One Month After: Behold Communiqué From 2019 Chinua Achebe Literary Festival

By Izunna Okafor

Exactly one month after the 2019 Chinua Achebe Literary Festival which held on Saturday 16th November, 2019; young writers in Anambra State has officially unveiled the communiqué birthed by the annual literary event for public consumption.

According to Mr. Izunna Okafor, the Coordinator of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (Anambra Chapter) which is the literary body that organizes the event, the communiqué was actually articulated on 16th November at the end of the event, but was deliberately kept from public view for exactly one month, due to the nature of the issues highlighted therein.

As was made finally publicized for public consumption, the communiqué highlights six significant items, as reads below:

COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 2019 CHINUA ACHEBE LITERARY FESTIVAL ORGANIZED BY THE SOCIETY OF YOUNG NIGERIAN WRITERS (ANAMBRA STATE CHAPTER) WHICH HELD AT THE PROF. KENNTH DIKE CENTRAL E-LIBRARY, AWKA, ANAMBRA STATE, ON SATURDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER, 2019.

ABOUT THE CHINUA ACHEBE LITERARY FESTIVAL:

Chinua Achebe Literary Festival is an annual literary event held in honour of Nigerian writer and literary critic — Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart, in commemoration and celebration of his works and immense contributions in the literary field.

The literary festival was initiated in 2016 (three years after Achebe’s death) by award-winning Nigerian writer, journalist and Igbo language activist, Izunna Okafor, who is also the Anambra State’s Coordinator of Society of Young Nigerian Writers, a literary body of young writers that organizes the event annually.

Since its inception (four years ago), the event has held annually on Chinua Achebe’s date of birth (16th November) at the Prof. Kenneth Dike Central E-Library, Awka the capital city of Anambra State, Achebe’s home state.

Prior to the event each year, the organizers would open and publicize Call For Submissions on various online literary platforms and magazines, for writers to write and submit poems and essays in honour of Achebe, which they thereafter publish as anthology, known as Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology.

The annual anthology is usually published and unveiled on day of the literary festival, and has attracted and featured works of writers from different countries of the world.

For the first three years of the literary event in 2016, 2017, and 2018, the organizers consecutively called for submissions and consequently published three anthologies.

However in the 2019 edition of the event, there was no call for submissions; rather, the three previously published anthologies were collated and published together as a single anthology, entitled “Arrows of Words” which was unveiled at the event.

OBJECTIVES OF THE FESTIVAL:

1. To remind the concerned authorities the need to immortalize Achebe, who died since March 2013.

2. To immortalize Achebe in our own way (as young writers), by publishing annual Poetry/Essay Anthology in his honour, which comprises of poems and essays contributed by writers from different countries of the world, in response to our ‘Call For Submissions’ that we usually publicize on literary magazines and platforms (both print and online), prior to the event each year

3. Promote, encourage and reward creative writing and reading culture among our youths and students.

4. Discover and harness the hidden but amazing talents among our young ones, in the literary field.

5. To promote literary activities in Anambra State and retain the state at her apex position in the Nigerian literary community.

6. To present writers and readers (intellectuals) as elixirs to the country’s ailments and other societal issues, among other objectives.

PREAMBLE TO THE 2019 EDITION OF THE EVENT:

The 2019 edition of the Chinua Achebe Literary Festival held on 16th November, 2019 at the Prof. Kenneth Dike Central E-Library, Awka, with the theme— ‘INTELLECTUALS AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: THE CHINUA ACHEBE APPROACH’. The lead paper was presented by RC (Reginald Chiedu) Ofodile (international award-winning author and actor)

The event which started at 10:00AM, was well-attended by some selected secondary schools in Awka zone, as well as some literary enthusiasts in Anambra State. These include:

The Traditional Ruler of Obosi, H.R.M. Igwe Chidubem Iweka;Mr. James Ezeh (Chief Press Secretary to the Governor); Sir Chuka Nnabuife, (author of ‘Mbize: Rage of Red Earth’, and MD/CEO, National Light Newspaper); Rev. Fr. Ositadimma Amakeze (author of The Last Carver); Okeke Chika Jerry (author ofThe gods Are Hungry); Odili Ujubuoñu (author of Pregnancy of the gods); Uzor Maxim Uzoatu (author of God of Poetry); Isidore Emeka Uzoatu (author of Vision Impossible); RC (Reginald Chiedu) Ofodile (international award-winning author and actor); Dr. Nkechi Udeze, (Director, Anambra State Library Board), among others.

