Monday, October 20, 2008

JosANA hits TV bigtime!

JosANA hits TV bigtime!

An account of JosANA’s 2 day Kaduna Cultural Exchange Visit 2008

Yes, it’s true; I am now an international celebrity. {There have been paparazzi on my tail all day!}.

JosANA, Nigeria’s most vibrant intellectual hub was hosted by NTA Kaduna and the Association for Nigerian Authors {ANA}, Kaduna Chapter during her recently concluded two-day Cultural Exchange visit to the Crocodile City. The Cultural Exchange, part of the activities of JosANA, is in line with the Federal Governments’ READ program and involves JosANA holding interstate readings in collaboration with other state chapters of the ANA.

Kaduna, the liberal state, was our first port of call.

The journey for me began at 3 pm when ANA Vice Chairman Matthew Mzega and I drove out from Jos in his grey VW Passat, using the Southern Route. We passed through the towns of Forest, Gidan Waya, Kagoro, Zonkwa, and Kachia before arriving Kada City by 8 pm on Wednesday the 15th. We met the Zonal Director of NTA Kaduna, Mallam Abdulkarim Muhammad Abdullahi, who received us cheerily then instructed the station’s Asst. Director of Programs, Mr. Preye to lead us to our lodgings where Chairman Bose Tsevende and some of our members were already billeted. We lodged at the Catholic Social Centre along Independence Way. We met the chairman together with the BBC African Performance 2007 Playwright Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, the Jos City novelist Alpha Emeka and his sidekick, the poet David Onotu who came down from Katsina.

The next morning, we had an early breakfast and by 8:45 am the trusty Assistant Director of Programs had arrived with a bus to convey the JosANA A’ list to Gamji Park, the venue of the reading where an NTA AM Express camera crew was already waiting. The VeeCee and I tailed the bus. Gamji Park proved to be a terrific setting - what with the ostriches, tortoises and of course the crocodiles {called ‘kada’} that give Kaduna City its name. The park is well maintained by the State Government and a posse of gardeners were seen pushing lawn mowers across the grass. The river Kaduna also formed a spectacular backdrop.

Shooting began with David Onotu reading his poem “Niger Area” and there could have been no better background than Lord Frederick Lugard’s Lokoja Bridge, which had been moved to Gamji Park as a permanent exhibition. The extant bridge, like the nation the British Captain sired in 1914 seemed to indicate the certain Manifest Destiny of Nigeria, in spite of one century of the volatile socio-political combustion.

Other work were read and filmed at a recreational hut facing the unhurriedly flowing river where once in a while a fisherman floating on a calabash could be seen, adding a fascinating rusticity to the view. Richard Ali coordinated presentations across the genres by Bose Tsevende, Matthew Mzega, David Onotu, Alpha Emeka and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim as well as a song {crocodile croakey voices – mine mostly! – were never better heard I assure you!} extolling Nigerian Unity and showing appreciation to NTA Kaduna and ANA Kaduna for graciously hosting us. The song was composed by Matthew Mzega. Then JosANA Chairman, Bose Tsevende, had another interview, this time together with the indomitable Friday John Abba, Chairman of ANA Kaduna who came along with his VeeCee, Steve Adinoyi. Elnathan John, Esq, who has just come out with his first collection of short stories title “Dreams etcetera” was also there and he gave this writer an autographed copy! JosANA fraternized with her sister chapter and books by Jos writers were formally presented to ANA Kaduna and vice versa. It was about 1:30 pm when we left for the official courtesy visit to the NTA Kaduna.

We met in the stations’ Conference Room with the Kaduna station’s top management in attendance. Chairman Tsevende informed the Zonal Director of JosANA’s activities and the reasons for visiting Kaduna on her first ever Cultural Exchange Visit, stressing the shared histories of Kaduna and Jos and the integrative intellectual undercurrents that have helped to shape the identity of both cities. She also spoke on the absence of a reading culture in Nigeria, stating sadly that the little reading that goes on is usually of tepid, intellectually uninspiring literature churned out by book factories abroad. The desire to redress this aridity informed JosANA’s Cultural Exchange activities, said the Chairman.

The Zonal Director highly commended JosANA for its original and innovative approach to the reading culture problem in Nigeria and in a memorable response stressed the necessity for Nigerian unity and the critical role of writers in the reaffirming of that autochthonic unity. He also mentioned the civil strife that has in the last decade torn apart Jos and Kaduna among other Nigerian towns in a cheerless roll call and how important it was for writers as the crème of the intelligentsia to rise above the innately disintegrative postures and machinations of the wrong sort of ‘politician’. He then thanked JosANA for visiting and looked forward to further collaboration with JosANA. Hajia Adamu also informed us that a mini library was being set up in Kaduna and JosANA was only too happy to promise it fair contribution of books to this laudable initiative.

The co – host, Friday John Abba of ANA Kaduna, then thanked the Zonal Director for helping to host the “mountain dwellers” who had come down to their fathers in the savannah to “learn one of two things!” To this wisecrack, Mallam Adbulkarim quipped that perhaps it was the mountain dwellers who had brought the light down to Kaduna with their innovative programs? {He was correct!} Arrangements were made for production collaborations between NTA Kaduna and our brother writers at ANA Kaduna.

It was on this note that we left the “Kada City” with fond memories of the liberality of its intelligentsia and the warmth of its people, from the AM Express crew to the ANA Kaduna Chairman unto the Zonal Director himself.

I arrived Jos together with JosANA VeeCee, Matthew Mzega at about 6:30 pm on Thursday the 16th and the one thing on my mind {apart from how nice it felt to be on TV} was how fortunate I was to be a part for the regeneration of Nigeria currently being spearheaded by JosANA, ANA Kaduna and spirited people like Mallam Abdulkarim Muhammad Abdullahi of NTA Kaduna. I was reassured that Sardauna Bello’s dream of Nigerian unity which I share is still doable because even in these trying times for my country, there are still those who believe in her future and who are willing to stand up and be counted in the cause of its consummation.

Richard Ugbede Ali, poet, is the secretary of JosANA.