Poets in Nigeria (PIN) places the President of Association of Nigerian Authors, Mallam Denja Abdullahi On the Spot, engendering his opinions on general literary matters, and most significantly, 35 years of ANA’s existence.

  • It’s our pleasure to have you interviewed for enlightenment and pleasure of our teeming readers/followers. As a literary, creative and cultural administrator, could you tell us a brief of your forays respectively in this regard?

Denja AbdullahiI began early like every would be writer to take a more than a passing interest in my environment, I read voraciously as a young boy and later went to study literature in the University, graduated top of the class and naturally find myself interested in arts and cultural activities. My passion later became my profession and I have been doing this for a long time.

  • When did you begin to see yourself as a Poet? How many books have you written? Any books in view?

I began to see myself as a poet in my first year in the university when I encountered the almajiri phenomenon for the first time at the Jos main market in 1986. I wrote my first poem after that encounter. I have written about 8 books across the genres and co-authored 1. Iam looking forward to releasing a work of creative non-fiction in the near future to be called “All Because of Pounded Yam.”

  • Which of your books would you say, helped in placing you in the eyes of the world as a poet?

Definitely it was Mairogo:A buffoon poetic journey around Northern Nigeria. It is my magnum opus which inspired other writers to take to that form.

  • You were once addressed by Eriata Oribhabor as the Poet Laureate of Abuja. Why Poet Laureate?

The idea is having a poet attached to a place, a city or a country and that comes from a deeper part of musing about a space by a poet; creating empathy and a sense of attachment.  Mamman Vatsa was the original poet laureate of Abuja for his passionate embrace of the city in his poetry. I did same, years after Vatsa and succeeded him as the poet laureate of Abuja. When the authority of the city of Abuja gets wise on the need for cultural mooring of the city, they will officially appoint a poet laureate as it is done in other climes where poetry is cherished.

  • You wrote a collection of poems entitled This is Abuja (Abuja Nunyin). Tell us a brief of how you came about this book and title?

I got this title from the Gbagyi language of the original inhabitants of the city of Abuja. It means, this is Abuja and it is like affirming the claim of these people to the city.

  • In one sentence, what is poetry?

Poetry is emotion or thought expressed in condensed, flowery and often rhythmic language.

  • What is the place of poetry in contemporary Nigeria?

Poetry is the mother of all the arts of expression and it is being redefined to bring it out of the backwaters where it has been relegated to by more popular literary forms.

  • Where in your opinion did poetry and culture meet?

When we go back to re-appraise our indigenous poetry we will come to appreciate the centrality of poetry in our verbal heritage. Africans have very expressive and highly verbalized language and poetry does a lot in framing these languages. Poetry is part of culture without doubt.

  • Can poetry be a driver of change? How can poetry be used in promoting culture?

Yes it can . Protest poetry have been used in history to effect change and what we call performance poetry today is very useful in communicating change and we can see how it has informed rap music and other impactful art forms. Poets should go back to relearn indigenous poetic forms and contemporarize them to write poems that would further the cause of culture.

  • You are the current President of Association of Nigerian Authors. Prior now, you held several positions in the association. What is your view about ANA then and now?

ANA is growing, it is a continuum but it needs to be helped into the modern world of running an Association responsible to its members and vice versa.

  • ANA is 35 years this year. Would you say the dreams of the founding fathers are being met?

Yes. ANA has kept faith wholly with its founders’ ideals in promoting egalitarianism, promoting its members and projecting Nigerian literature.

  • Can you speak of the achievements of ANA as Nigeria’s No 1 creative writers’ body?

It has enshrined a sense of unity among Nigerian writers, promoted the reading culture and has nurtured literary awareness in the society. Most importantly ANA has helped to announce many writers into stardom and reckoning.ANA is like a school where people cut their literary teeth and later go on to become famous.

  • The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) is in good relationship with the West African Writers body in Ghana. Tell us more.

The relationship has been there for years and has undergone several phases. We are only trying to re-awaken things in more novel ways to keep the dialogue going and the options open.

  • While campaigning for the presidency of ANA, you came up with what you tagged pragmatic deliverables? One year down the road, how pragmatic are your pragmatic deliverables?

Very pragmatic as I have concentrated on things that are clearly achievable and I have tackled headlong basic issues that needed to be addressed if the Association must move forward rather than going round in circle.

  • Can you say more about ANA’s strategic planning workshop and way forward for ANA?

The workshop allowed us to lay bare ANA’s problems and design a road-map towards taking the Association to higher heights. ANA needs to modernize its operations and chart a clear path and that is what we have done with the strategic plan.

  • The national convention of ANA comes up October, 2016. Is there anything different from what members of ANA should be looking forward to?

The organization will be different and the programme contents will be richer.

  • ANA is 35. In one sentence speak of ANA today and tomorrow.

ANA is a literary behemoth getting complacent in its sheer history and size and needs to wake up systemically to remain relevant in the future.

  • You are part of Poets in Nigeria (PIN). What do you have to say about this non-profit literary organisation?

Poets in Nigeria (PIN) is an organisation working in dynamic ways to extend the possibilities of poetry contributing to development in our society. PIN is a creative hub for poetry.

  • You are billed as a special Guest of Festival Poetry Foundation in Calabar for the forthcoming Festival Poetry Calabar 2016. How prepared are you?

Looking forward to thrill Calabar with some traditional poetry from Agbaja Plateau where I have my root. I also look forward to unwind in Calabar with songs and tunes after a hectic year of running an organization where people expect you to achieve in the face of lack of resources and even the basic structures.

  • As a cultural Administrator, what is the future of culture management in the face of absence of history studies in schools in Nigeria?

History must come back to manage our culture better. We do not know half of our history yet and our children are being uprooted from their essence without history been a subject to ponder on.

  • We appreciate your time. Kindly leave us with parting words of encouragement for the enhancement of creativity.

Creativity is the way out of any problem. To get out of the economic and even cultural recession we have found ourselves, we need creativity.

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