2010: A YEAR OF GREAT ATTAINMENTS
With many highs and a whiff of sighs, it was a year to remember. Though the year began with lull in activities, as the year wore on, many writers got garlands, new epochs were kindled, controversies raised and existing literary frontiers were broadened.
The first writers resort in the country, the Ebedi Writers Residency, commenced. Initiated by the immediate past president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (NTA), Hon. Wale Okediran, and situated in Iseyin, Oyo State, the programme, which commenced in August this year, lasted for five weeks, with Abiodun Adebiyi and Olabisi Gwama as its first intakes. It, among others, offered writers a serene environment to polish their craft. It has since graduated the second set of resident writers.
The iconoclastic poet, Odia Ofeimun, marked his 60th birthday with pizzazz, with the Ugandan academic, Mahmood Mandani, presenting a paper, Sudan & Congo: What Lessons for Nigeria? It was a kind prelude for the mouthwatering Fonlon Nicols Prize won by the writer.
In October, the winner of the 2010 Nigeria NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature was announced with the late playwright, Esiaba Irobi, winning the $50,000 prize with his play, Cemetery Road.
The year also recorded a few high profile deaths, including the veteran author of One Man, One Matchet, TM Aluko; the dean of African literary criticism, Emmanuel Obiechina; and the unsung playwright and literary scholar, Esiaba Irobi, among others.
The most controversial writer of the year unarguably goes to Professor Chimalum Nwankwo of North Carolina A & T State University, Greensboro. In an interview with this writer in June, he stirred the hornet's nest when he disparaged the writings of the late Christ Okigbo as a work steeped in plagiarism.
Among others he said: 'You must give Okigbo credit for being creatively adventurous, but you must point out things that he didn't do right. I am not saying he was terrible; he was good, but very bad when he was bad. For instance, in a poem of 15 lines, you would find him copying lines from different poets, and only about three lines would belong to him. What do you call that?'
That interview suddenly became a major resonated across the literary world with Nwankwo coming under severe pillories from pro-Okigbo loyalist, who defended Okigbo's art as mere 'borrowing' rather than plagiarism. In different interviews with this writer, the scholar-poets, Niyi Osundare, Obu Udeozo, Kalu Ukah, among others, took a departure from Nwankwo's stance.
However, Nwankwo stuck to his gun, publishing excerpts of where Okigbo copied western poets and, above all, vowing not to be an efulefu (misfit), as against those who indulge in hero-worship, even when their heroes are found wanting.
Nwankwo's view might be unpopular for daring to thread where angels fear to thread yet, with the compelling evidence in his contention, his cannot pass for a throwaway remark; he has offered us a chance to take a second look at the works of our literary precursors.
The long-awaited JP Clark International Colloquium, which took place in August at the University of Lagos, marked the return of the celebrated writer, JP Clark, among the writers tribe, especially at the national level. The keynote speech was presented by the Ghanaian writer, Atukwei Okai, who spoke on Historical Cameolionisation and Anti-Palanquinity: Human Beings as Casualties of the Womb and Writers as Murderers of the God, in which he valorized Clark's poetic and dramatic achievements in the world of letters.
The thriving Abuja literary circle was, as usual, replete with activities, with the groups, Abuja Writers Forum and Abuja Literary Society, stealing headlines with innovative programmes, including readings by notable Nigerian writers, from the beginning to the end of the year. The Treasured Writers Summer Writing Workshop organized by the renowned NTA broadcaster, Eugenia Abu, reverberated with the appearance of the screen diva, Kate Henshaw.
The faces of Nigerian poets lit up with smiles as the food and nutrition giant, Cadbury Nigeria, plc upped the ANA/ Cadbury poetry prize from $1,000 to $2,500, in an event to fete the latest winner of the prize, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, who won the 2009 edition with her debut poetry collection, Heart Songs.
In a related development, it was all smiles for Hon. Wale Okediran and the teenage South African sensation, Kopano Matlwa, as they jointly won the $20,000 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa with their works, Tenants of the House and Coconut, respectively. The prize, organized by the Lumina Foundation, headed by the multiple award-winning writer, Promise Ogochukwu Okekwe, has contributed immensely to the nourishing our literary sphere.
The annual ANA Convention took place late October in the Ondo State capital, Akure. The first outing of the new ANA helmsman, Dr. Jerry Agada, the convention was a melting pot of literary potpourri, another, more so, another moment for writers to reflect on the creative enterprise for three days, which culminated in gala/award night hosted by the Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko.
The biggest literary event of the year took place as the year wound up in Port Harcourt. The Garden City Literary Festival, which went into the third year, drew a number of literary heavyweights, including the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, who was putting up a rare appearance at a literary function in Nigeria in recent times.
Indeed, 2010 was a year to remember for the trailblazing novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe, Odia Ofeimun and Adaobi Nwaubani, as they won international writing prizes, reestablishing Nigeria's literary dominance on the continent of Africa. Nwaubani, a hitherto unknown writer and journalist with NEXT newspaper, won the Commonwealth Prize for First Book (African Region) with her debut novel, I Don't Come to You by Chance. Mabel Segun also smiled broadly, as she was given a national merit award by the Federal Government of Nigeria for her creative achievements over the years.
As another year beckons, the gains of 2010 could perhaps forerun more adventurous testaments in Nigerian literature next year.