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His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
Opening Ceremony of the 33rd International Annual Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors – University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State
Friday 12th December, 2014
- It has been 33 years since the master story teller Chinua Achebe called fellow writers to Nsukka to float an association to promote and protect the interest of creative writers in Nigeria and here you are waxing stronger.
- It is therefore a great pleasure to be here today at the opening ceremony of the 33rdInternational Annual Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), which is holding at this great seat of learning; The University of Ibadan, an institution whose very history is intertwined with the highest endeavours in the mind of our noble nation, Nigeria.
- I greet the great and the good in the world of Nigerian letters, the men and women of courage and boundless imagination who have committed their talents to the refashioning and reimagining of a new Nigeria.
- I salute all Nigerian creative writers for your contributions to our civilization over the years through your various expressions. You have promoted our culture, nurtured our values and energized the knowledge industry in a very remarkable way.
- I felt it was important for me to be among you for this 33rdannual because there will never be another ANA convention quite like this one, taking place in the very year of Nigeria’s centenary. This, ladies and gentlemen, is history in the making, and I am happy to be a witness.
- Let me congratulate the organisers, the ANA National Exco, on the successful convening of this convention, surely one of the major milestones in our year-long celebrations of our centenary. Special commendation goes to the amiable Professor Remi Raji, National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors and one of the finest poets Nigeria has produced, for his leadership of ANA at this critical time in our history.
- Ladies and gentlemen, I note that the theme of this year’s convention is: ‘Literatures, Languages and Diversities: How Has Nigeria Fared in the Last Hundred Years?’ Indeed, there has never been a better time to ask the question and to take stock on the journey so far. I commend the rich programme of events, including a play, book chats and even a city tour.
- I thank the ANA President for his remarks at the Presidential Dinner for the Creative Industry, held in Lagos recently. It was heartening at that occasion to hear the ANA President articulate the mission of the Association since its founding in 1981 as one involving “productive creativity for national integration, engagement and development.”
- I have always felt a particular closeness to the literary community, as indispensable partners in our quest to build a better society. Our writers have written the country’s name in lights all over the world. Some of the best-known Nigerians are writers; and they have won every international award going, including the Caine Prize for African Writing, the Orange Prize for Women’s Fiction and the most coveted, the Nobel Prize for Literature – won in 1986 by Professor Wole Soyinka.
- The late Professor Chinua Achebe, winner of the prestigious International Booker, gifted the world a book that will last for all time, when he published Things Fall Apart in 1958. It has been translated into over 50 languages, and is regularly voted one of the greatest novels ever written.
- It was in recognition of Professor Achebe’s monumental contribution to world literature that I was physically present at the literary giant’s funeral in his birthplace of Ogidi, Anambra State, last year.
- It was also necessary to identify with the Nigerian literary community, which had suffered a great loss. As a demonstration of our commitment to Achebe’s indestructible legacy, we also supported the International Colloquium on Arrow of God at 50 earlier this year.
- Ladies and gentlemen, just days ago, the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award, the highest and the most prestigious honour this nation bestows, went to no less a persona than Professor Niyi Osundare, the great poet, scholar and survivor of Hurricane Katrina, who continues to paint his country’s name in gold.
- The admission of Prof. Osundare as the 71st member of the body of the Nigerian National Order of Merit Laureates, demonstrates that as a nation, we promote and celebrate excellence.
- We value you, our writers. You elevate our thinking and worldview, you liven up our days with your creative imaginings, and you provide succour and catharsis in difficult times, such as the one our country is going through at this period. I salute the creative spirit that has propelled our writers to excel in the midst of their peers worldwide.
- Writers serve as our conscience and raise critical questions which promote good governance and accountability, paving the way to a just and equitable society. Many episodes of our history including the civil war have been examined in your works; you give us a perspective on the past while helping to map a way to the future.
- Ladies and gentlemen, I am always awed by talent, and it abounds in our writers, as evident in your literary productions. It is important to read the works of our writers; I have sought to place reading at the forefront of national consciousness with initiatives such as Bring Back The Book. I therefore call on our writers to join with us and help find ways to take this citizens framework to the next level.
- Let me assure you all that I have noted the views of Nigerian writers as articulated by the ANA President at the Creative Industry Dinner, especially with regard to the need for greater support to the book industry, as well as the building of structures and institutions in the entire creative industry. I welcome a conversation on this as soon as our schedule can be harmonised.
- My Administration shall give due consideration to all ideas that can advance our civilisation. We will continue to support you and partner with you in this important dialogue on the role of creativity in our nationhood. It is indeed my hope that this convention will be the spark for a fruitful conversation on how we can work together to move our country forward.
- In pursuit of a greater Nigeria therefore, the creative genius of those who have contributed to where we are today must be honoured and preserved. I am therefore directing the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to establish in our nation’s capital, a National Hall of Fame, in honour of those, who out of their creative genius, had contributed to the growth and development of our country, and the advancement of human civilisation.
- I have also directed the Minister of Culture to work with ANA leadership to see how government can partner with the private sector to give added fillip to your ANA Literary Prizes to further enhance their prestige. The prizes over the years have showcased budding talents who are now masters in different literary fields. You have to sustain that enviable tradition.
- Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the work you do for our country. Thank you for inviting me. I wish you a most successful convention.
- I thank you.