A Review of the 2nd Annual Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (MBA) National Literary Colloquium
The theme (Nigerian Literature, Conflict and National Unity) was enough to attract the literary and politically inclined from all nook and cranny of Niger State and invited guests from the rest of the country, though I strongly believe the better part of the attendees that filled the majestic Kutigi hall fell into the latter category, judging from the disinterest of the crowd during the discuss sessions.
Secondary school students, totally out of sync with the aim of the event idly chattered about how massive Professor Wole Soyinka’s hairdo was and what they where having for lunch. For hours, nothing but the riotous cacophony of a thousand jabbering mouths could be heard in the hall, not even when the impressionable Professor Wole took to the podium to give his lecture. It seemed the attendees whose mobile phone networks had been switched off (for security purposes) had resorted to their nearest neighbors for cheap conversation, anything to take their minds off the sheer boredom of listening to elderly wealthy men talk about literature and crisis.
One of the highpoints of the lecture was when the Professor grimly looked up beneath his spectacles at the crowd and bellowed, “I cannot hear myself speak!” The chastising of course had the desired effect; the hall fell silent as he went on to talk about women as victims of torture and internet-rape. He quoted a popular phrase from Frantz Fannon’s the wretchedness of the earth; “the destiny of a people lies in their hands, it is their responsibility to either act, or let it act on them.” His lecture ended with a thunderous applause and frenzied chants by the Student Union Government of the Federal University of Technology Minna.
Of course, the hall resumed its banter once another speaker took the podium. Sycophants tweaked the high and mighty traditional rulers who had been led out of their council wards solely by duty to the colloquium. Elite literati reconnected with old acquaintances whom they hadn’t seen since the 1st colloquium last year. Eventually, or rather mercifully to some, the discussion ended and the exiting personalities and rulers where regaled with praises from sycophants and rather mind-boggling acrobatics by the disabled, both seeking favor in alms and connections.
The book-fair was terrible; old dusted books which had little or no relevance to literature were in abundance. Books like collections of wise sayings by great men of old and children Bible stories lined the tables. Some prominent writers in attendance were of course disappointed to find their tables devoid of their works. At the end, the whole procession was led to the Cyprian Ekwensi Library which had been commissioned earlier in the day by Professor Wole Soyinka for the reception and writer’s parley.
The reception started off as a communion between intelligent minds of like passion, but ended in a disgracing brawl between the caterer and the Political sycophants; she had come prepared to serve responsible people, not soothsayers who came for the sole-purpose of obtaining favor and a stomach-full while at it. After a semblance of order had been restored, the parley began. Sadly, some ‘Hadjiya’s’ present where more interested in what pose to strike for the photographer than what the moderator had to say. The Parley was divided into 3 sections, the most interesting being ‘An inquisition on why poetry has lost form’.
One of the speakers blamed it on the new generation of writer’s negligence to the components of poetry some of which include; sound of words, rhythm, line calculations and imagery of concept. He concluded that it was senseless for someone to just wake up in the morning and scribble a few lines of rhyme and assume he had written a poem. Another speaker urged poets to revisit the art of poetry for poetry’s sake. She claimed one could hardly write without reading other peoples works. She reminded her listeners of martyres like Sahadu, (the first Northerner to school at Yabatech), whose works were so powerful that anyone caught reading it was locked in jail. As for form, she advised that the content of a poem eventually determined the form to be adopted. She concluded that to write a powerful poem, effective use of language, development of writing style and study of previous works was necessary.
Needless to say, the writer’s parley was the most intriguing aspect of the whole colloquium, save for the performances by some secondary schools and the powerful poem recitation in pidgin that received a standing ovation and thunderous applause.
All in all, the annual Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu National Literary Colloquium is one of its kind as it not only embraces people from all works of life, but also gives upcoming, unpublished writers like yours truly an opportunity to mingle among the elite literati who marvelously never fail to show up. Never mind that its inceptor insisted on fixing his initials (MBA) or that it turned out to be yet another avenue for Local Political aspirants to secure favor, it is indeed an event to look forward to every year.