By Charles Iornumbe and Paul Ugah
Reading maketh a man: this trite is known to all. It is a given that book is a major promoter of reading culture across the globe. Indeed, African literature is the encyclopedia of collective African cultural, social, economic and political experience of the continent.
Based on the above axiom and facts, Henry Akubuiro, the author of Prodigals in Paradise, was hosted by the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Benue State chapter, recently in Makurdi to read from his debut novel.
On 2nd August, Radio Benue FM, the state-owned radio station and social media was awash with the news of Akubuiro’s visit to Benue to read his work. And the news generated a lot of enthusiasm among Benue writers who could not wait to see him.
What interested them mostly was the opportunity to interact with the award-wining-author and Arts Editor of The Sun newspaper face-to-face.
Because of the enthusiasm generated among Benue writer towards the guest writer, the Association of Nigeria Authors, ANA Benue restricted the interactive session with the writer to only executive and stakeholders of the association in Benue.
On the 3rd August executive members of the association, alongside the stakeholders, were gathered at the ANA secretariat at No. 34 Ankpa Road, Makurdi, to receive the August visitor. At about 12pm, the August visitor, Henry Akubuiro breezed into the secretariat.
After a brief introduction of members to the guest writer, the interactive session commenced. During the interactive session, Paul Ugah, the author of Midnight Cry; Mrs. Hope Idani, the author of Davidic Harp; Mrs Regina Nege, the author of Dog Tales; Mrs Victoria Aduma, the author of The Return of Our Land;HC Kochis, essayist and author of Sunrise at Night; Charles Iornumbe, critic and poet; Fater Vange, poet, among others, engaged the guest writer on: his writing style, how long it took him to write the novel, how he published his work, his inspiration and what drove his writing, among other questions.
On how long it took him to write the novel, the guest writer says: “It took me almost a decade to publish Prodigals in Paradise, and it is because I took time to improve on the work before it was finally published in 2016.
On how he got his inspiration he said:“I got most of my inspirations from the society as a journalist. In fact, most of the stories are based on happenings in our society. I only fictionalised them to make them more interesting.”
The guest writer explained that the reading tour he embarked on was to promote reading and writing among writers, and not a campaign for any elective position in ANA national level. The interactive session, which lasted for about two hours came to an end at 2 pm.
Evening session of the reading, which coincided with the association’s monthly reading, was held at the Nigeria Union of Journalists hall. At about 4 pm, members of the association, guest and students of the Benue State University were gathered for the event.
After some writers read their works, the guest writer, Henry Akubuiro took the stage with the admiration of the audience.There was dead silence as the guest writer held Benue writers spellbound while reading from Prodigals in Paradise. The reading, which lasted for about 30 minutes, was given loud ovation by the audience.
Commenting on the work by the guest writer, a Common Wealth award-winning short story writer, Dr. Maria Ajima says “Henry voice is a fresh and novel one on the literary prose scene as it can be noticed that the language he employs in Prodigals in Paradise engages in a story telling narrative technique, using flashback and a present reportage style that shows his journalistic background and compels continuous attention to the episodic scenario found in his novel.
“The extensive dialogues that his characters employ also entertain, keep the reader transfixed. He has used many words not commonly used in every day speech, employing local idiomatic expressions that are highly engaging, hilarious and sarcastic at the same time.
She encouraged the author, in the next edition,”to use a picture or an illustration of an African as a cover page if he has to use one in order to enhance Africanity of the text”.
Also, commenting a former president of ANA, Prof. Jerry Agada described the reading tour embarked upon by the Lagos based writer and journalist as a noble cause that should be emulated by writers across the country to promote reading and writing.
Prof Agada, who is currently the chairman, Benue State Civil Service Commission further, noted that Akubuiro’s reading tour reminded him of his past, and explained that one of the characters in the novel named Nicodemus reminded him of his experienceduring his first visit to Lagos. He lauded the author for a job well done.
Speaking the Voice Chairman ANA Benue, Mr. Paul Ugah commended the guest writer for embarked on a reading tour to the State in the face of economic recession in the country and noted that the writer had great value to the monthly reading of the association.
The chairman of the association of Nigeria Authors, ANA Benue Chapter, Mr. Charles Iornume, said ANA Benue was happy to host a notable writer like Henry Akubuiro, stating that the event was an eye opener for their member who may wish to embark on such a similar exercise in the near further. He thanked all those who took time out of their tight schedules to grace the occasion.
A don, Dr. Terumun Gajir; Managing Editor, Bahiti and Daliala publishers, Maik Ortserga, in their separate remarks, lauded the guest writer and ANA Benue for creating such a great opportunity for writers to interact. Lauding the work, Gajir said: “I am seeing new things in Prodigals in Paradise. I can see descriptive language; I can see journalistic language; I can see Nigerian English –we have Driver Ezekiel; I can see street lingo. Besides, there is evidence of nominal strategy in the names of the characters, such as Nicodemus, Job, etcetera, whose fortunes bear resemblance to their biblical equivalents.”
Speaking with the central planning committee chairperson, Dr. Ajima at the end of the event on its significance, she said: The hosting of the guest writer in Benue shows that ANA Benue is one of the few state branches that is in the forefront of literary activates as we usually demonstrate from the volumes of writing coming out of the state. The event would equally spur other notable writers to come to Benue to read their works.
“In the past ANA Benue has hosted Usman Shehu, Anoma Azuah from US, Chuma Nwakolo, among others I cannot recall for now. Such activities attracted others and brought recognition to the state.
“It is also of great significance to the entire Benue literary community and the Benue State University students who attended the event. In fact, the university had produced some award-winning authors like Fater Vange and Sam Barki, among others. Again,the event created an avenue for notable writer to engage with writers in the state to learn from each other.
“I thank God for the success of the even, because the guest writer did go back with a single copy of books he brought to Benue in the face of economic hardship. It goes to show that Nigerians love literary works,” Dr. Ajima concluded.