The 2019 event featured: lectures in memory of Achebe, dramatizing of Achebe’s selected books, Open Microphone/Spoken Word Poetry, Chinua Achebe Essay Writing Competition, for secondary school students (endowed by the Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation), award presentation, and other literary packages slated for the day.

The event also featured the unveiling and public presentation of the Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology entitled “Arrows of Words” (which is the association’s newest collection of poems and essays published in honour of Achebe).

RESOLUTIONS REACHED AT THE EVENT WERE AS FOLLOW:

1. IMMORTALIZING ACHEBE

It was resolved that Chinua Achebe should be immortalized as soon as possible by the Anambra state government, (before other states do so ahead of his own state)

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On this, it was suggested that a Writers Village or Writers Residency be established in his honour. Writing Residency is a retreat experience designed to help writers pursue their creative growth. Residencies provide a place for writers to step out of their regular routine and focus solely on their (writing) work without the disruptions of daily life, for a particular period of time.

There is only one writers residency in the whole country —the Ebedi Writers Residency (which is even privately owned) — located at Iseyi, Oyo State.

Anambra State Government should establish one in honour of Chinua Achebe, who himself was a fellow of many writers residency across the world. Aside its numerous benefits, this would make Anambra the first state to own a writers residency in the entire country, and also serve as a tourist attraction.

2. APPOINTMENT:

It was resolved that Anambra State Government should appoint aide(s) on literary matters (SA, SSA or even both) who will stand as the bridge between writers in the state (both young and established) and the state government.

This/these should be someone experienced in creative writing and literary arts, and could be from be from this writers body and/or any other writers body in the state, for Anambra has given the world arrays of writers (both young and established) who are doing the state proud, both nationally and internationally.

Hence, the state deserves to have such vital office(s); even though no state government in the country has ever created nor dreamt of creating such. Anambra is known for setting the pace; and this should be extended to the literary field as well.

3. SPONSORSHIP

It was resolved that Anambra State Government and/or private individuals, and/or corporate organizations should undertake the annual sponsorship of this fecund and commemorative festival in honour of this legend who, since his demise in 2013, has never received any such honour from any part of the world.

Anambra is Achebe’s state, and he is our own. Thus, we are in the best position to give him this great posthumous honour which he so much deserves till eternity. This literary festival, which has been recognized and published by Wikipedia, should be accepted by the state government as an annual literary honour accorded to Achebe here in his own state, and hence, be treated it as such.

The event should be upgraded beyond its current level; thereby transforming it into a tourist attraction on the shortest long-run, for Achebe’s name alone is a tourist attraction.

4. EMPOWERMENT:

It was resolved that young writers in Anambra State deserve to, and should be empowered, both financially and intellectually.

As youths who are into agriculture and skills acquisition are trained and empowered to start what they have learnt; young writers also need to be periodically trained (by way of Creative Writing Workshop) and financially empowered to publish what they have written, so that as the state is the first to reckon with in those fields, we should also remain the first state to reckon with, when it comes to the literary field in the country and beyond. Literary Arts should be seen, regarded and treated as a vital and viable sector in the state.

5. APPRECIATION:

Young writers specially commend the state government again for sponsoring the Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus Creative Writing Workshop coming up in Awka this December.

They also plead that such event and writing workshop be sustained and hosted periodically for young writers in the state, in order to raise another generation of Achebe’s who will take over the mantle in the nearest future.

6. ANAMBRA WRITERS’ AWARD

It was resolved that Anambra State Government should establish/flag off at least one annual literary award, to recognize, reward and encourage creative writing in the state. A lot Anambra young writers are doing the state proud in the country and in the international community (both in award and in publication); and hence the state ought to recognize and encourage these youngsters in their own state, so as to do more.

This communiqué therefore requests and urges the concerned authorities, individuals and organisations in Anambra State to give keen attention to, and take the necessary actions on each of the items highlighted therein, for the utmost progress and advancement of literary arts in the state, which in turn, will also reflect on and contribute to the overall development and progress of the state at large.

SIGNED:

Izunna Okafor
The Coordinator
Society of Young Nigerian Writers (Anambra State Chapter) synwanambrachapter@gmail.com

Onyinyechi Maureen Kenneth
Secretary General

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