By HENRY AKUBUIRO
DELEGATES and officials from the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) didn’t expect what they saw at Awo-Omamma last weekend. It wasn’t meant to be a mini ANA convention, but ended up being so. It was the First ANA National Teen Authorship Conference at Logos International School, Awommama, Imo State.
Gigantic canopies sprung up in three corners of the sprawling school football pitch teeming with enthusiastic students and teachers, members of the parents-teachers association, the royalty and writers, as the conference began on Friday, September 28, 2016, with the theme “Mentoring Teen Authors for National Development”. Delegates for the two-day event had arrived from different parts of the country to participate. The ethnic diversity of the delegates excited the students.
Working in concert with the school authorities, the vice president of ANA, Camillus Ukah, played the good host, making his colleagues feel at ease in the Heartland of the East. Needless to say, some of the ANA delegates were first- timers to the state.
Dignitaries included Professors J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada of Abia State University, Uturu, (who chaired the occasion) and Sam Ukala (the keynote speaker). Others were Rev. Bethel Azubuike (Dean of Arts, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, representing the Provost), Pastor Precious. Ahiaogu (the Principal of LOGISS) Pastor B.O. Ogu (the Director of School) and Eze E.A. Amanfo, the host community’s traditional ruler.
In his opening statements, Prof. Nwachukwu-Agbada said the event was an ANA National event that was taken to Imo State, even as he decried the lack of mentorship in Nigeria today. “Even parents are not mentoring their children as well,” he lamented, stressing the need for educational mentorship, for, “if you are not mentored, you won’t go far in life.”
Professor, Nwachukwu-Agbada, who said it was good to be focused from the very beginning, said the child himself has a role to play in the mentoring exercise. In literature, he said it was essential to read other people’s works. “If you want to be mentored well, you must read novels, magazines and well produced newspapers,” he echoed.
Entertainment wasn’t in short supply. Students of LOGISS enthralled the audience with a choral performance, followed by readings by Anyanwu Favour and Ugo Daniel. Introduced by Ndu Nduagu (phd), Prof. Sam Ukala, took to the podium to present the keynote speech entitled “Mentoring Teen Authors: Imperatives for National Development”.
The keynote speaker, who was the recipient of the 2014 NLNG Prize for Literature, said a mentor of an author of any age must be a good, published writer – “one with experience in writing and in getting published, and with the zeal, patience and skills for imparting his experience and knowledge to others”.
Emphasising on the imperative of mentoring to national development, the Delta State University professor of Dramatic Arts, said human capital development “is key to national development as is exemplified by the history of Malaysia, Singapore and Japan”.
Creativity in literature, he said, “inspires creativity, innovation and invention in science and technology”, affirming that literature “sets agenda for science and technology”. For example, in 1865, Jules Gabriel Verne, a French writer, best known for his adventurous stories, published a novel, From the Earth to the Moon, in which man made his first attempt to land on the moon. It wasn’t until 1969 that man actualised that by landing on the moon.
He also cited the example of Aldous Huxsley, who, in 1932, published the novel, Brave New World, containing, in its storyline, a laboratory in which babies are manufactured in test-tubes. It was to crystallise into reality much later when a scientist, Louise Brown, in 1978, produced the first-tube baby.
The success story of the Hilltop Arts Centre, Minna, Niger State, which inspired others across the country, was the topic of discussion by another resource person, B.M. Dzukogi,who came with a handful of books written by students
He promised that the mentoring scheme would survive of the arts centre, some of who had since become high-flyers in writing.
Among others, he mentioned Sadiq Dzukogi, Halima Abdul and Mariam Bobi. A mentor isn’t only a guide to the young writers. For Dzukogi, it was all encompassing: “A mentor is not only somebody who directs and teaches; a mentor is like a father or a mother.”
John Sarpong, the Ghanaian writer, upped the ante, getting all to their feet with a poetic rendition that went with a sing- along chorus “Chinedu”, which saw everybody dancing for minutes. He subsequently stated that everything in the world came through imagination. The author of seven books of children literature said his poem “Fulani Buka” inspired a Nigerian architect, Nimo Bassey, to seek new and cheaper ways of building low cost houses.
The students of LOGISS spiced up the afternoon with a dance drama. It was followed by a short story presentation by Ugochi Njoku of Imo Model Secondary School, Owerri. Dr. Ebenezer Onyemechi, a former student of the school and a product of the school’s Creativity Centre, said creative writer had been an outlet for his stories to be heard, and “every story is important to be heard”. He corroborated that literature set agenda for science, expressing optimism that, one day, men would be sojourning to other planets for tourist purposes, for it had already been written on severally in today’s fiction.
The principal of the college, Pastor Precious Ahiaogu, in his remarks, said that today’s event was a culmination of the romance that started between ANA and his school in 2012 when Mallam Dzukogi, the then ANA Secretary, with members of the national body, in conjunction with the Imo State branch of the association, headed by Camillus Ukah, the National Coordinator of the Teen Authorship Mentoring Project, visited the school to open its Creativity Centre.
That initiative, he admitted, had yielding creative dividends for both the students of the school and the teachers, leading to the publication, in 2013, of the school’s first volume of anthology (a collection of poems and stories written by 100 students). The second anthology, he informed, would be published in November, 2016.
He promised that the mentoring scheme would survive the test of time, echoing that “Rebranding Nigeria cannot be, except through attitudinal change which can only be occasioned by vibrant writings that will influence the minds of the people, especially the teens.”
Mallam Denja Abdullahi handed over the first batch of books donated by ANA to the school in return to the dona- tion of the school’s publications to the association. ANA president subsequently declared open the association’s Read-A-Book-A-Child-A-Day campaign aimed at reviving reading culture in Nigeria.
The first day of the ANA National Teen Authorship Mentoring Scheme ended with a vote of thanks by the Director of Logos Schools, Pastor B.O. Ogu, who thanked ANA for choosing his school for the maiden conference, just as he thanked the Ghanaian for making all present to dance.
Day 2 of the conference came alive with a series of jokes by Dr. Nduagu. It was followed by a moving opening speech by Pastor Ogu on the essence of mentorship, which began with Christ.
In his address of welcome, ANA President, Denja Abdullahi, said the association had been mentoring since its forma- tion 35 years ago, producing writers, some of who were now bigger than their mentors. He applauded the benevolence of Yusuf Ali (SAN), who had been supporting the association with a yearly donation of 3 million naira for its annual literary outreach across states.
B.M. Dzukogi continued where he stopped the previous day as he spoke on the strategy for excellent mentoring, emphasising on originality in the scripts of the mentees at all times. “It is a mark of excellence for our teen authors to be recognized internationally,” he said.
Prof Joy Eyisi brought the roof of LOGISS down when he began his presentation on “Accuracy in the Use of English”. Soon, it dawned on many in the hall that the everyday English they took for granted was strewn with errors. “Under no circumstance must we say we know it all in English,” she cautioned.
Delegates were conducted round the school’s Creativity Centre to see the progress made so far. It was evident much has been achieved. With gusto, participants in the First ANA National Teen Authorship Scheme went home re-energised on how to build the nation by mentoring others. The Sun