The doleful underperformance of public office-holders through the ages, which has left the world’s most populous black nation stuck, like a desperate invalid needing urgent life-support, has been attributed to the long-term deficit in the reading habits of political actors at all levels in Nigeria.
The ensuing slide of national discourse into muddling exchanges of insults, intolerant stereotyping and incoherent chatter in the midst of a growing crisis, must be halted if Nigeria must survive the current mass suffering enveloping the land, APC Senator, Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani has warned.
He sounded this alarm while inaugurating the Local Organising Committee for the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA’s 35th anniversary international convention to be hosted by the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, between 27-30 October this year.
Senator Sani, who has been chosen by ANA to play Chief Host at the forthcoming ANA convention, assured the association’s President, Denja Abdullahi and his National Executive Council, that he would give his full support to ensure a successful convention, explaining that this was part of his campaign to help revive the decline in the reading culture in Nigeria:
“Our young people are no more interested in reading books. They prefer to tweet and to post. But if one only tweets and posts without reading books, you will be tweeting and posting rubbish. Our political leaders don’t read books. They are more engrossed in politics of attrition and vendetta. You can see that the decline in reading culture has done a serious damage to our psyche. The decline in the nation’s reading culture is largely responsible for the deficiencies in the intellectual content of our political discourse.
“I am going to do everything I can to help the association to host the convention and will also assist to contact individuals and organisations to give back to society. The dearth of books and the decline in the reading culture have corroded the quality of our national discourse. I believe the reading culture can be revived, needs to be revived.”
The well-known activist and a man of letters in his own right, said apart from playing the role of Chief Host for the upcoming ANA convention, he has also made a legislative intervention on behalf of writers:
“A bill on the National Endowment Fund for Literature and the Arts that I sponsored in the Senate has passed first reading. And, after realising that a similar bill from the Ministry of Information and Culture will soon be presented to the Senate for consideration after the recess in September, I have stepped it down for more consultations with ANA and the Ministry.”
Narrating how he was inspired by the example of late radical politician, Aminu Kano, and his qualitative inputs into national discourse, Sani said: “I remember when I visited the home of Mallam Aminu Kano, books by Achebe, Soyinka, JP Clark Bekederemo, and other African authors were all over the shelf. He was among the few thinking and ideologically focused politicians of his time. Whenever he spoke, his peers listened and esteemed his contributions to national discourse, even if they disagreed on the finer points of methodology.
“This is why I oppose the statement by the Emir of Katsina that people should not be critical of President Buhari’s government. The supporters have no bigger right than the so called detractors. If people are allowed to go hungry enmasse by the system, you should also allow them to speak out. Most times solutions to national problems can come from the so called enemy camp.
“Just as the APC leader, Asiwaju Tinubu, didn’t hold back criticism of NNPC during the fuel crisis and the governor of my state, Nasir el Rufai, didn’t spare the Central Bank, even though they are supporters of the Federal Government, nobody should stop anyone. We cannot win the war on corruption by arresting bloggers and journalists. It is a violation of the fundamental human rights of citizens and must in no way be condoned by anybody.”
Earlier at the meeting hall of the City Plaza, Garki, Abuja, President of ANA, Denja Abdullahi, had read out detailed plans for hosting Nigerian writers at the 35th Convention of the association that also includes the keynote address on the theme: Re-Contextualizing African Literature for the African Renaissance – Emergent Trends, Realities and Strategies for the 21st Century, which will be delivered by Professor Isidore Diala.
Abdullahi said further that: “The present national executive council in its bid to give the association one of the best conventions in recent times has gathered a team to assist.”
The members of the LOC includes the President of ANA; General Secretary; Chairman, ANA FCT Abuja chapter, Ben Ubiri; and others, namely, Teresa Oyibo Ameh, Chinyere Obi-Obasi and Salamatu Sule.