A Making of A New ANA
The Association of Nigerian Authors has been embroiled in controversy in recent times at the national level. Many commentators have expressed their disappointment in how the organisation has been run over the years. The Abuja Chapter of the association seems to be towing a more progressive line. Elections where conducted recently without rancour. Anthony Onugba author of Amanda’s Crime and Darien was elected vice chairperson of the association. Namse had a chat with him over chai on his life and vision for ANA.
First he spoke about his path into writing and becoming a published author.
I began writing before I turned 10. The inspiration came from an anime I watched on NTA Channel 5 titled ‘Godbabies’. I wrote a comic-like book but never really went far with it because I was not really good in art so I decided to write a novel based on ‘Godbabies’ and Robinhood with illustrations. That became my first novel. At that time, my dad had a typewriter so he asked his secretary to type the story and then he took it for binding. That became my first book. Since then, I wrote others but never got them published until 2006 when I published my first book; a poetry anthology titled, ‘Mixed Emotions’. I published 5 more in the subsequent years and have quite a number of unpublished ones as well.
Do you think writing in Nigeria is making the impact it should?
Writing is meant to shape our culture and form our society. This is because society is susceptible to being modelled by what they read. The Nigerian society has not really felt the impact of writing and writers, especially regarding discussions on national issues. This is probably because of the high level of poverty which forces writers to depend on other streams of income thereby making writing a second or even third option. Close to this is the new normal – writing to win awards and foreign recognition. This turns the gaze of the writer from societal change to just personal gains, which is not the best in my opinion.
There have been commentaries in recent times that “writers are writing for writers these days”. What’s your take on that?
I don’t think it’s a bad thing? I mean what’s wrong with lending a helping hand where necessary? Should a writer opt to help another with one write-up or the other as a form support and based on mutual agreement, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m being subjective of course.
You were recently elected as Vice Chairperson of ANA Abuja chapter. Congratulations! What are you planning on going differently from previous years of administrations of the body?
One of the beauties of the Association of Nigerian Authors as a National body is that it is perhaps the only government recognized writers’ organization in Nigeria. This opens the floodgates of possibilities and opportunities for writers in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the association has not lived up to its full potential. I have always been a critic of ANA but criticizing and not attempting to make a difference equals to nothing. This is why I first of all decided to run for the office of the Vice Chairman of the ANA-Abuja chapter in order to be there and be a part of the change that’s about to take place in there.
The second reason is that I want the chapter to be more productive and impactful than it is now. I propose to introduce – along with the team – publishing grants, opportunities for learning, writers’ residencies, among other things.
There has been lots of complaints about cliques and cartels in the writing and publishing industry in Nigeria. Is this a myth or reality?
There are cliques everywhere. I do not think that this is a problem. Where it becomes a problem is if they work only for the progress of their cliques thereby leaving others to suffer. There is strength in unity. If these cartels are interested in the progress of Nigerian literature and writers, I will support them.
How can ANA help upcoming writers find their foot in the industry?
ANA can help with publicity and the provision of grants for publishing. These are key to not just upcoming writers but even the established ones as well.
What’s your take on Afro Futurism by contemporary African writers like TJ Benson, Nnenadi Okoroafor and the Iikes?
I think that it is a good thing and timely too. There are those who think that Africa has no stories to tell in this genre but I think that it is a wrong assumption. African stories should not only be composed of huts, streams and firewood. We can talk about science and technology. We can write stories around a Wakanda-like society, even stories about time travel. After all, science and tech exist in our societies. We must never restrict our imagination as writers. If Marvel Comics limited theirs about Africa to forests and animals, we would not have had Black Panther to celebrate.
Do writers have a role to play in politics?
Yes. Writers are change agents and they are not ordinary people. Writers are heroes – the ones who are better suited to bring to the fore some form of positive change. But politics is expensive in Nigeria. With writers struggling to survive, politics will be the least thing on their minds.
Tell us about your work with Writers Space Africa?
This is in two folds – Writers Space Africa is a magazine which is published monthly since January 2017. It features works of writers of African descent. From January 2017 till date, the magazine has featured writers from over 30 African countries. The magazine’s reach is broad since it is an e-magazine and it is available for free download. You can download the magazine from www.writersspace.net
On the other hand, Writers Space Africa exists in 19 countries in all regions of Africa as a learning and networking platform. The reason for this is because we need WSA to be as impactful as possible. This is why we will continue to grow and develop the platform to cover more and more countries as time goes on.
What role do writers have to play in literacy and educational development in Nigeria and Africa?
I think writers have the potency to not only entertain but also educate, as well as create awareness for the need for education. A society that lacks in education is pitiful and will suffer the numerous cruelties that come with ignorance. Besides, how will the works of writers be appreciated the way they should if society is lacking in literacy? This alone is a driving force that has the ability to propel educational development.