Published On: Tue, Sep 1st, 2015

Why I want to become ANA President-Dzukogi



MallamB.M Dzukogi is a writer,lecturer, mentor to many budding writers and Director General of the Niger State Book and Research Development Agency (NSBREDA). He spoke with Adeola Ogunrinde onreasons he wants to be the next ANA President

When did you start writing and which of your works established you as a writer?

Each time a writer or an artist starts out, such beginnings are usually vague. It is only a little later, after catching the frequency of scribbling, production and art’s spirituality that the artist begins to recollect and relate past experiences; his artistic exuberances, into concrete forms to come up with a narrative on the history of beginings. It is so with me too. Later, I realized that those creative flirtations were actually foundations for future writing engagements. Back at the Teachers’College, though I didn’t offer literature, I was with them in the literary corners of our school. Together with my friends, we toyed with books like Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel; each person took turns to read from passages and characters which we recorded and played back to ourselves. Drama or stage performance appealed to us then more than any other form of writing. I think there was also the influence of newspaper reading too as well as Ikebe Super and later Super Story comic magazines. However, living in Ahmadu Bahago Teacher’s College in Minna was more pragmatic in incubating the art of writing in me. As kids, we scurried their lockers for books after they had gone on holidays. It was after our Teachers’ College that my friend and I began writing a friend’s story who told us how wicked his stepmother was with him. That experiment is over thirty years ago. Meanwhile, I think, those creative libidinal testing of the pen weren’t still any concrete intention to be a writer, but I think with my friend, it was a serious matter,I saw it in him. The explosion started in me was in 1988 when I finished my NCE, the period came with poetry. In 1991, I joined ANA, Niger. The same friend of mine pulled me to the 1991 convention of ANA in Minna. For the first time, I saw characters like Ken Saro Wiwa and his pipe, sitting in U.K Bello Arts Theatre, Minna. I saw Kole Omotosho, Omawunmi, Odia, I think I saw Akachi too, Bappa, Gimba, Dangana, Wunmi Raji and many more. My first book was in 1996; Midnight Lamp, a poetry collection. It wasn’t the first I wrote. I had written a novel before it, it is still unpublished.


What are your challenges regarding publishing?

It is basically the fact that in Nigeria, you have to do it yourself. That’s what everyone does till this moment. There is practically no standard publishing outlet in the Nigerian environment, we write, print or publish by ourselves or your friends, market them yourself and write again, this is what writing means in Nigeria. It is the same torture that the creative individuals suffer in Nigeria. Even when you decide to do it yourself, you lack the resources to confront it. Governments and the private sector are yet to fully understand why they should invest in writing or art generally. A few of them have shown bits of interest and have come in at a point to promote writing, anyway: Babangida Aliyu, Amaechi and Mimiko. Even the society, especially parents of today appear to be unconcerned too. There is a loss in the understanding of the power of the book to appropriate the child or the individual in the society. This is the tragedy with Nigeria otherwise, if I know the public will pay attention to my work, I will concentrate on my art since there is a market waiting but nobody cares here. Young people who do, have no money to buy books.


Why did you join ANA?

Well, while I was joining, I just wanted to see some of the names I had heard about. It was curiosity that took me there as well as the insistence of my friend that I come to see the established writers. He was taking me round to point at many of them at the convention ground; they actually appeared like some larger than life characters. We laughed at Kole Omotosho’s crumbling shoes and old bag. They all had a form of awkwardness attached to them. As a student of psychology, I came to understand why they bore those abnormalities associated with creative individuals. 1991 was it. Now, ANA or the writing environment in Nigeria didn’t have any recognizable platform for young writers to hone their talents, therefore, ANA was just the place. What you do largely as a young person there is to follow and see, and imbibe certain traits and learn what you could learn until you struck the rhythm. It is in recognition of this problem that I set up the HillTop Art Centre in 2004. Today, it is a notable centre for mentoring young writers.


You recently showed interest to contest for ANA president why?

Because I can create new things there! More than what people see of us, we can be better in our outlook, operations and impact. Before now, Nigerian writers were never relegated in both creative productions and national life. However, overtime, we seemed to have lost that power. I seek to return the Nigerian writer to that enviable status of light and direction. I was once the national treasurer and national secretary,I can as well be the president. More, why I seek to be the president is largely because our experiments in book development in Niger State were successful, leading to the creation of an agency for book development in the state. I believe the national body should take a cue from that feat in initiating practical programmes and projects that will provide opportunities for the young ones to grow as we have it in Niger across chapters of the federation. I am one of the principal actors in such initiatives; I am convinced that I can ignite such revolution at the national level. We did it in Niger, no other chapter has done what ANA Niger did in the last decade in terms of book development. They know it. We are a model to other branches across the country. This is basically the reason. The credibility is there to deliver on our promises.


The things you are planning to do if elected ANA president, how does it differ from what all the past ANA presidents have done?

Some of the things being done now were what I exported to the national. Everybody comes with something to the exco and facilitates their materialization. I brought the Nigerian Writers Series and secured a grant of N10m for its implementation, I brought the teen authorship programme and secured a grant of N1m for its implementation, we designed a national colloquium and brought writers from across the country to Minna for the past five years to annually deliberate literature, writing, publishing and leadership. I am returning to the national to complete the volunteerism I started and introduce new programmes like the African Writers Summit, design a national literary circuit for writers in Nigeria and create publishing opportunities for the young ones. We will also intensify the implementation of the existing programmes.


Who are your literary models?


Literary models, I don’t know. Do I have any at all? I am not sure.I just love some ways of some of them: Soyinka’s activism as well as Odia’s. I think I like Ngugi and Mazrui. I admire Aminu Kano, Bala Usman and some others. I see them in me and I see myself in them.


How will you rate the current state of Nigerian literature now?

Despite the shortcomings one has mentioned, Nigerian literature is flourishing beyond expectation. Nigerian writers have refused to be weighed down by the insensitivity of their environments and went ahead to create platforms that drive them towards production of works that are excellent in quality. A few of them have established publishing outfits like Parresia which appears unbeatable for now, I don’t know what magic they use to bewitch all of us into queuing at their doorstep; Kraftbooks Ibadan has sustained the flourishing of the Nigerian literature since the 90s till date, especially poetry and a lot more outfits are scattered across state chapters of ANA mostly piloted by young energetic, vibrant writers. AMAB Bookshop, from nowhere, has escalated her image and appeal by servicing Nigerians with extraordinary books that were only heard of as mysteries in the past, now we see, touch and own them. These outfits are by people we know; people in our neighbourhoods. Young people in Nigeria form a huge pool of writing in Africa today. I must say that, many of the books produced today are as good as those written before them. There has never been a more flourishing period in Nigerian literature than now.In fact, the books have overwhelmed critics, both old and new such that all they do is to simply use the traditional escapist way of dismissing them as non-quality pieces. Meanwhile, we know that they are just overwhelmed by their emergence, daily. In fact, they don’t even know most of the books. As critics, they must go find new books wherever they are.


What should the government put in place to encourage writing and publishing?

Other state governments and the federal should simply adopt the Niger State model by first establishing book development agencies as means of institutionalisation creative writing. Like in Niger State Book Development Agency, there is an annual N10m by the state government for publishing young ones under Minna Literary Series. From that amount you can publish a minimum of twenty titles a year per state. Count! Twenty multiplied by thirty six or seven states, what do you get as a whole in Nigeria? Imagine you did this for fives. As president, this will be my daily pursuit through state chapters. If this is what I will get at the end of my two years as president, it will do.

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