It was a time of camaraderie, entertainment interspersed with a brain-storming session at the July Literary Discourse organised by Orpheus Literary Foundation in honour of a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Denja Abdullahi, at the Eugenia Abu Media Centre, Abuja on Thursday.
The session had in attendance many members of ANA, the literati, academia, civil servants and friends of Mr Abdullahi who was the immediate past president of the elite Nigerian writers’ group.
The theme of the event was tagged: Leadership and Institutional Building in the Creative Industry and had a rich panel made up of distinguished literary figures on the nation’s landscape.
The panellists included Mike Ekuno, of the National Film and Video Censors Board; Patrick Nwagbo of the National Institute of Cultural Orientation and Lois Otse, a former caretaker lead in ANA, Abuja.
The event specifically served as a platform for unveiling a rich compilation of writings in honour of Mr Denja and his activities: Leadership and Institutional Building in the Creative Industry , a 736-pages book edited by Ezechi Onyerionwu, Ismaila Bala and Chinyere Egbuta.
The panellists spoke glowingly about Mr Abdullahi’s achievements in academia, journalism, activism and the literary world. They also x-rayed the major national issues in the compilation, which equally depicts Mr Abdullahi’s uncanny ability to bestride various sectors of human activity.
The session, moderated by a writer, Salamatu Sule, was brightened with an exhilarating musical performance of ‘A thousand years of thirst’ by Paul Simon, a ‘musical journalist’ and a short reading of ‘Chalice of healing’ a literary piece by Ms Sule.
Mr Ekuno, describing Mr Abdullahi, likened him to the story of the seven blind men describing an elephant by touching it.
”Any part you take is still valid, any angle. I encountered him (Abdullahi) through his level-headedness. He is approachable, he is a true Nigerian. He is deep, he is not frivolous,” he said. ”He belongs to the generation that has been described as ‘wasted generation’ but he also has a foot in the generation that is serious-minded, educative, diligent and hardworking. I am proud he is part of my generation.”
He also added: ”What he did with ANA during his presidency is a commendable legacy because it is not common in these our parts. But the fact that now that he has handed over, we can see what ANA is like, more or less makes you know that what he went through to be able to stabilise the association must have been enormous.”
Describing the book, he said it was ”worth its weight in gold”.
”The span and kaleidoscope, what it covers, it ranges far and wide across the literary firmament of Nigeria. I was wowed by the assemblage of writers who made contributions to the different aspects of the book.”
Ms Otse also said the book inspired her and would serve as a guide for her future works. ”The book is very inspiring for me and I am even adopting it for many things including my further writings. I am so happy that today my boss, Malam Denja Abdullahi is being celebrated. I wish him many more celebrations.”
On the inspiration behind the compilation, Mr Abdullahi said: ”It was just by accident that I am a subject of the book. The editors would be in a better position to tell you why they chose that title.
He, however, added: ”When they were working on the book, I was not there. I gave them the freedom to define what they wanted to define. I don’t believe in forcing the process. When things are to be done I always want people to reveal their true nature. By the time you intervene in things that are going on, you distort the job.”
He said the work took about three years before it could be completed.
”It was supposed to come out during my 50th birthday in 2019. They said no, that they had to do a good work. And they did a lot of work,” he explained. ”All the 145 pictures you saw there, they selected them. When they gave me the title and I looked at it, you know one can quarrel with it. When we discussed about the title, what I told them is that the title must go with the issue of hybridity. I am an ‘hybrid’ person.
”I can be many things…I can stand in one place and thrive and also go to another place and be well received. I have been in the academia, I have been a journalist, I have also been in the public service. I have done a lot of other things so I told them – whatever you come out with must reveal the hybridity of my person…”
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