THE 13th edition of the Coal City Book Convention 2022, celebrated annually in Enugu to promote the literary arts, will be take place on Saturday, 25 June 2022 at Peekay Garden. New Haven. Organised by The Delta Book Club, a subsidiary of Delta Publications (Nigeria) Limited, a book publishing outfit, this year’s celebration will be spiced with a drama performance titled Our Papa’s Land, followed by a reading by Professor Mike Iloeje from his new book Rape – My Beloved Country that laments the challenges of survival in the Nigerian state, there will also be a presentation of the new edition of the company’s quarterly literary magazine The Writer.
The main attraction will be the conferment of the annual ‘Olaudah Equiano Life-Award’ on three notable Nigerian achievers “who personified the apex of creative excellence in their chosen disciplines.” They are a professor of paediatrics, Bede Ibe, a scientist, Professor Josephine Ezekwesili-Ofili, and a politician-turned-novelist, Commissioner Ukwu Rocks Emma.
President of The Delta Book Club, Dillibe Onyeama, said, “We have put together an elaborate package of celebration that we hope will defy the infamous reputation of ‘the unlucky thirteenth’ and inspire literary talent in our quest to promote the reading culture.”
Onyeama explained the ‘The unlucky thirteenth’ as denoting the global recognition of the number ‘13’ for having caused more misfortunes than any other figure, adding, “I am hoping that misfortune will NOT visit our forthcoming book convention.”
He also said response to the book convention has been favourable over the years, adding, “The response has been generally favourable, otherwise we would not still be in business. We have had no major challenges. Once any project is well organised and well publicised, there should not be any hiccups. It gives the satisfaction of a job well done. There are fallouts – like international conferences for awardees, purchases of books, etc. Guests enjoyed what they saw the previous year. The whole thing was fun.”
Onyeama said “Good press coverage before, during and after” has been part of the book convention in Enugu, adding that “good ceremonies related to book matters – drama performance, poetry recitals, awards, readings, music, book sales at reduced prices, good overall organisation, good entertainment.”
Although the writers were on familiar territory, Onyeama said “a convention is more elaborate, diverse and varied than a mere book fair. It is more in the league of a workshop-cum-seminar. We have sundry writers involved, with no one in particular outside the ceremonial chairman of the occasion piloting the proceedings. It’s a get-together of writers of different genres of literature.”
Although Enugu is ‘the traditional headquarters of the genus Igbo,’ as convention organiser Onyeama describes it, critics however believe the Coal City has not quite featured as setting for a major fiction the way, say Lagos and Port Harcourt have been. But Onyeama disagrees, saying, “I beg to differ. All the noted Igbo authors have been Enugu boys, so to speak. ALL of them. Name me who whom you cannot identify with Enugu – being as she is the traditional headquarters of the genus Igbo.
“Our convention applies creative strategies to circumvent challenges which militate against the reading culture. Short of laying bare company secrets, I cannot tell you more than that. We bypass bookshops, libraries, schools, and get books to the people who matter. How we do it is our own trade secrets.”
On whether the Coal City Book Convention would likely have a literary prize in future, Onyeama said, “The Olaudah Equiano Life-Award is like a Coal City Book Prize,” although without monetary attached to it.
While some critics have argued that the Coal City Book Convention’s signature ‘The Olaudah Equiano Life-Award’ has largely been awarded to less known writers, Onyeama says otherwise, noting that “Everybody has a story to tell, hence personifying the principle of a book in every man. The line-up this year, as has been the case since the birth of the convention in 2009, throws up big-time celebrities with great stories to their names. Recognition falls into two categories: outstanding achievers in respective disciplines, and exceptional books with the prize going to their authors. They do not necessarily have to be known to be talented. Our duty as publishers is to showcase them, thereby giving inspiration to others.”