Professor Tony Afejuku needs no introduction. He’s an academic who just retired from the University of Benin, Benin City, where he taught English for decades. He’s also a poet, critic and social commentator on national issues. Along with some others, Afejuku was conferred with the Fellowship of Association of Nigerian Authors in the last convention that was also an election convention that ushered in a new executive led by Dr. Akanbi Usman. Prof. Afejuku expressed how he felt be so honoured, among other issues, that ANOTE AJELUOROU took him on
How do you feel about the Fellowship and what it means to you as a writer?
I feel normal and absolutely true to myself about the Fellowship. It came from the blues as I never gave thought to it. But it was astonishingly something that was astonishingly astonishing enough to engender my thoughts about fulfilling my desire to earnest desire to keep on writing until I inhale my last air. The right writing and writerly sensations entered and re-entered me right from when Camillus Ukah, the gone ANA president communicated officially to me the news of the Fellowship. Of course, before then you had informed me about it from the chamber, the journalistic chamber, so to speak, of the sensitive journalist always on the move. As a writer yourself you have a knack for the best way to release what you released to me before President Ukah gave me the call he gave me before I got the thrilling letter from the then secretary.
Is it coming too late, when you are on retirement as an academic?
The Fellowship cannot be said to come to me late. Every person has his destined time. The Fellowship found me on my retirement, after my retirement, that is, from active teaching service. But because I am still writing, I cannot be called or referred to as retired don, professor and writer. By the way, George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist and playwright of great wit and the right creative humour came into writing late, but his lateness did not in any way affect his ultimately solid, significantly significant contribution to dramatic literature and scholarship. The first book is not necessarily the best book. To put it another way, he who erects the first building in a city does not necessarily have the best house and structure.
I can go on to cite further examples but it is not necessary. Yet let me state thus from the domain of politics: President Barrack Obama of the US became president in his forty-something year on earth while President Joe Biden became president in his seventy-something year. It doesn’t matter who was there first and when in terms of years. What is important is that one eventually gets or got there.
Some of ANA Fellows 2023: Dr. Ike Naliaku (left); Dr. Raymond Anumve; Prof. Tony Afejuku and Prof. Priye Iyalla-Amadi at this year’s Convention of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) in Abuja
When was the last time you attended ANA Convention? What’s different now and then?
I attended ANA Convention at the University of Ibadan years and years ago. I gave it a break for reasons I don’t wish to share here. But there is nothing unusual or untoward about my absence. My attendance, my presence, at the last Convention was a happy re-union. ANA today and ANA then are drastically different from especially the perspective of organisation and attitudes of the runners of the Association. Then ANA was not as polarised as it is today. Far younger members and writers now manage and administer ANA. And journalists from all over the country seemingly don’t now have a strong presence. We can blame this on the current economic situation and social and political reality as well as on the unending security issues in the land. Your country, my country, our country is now a plague that is worse than a plague.
What’s your impression of Mamman Vatsa Writers Village?
Mamman Vatsa Writers’ Village is a very befitting Writers’ Village. It is still a work-, a construction-, a structure-in-progress. It is really what is it. Thanks to all those who made it possible – from Mamman Vatsa, the founding originator, Abubakar Gimba who made it part of his presidential manifesto to re-possess the land after all kinds of things happened after Mamman Vatsa’s unfortunate death and to the immediate past National President who had elders, including the Trustees, who offered the president and his Executive workable and profitable advice to make the Writers’ Village what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. In fact, all past presidents of ANA and their Excos deserve our immense thanks.
What’s your expectation for the new leadership of ANA that just assumed office?
I expect the new ANA leadership to improve on what the immediate past leadership achieved or did not achieve. The new leadership MUST perform no matter what. I expect them to disagree in the quest to move ANA forward patriotically. But their disagreements should and must not be ones that are to impede the Association. In a place where everyone thinks alike all the time nothing substantial will be delivered to the private and public of all. In fact, ANA will prosper more if all differences are harnessed to get to the extent that ANA will benefit our writers in the act and art of writing and in a manner that will prosper your country, my country, our country.
Kindly mention a few other Fellows you shared podium with…
Apart from Sunny Awefeada who could not make it to Abuja, and Abubakar Othman, who sadly died before the Convention, all other listed Fellows, to the best of my knowledge, were garlanded as I was garlanded. It was really a thrillingly thrilling event; momentously momentous; it was very beautifully and more than very beautifully beautiful.