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22 Jun 2017

Leading ANA was quite challenging for me – Olu Obafemi

Current President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, Prof. Olu Obafemi, has described his tenure as President of the Association of Nigerian Authors between 2001 and 2005 as the most challenging period of his life.

Speaking in an interview with our correspondent on Monday, Obafemi, who is also the immediate past Director of Research at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Plateau State, said that one of the challenges he came up against as the helmsman of the writers’ body was the absence of well defined rules for achieving its set goal of creating a better society for Nigerians.

He said, “The goal of ANA is to form a literary guild for people of creative potentials and to help in creating a social, political space for young men and women who have a flair for writing.

“By and large, you find that if the best of our ideals as writers are utilised within the framework of ANA, it would make a lot of contributions to the good of the society.

“Writers, being people of a lot of vision (at least, we claim that we do), profess themselves to be on a journey to help to create a better society. But the challenge is that there are no defined rules for achieving this.”

Describing writers, especially in Nigeria, as the “freest spirits” in terms of how they operate, as opposed to legislated organisations and structures, Obafemi also noted that although he tried to administer the association within the prescribed rules, he had had to contend with certain contradictions. “You are supposed to run an organisation that has no funds and, at the same time, you are not expected to source funds from those who we think have corrupted the society. That is referring to the people in government.

“So, as ANA President my task was very challenging and I think that it has always been so. My job was to find the means of helping society to grow and yet, nobody acknowledged that ANA had no resources. Although the part about not being expected to take funds from government directly has been somewhat mellowed, we still forget that government has a constitutional responsibility to provide support and endowment for the growth of the arts,” he said.

The award-winning dramatist, however, blamed writers for government’s failure to live up to the expectations of members of the literary community in Nigeria.

He accused writers of shying away from their collective duty to compel the government to fulfil its constitutional responsibility to the community.

“Instead, we have, more or less, tried to criminalise ourselves for finding a way of taking money from government to do the work that we ought to do. For me, that was the most challenging thing,” he said.

Also, explaining the nature of his assignment at the NIPSS, Obafemi said that part of his role at the institute was to help, through research, provide an opportunity for the growth of policies for governance.

The institute, he added, was supposed to be an environment where reflection, debate and interaction were possible towards the contribution of national policies and their strategies for implementation.

“If government goes ahead and implements them, it will affect society down the line. But, as you know, most of these policies, which emanate from the work that government constantly asks the institute to do, are hardly implemented. So the desired impact does not seem to get through to the people,” he said.
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