A keen observer would have noticed the apolitical pretentions of the writers that populate the Nigeria’s writers body.
The first thing you observe is some kind of grandstanding, a pretention to a non existent political piety.
It is said that the writer is the conscience of the nation. This is however one of those numerous unexamined expressions that only massages the ego but ‘signifies nothing’.
The writers of any nation are either as good or as bad as the institutions that produced them. The snake cannot cease giving birth to lengthy offsprings. Here in Nigeria abound numerous examples of fine (even great writers) who took up political offices and have not been any different from the regular Nigerian politicians. They write beautiful literatures in defence of evil.
Perhaps, it would be safer to say that the writer in a country with the culture of sanity is the conscience of the nation while the writer in a country with the culture of subversion is the albatross of the nation. In Nigeria, it appears the latter prevails. No doubt there might be few isolated exceptions, they do not form a substantial pattern to be called the conscience of the nation.
One, therefore, is often quite bemused when, at every election year of the Association of Nigerian Authors, some ‘politicians’ unleash all manners of blackmail to either win or help their candidates to win. Every election year these writer-politicians conjure this ‘conscience of the nation’ cliche to whip up false sentiments.
This holier-than-thou posturing of the Nigerian writer has not helped the writers’ body because anything founded on false pretenses cannot be sustainable. Other organizations like that of the lawyers, doctors, journalists, teachers, actors, etc make bold to play their politics without pretences. And these bodies are recognised by the Nigerian state. In the Association of Nigerian Authors, the politics of succession is played the Nigerian way with all the accompanying vitriol, bitterness, slander, calumny, intimidations, blackmail, underhand manipulations and rampaging impunity. The only difference is in the bare-faced denial of the obvious by the writers. It did not start today. From Makurdi to Yenagoa to Owerri to Minna to Zaria to Illorin to Uyo to Abuja to Enugu, etc the story is the same.
We have seen ‘accountability,’ ANA land, identity revalidation, etc., weaponized every election year. We have seen the police, the courts, the DSS and even the army used exactly the same way they are used in normal partisan politics in Nigeria, yet the writers pretend they are not like the regular Nigerian politician.
At Enugu, Denja was accused of all kinds of criminal acts, Camillus was labeled Denja’s stooge and Maiwada was accused of importing non-writers and even using his position as legal adviser to do some shady things on the ANA land… Now at Abuja I hear that Denja is no longer the criminal, Camillus is now the ’embezxler of funds’ but no longer Denja’s stooge, in fact, I heard the new president was labeled Camillus’ stooge. Perhaps, Maiwada didn’t feature quite prominently this time because he did not come out to campaign.
Some platforms masquerading as preaching unity were actually being used to advance certain political interests. Nobody was spared in the onslaught. Even the good Dr Gomba who meritoriously won the NLNG Literature Prize was subtly blackmailed and asked to abandon his quest to be vice president for a fictitious ‘unity’ conversation. All was politics!
The sad part is that amidst all these shenanigans nobody is taking note of the real concrete gains. Nobody seems to have noticed that this year’s electoral contest was very keen and balanced. Nobody appears to have noticed that in spite of the bickerings on the side by the one-eyed mourners who mourn more than the bereaved, the contestants themselves tried to make their campaigns issue based. No one seems to have noticed that the avalanche of congratulatory messages pouring in to the eventual winners, particularly the president, cuts across the pre-election divides. These are gains. It means there is hope for the association. No matter how slow paced, the association is making progress.
My only fear is of the vicious cycle where every election year the writers are dragged through this tortuous route that leaves injuries that take long to heal, sometimes they never heal.
Now that the elections are over, can the writers take out time to focus their writings on self examination? Let the writers first purge themselves of the daemon of denial, tell themselves through their writings the bitter truth that there is no difference between them and the regular Nigerian politicians, then begin to speculate and imagine how they can make the politics of their association a model.
If a writer is convinced that a leader of their association betrayed the trust of his/her office then it must be followed up with proper judicial prosecution and not the same media trial always deployed by regular Nigerian politicians.
Perhaps, this is the time for Nigerian writers to sheath their swords, go back to the drawing board and see if they can give substance to the phrase ‘conscience of the nation’ or just let the phrase remain an empty expression that signifies nothing.
Congratulations to you, Mr President and your new EXCO. I wish you good luck.
* Chidozie Chukwubuike writes from Owerri, Imo State