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"Politics, if it is to produce change, needs literature to reinforce it"
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"Politics, if it is to produce change, needs literature to reinforce it"

There are hopes that the Garden City Literature Festival in Nigeria, attended this year by a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, will one day rival similar events in the international cultural calendar, reports Nnadozie Onyekuru, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from north-eastern Borno state.

Not long ago, I wrote on this website about many Nigerians’ apathy for history and literature. Hopefully things will change. Nigeria’s independence from Britain was fought for by citizens who at very young ages were steeped in the knowledge of history.

I remember laying my hands on the first pages of ‘My Odyssey’, the autobiography of Nnamdi Azikiwe, whose inauguration as Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor General was attended by the learned WEB DuBois. The pages ran in a way that reminded me of the Biblical account of the genealogy of Jesus.

Mr Azikiwe’s contemporaries like Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Dennis Osadebay were versatile readers. They gave inspiring speeches in packed full university halls and were at home with the quotable verses of scriptures that did not belong to their faiths.

One new leader who seems to be in awe of that golden era is Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of oil rich Rivers state. Mr Amaechi’s government has sponsored an annual literary festival since 2008.

At about this time last year, on invitation to participate in the writers’ workshops of the festival, I undertook a long journey to Rivers state. I courted the book stands of various publishers and met numerous mentors like Professor Chukwuemeka Ike whose wonderful novel, ‘The Bottled Leopard’, dominated the literature syllabus of my junior secondary education. Professor Ike’s prose was so beautiful that it encouraged my British principal to learn the meanings of the native Igbo words that were sprinkled in the book.

Nnadozie (left) and Professor Ike

Nnadozie (left) and Professor Ike (right)

I didn’t make it to the next Garden City literary festival, which took place about two months ago, but I followed the activities in the media. There were appearances by the famous American activist, Rev Jesse Jackson and my compatriot Emeka Anyaoku who once served the Commonwealth as Secretary General. Speaking on the theme of the festival, ‘Literature and Politics’, Mr Anyaoku asserted that “Politics if it is to produce change needs literature to reinforce it.”

He hoped that the festival would grow to be like the Edinburgh festival in the UK. Mr. Anyaoku’s views were supported by Governor Amaechi. According to Amaechi, “Once literature fails to mirror ills in the society, then such society is on the verge of collapse.” Mr. Amaechi believes that serious literature should surpass entertainment. His favourite novel is a ‘Man of the People’, a political classic written by Chinua Achebe, the man widely regarded as the father of the African novel.

The governor seems to wonder why in the midst of so many political dramas in our nation, the current generation of writers have not offered successor works to Achebe’s satire. As a writer, I am not bound by any individual’s prescriptions but I would always keep Governor Amaechi’s thoughts in mind.

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About me:

“I am a Nigerian student. I love books. I am young and restless with firm dreams that are only tempered by Christianity. I dream of a world where people, inspired by their common humanity, engage in a global wheel of ideas and do not use history as a tool for blame game but as a lesson for the future. In my spare time, I write stories, speeches and participate in activities that advance the respect of human dignity.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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