of writers than Nigeria. And the beautiful thing about it is that majority of us are young people. So, a new golden age in writing is unfolding in Nigeria. So, in the angle of the written text, Nigeria is on the fast lane. ANA has over thirty state chapters in Nigeria.