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Lagos 2018 Was Great, But Benue 2017 Still Lingers By Munene Wilson

Lagos, the mega city with all its trappings: exceptional landmarks, symbols, sounds, sights - enviable and unenviable, is the home of more than 15 million people, far more than many mega cities in the World.

The darker sides of the city - slums, vices, the notorious traffic hold ups; and these are just a tip of the iceberg, giving the city its wonder status.

Without doubt, Lagos is regarded by many with awe. It is the combined aura of the good, the bad and the ugly almost in equal measure, that engenders her cult following, if you like.

It is her legendary pedigree of being the hub of every sphere of human endeavour which makes her mega special in the Nigerian socio - political cum economic firmament.

So when the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) granted the hosting right of her 37th Annual International Convention in 2018 to Lagos, the high expectation was understandable.

Not out of tune with the theme: Mega Cities, Mega Narratives, one surmised that Lagos would outclass the spectacular Convention in Makurdi, Benue State the year before. Like Benue where the Governor, Chief Samuel loraer Ortom, took active part in the opening and closing/award ceremonies, not a few ANA members looked out for the Governor of Lagos State - Akinwunmi Ambode.
Although he was ably represented, the arrival of no less a fellow than the Wife of the Governor of Ekiti State, Madam Bisi Fayemi, even if in her personal capacity as a development expert and writer, stirred up the opening ceremonies of the Mega Convention. The Mega Narrative began to take shape.

After a rousing speech in which she called on writers to highlight the many ills of the society in their writing with a view to holding leaders to account, she made various book donations to children- writers; and thus added colour and vitality to the proceedings Professor Femi Osofisan, a former President of ANA and chairman of the opening event, while expressing joy in the growth of the Association, went back memory lane on the early beginnings of ANA. 
He decried bad leadership but balanced the equation by lauding good leaders as well- charging writers to promote that positive narrative; and thus echoed, in advance, the sentiments of the keynote Speaker against negative narratives.

On his turf as National President of ANA, Mallam Abdullahi Denja used his Welcome Address to harp on the prevalent security situation in the country, regretting that No one seemed to be safe; more so writers. But he implored writers to stand firm, alluding to the bravery of Ken Saro Wiwa and Mamman Vatsa of blessed memory who continued to write during the inglorious years of the Military. He took a swipe at the inanities of the political class, especially members of the National Assembly whom, he described as insensitive to the plight of their constituents.

In the same breath, Denja commended ANA members who have summoned the courage to dive into the uncertain waters of politics. Mega Professor Karen - king Aribisala went full throttle on the exposition of mega cities and mega narratives, theme of the convention.
Using Lagos as a case in point, this renowned academic of the University of Lagos, cited copious examples from various works of literature to make the point that mega city narratives are of necessity negative. Hear her, mega cities are "shrouded in negativities". According to her, irrespective of time and place, mega cities are seen as "filthy environments beset by poverty and crime". 
And stories of Agberos and slums like Ajegunle abound in Lagos. She posits that these negative attributes of the mega city can be ready materials for writers to use in their quest for moral re-engineering and rejuvenation of society.

Professor Aribisala delved deep into the meat of the matter, pitching her voice for emphasis. Her passion and candour, her phonetically sound elocution kept this writer on the edge of his seat, following every nuance of her presentation with rapt attention.
She traveled fast and purposefully on almost the entire gamut of Nigerian literature to rehash the negative narratives of city life. 

Aribisala cautioned writers not to be wholly fixated on the negative, but find ways and means to tell positive stories as well.

Various Speakers and Guests spoke to the theme of the Convention in agreement about the concepts of writing and its multi - layered forms, genres and narratives; be it positive or negative.

The discourse was enlivening; may be because of the calibre and erudition of the discussants at the Annual Apex Convergence of Writers from all over the World in Lagos.

I shall not conclude without mentioning with pride the highpoint of Lagos 2018, the dinner/ award night as is the case with ANA Conventions.

Amongst other awardees, was our own Ebi Yeibo's Essay: "Nativisation as Style and Identity Marker in Barclays Ayakoroma's Dance on His Grave". And it was adjudged the best entry for the ANA/Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism by the Professor Nelson Fashina led Panel of Judges.

Lagos was great! 

Yet, Benue 2017 still lingers.   


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