It’s tradition that the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) holds a general meeting on the last day of its annual convention. It is also constitutional that election takes place every two years on the last day of that same event. But this year, for the first time in the association’s history, no one got elected. Bookshelf reports.
The 2019 ANA International Annual Convention took place from October 31 to November 3 in Enugu. Before then, there was some excitement in the air for two reasons. One, because of the location. Two, it’s election year and four of the body’s heavyweights, Chike Ofili, Ahmed Maiwada, Ofonime Inyang, and Camillus Ukah, were contesting for the association’s presidency and had been hard at work campaigning for many months.
Themed ‘Literature, Nationalism and the Poetics of Integration’, the convention, which featured book chats, discussions and performances by creatives, approached what may have been described as a smooth end, until the last day.
ANA has never had such a crisis
Established on June 27, 1981, during a conference convened by the late Professor Chinua Achebe at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, there is no record of ANA ever postponing its election as scheduled during its annual convention.
The current past president of the association, Malam Denja Abdullahi, explained that the constitution should be followed for the National Advisory Council to take over the affairs of the Association in the interim and appoint a caretaker committee to conduct another election within 180 days. The present members of this council, chaired by Prof. Femi Osofisan include Prof. Jerry Agada, Dr. Wale Okediran, Prof.May Nwoye Ifeoma and Hajiya Hafsat Abdulwaheed.
Dr, Okediran expressed his disappointment at the failed election and said the way out is for the Advisory Board to put together a transition committee that will take over the affairs of the association and conduct an election within the next 180 days. “This will be the first time an ANA election is postponed,” he said.
Another election means another gathering any time before May 2020. This entails another round of expense for the association, even if at individual level, as proper arrangements must be made by stakeholders to be present.
Already, Malam Abdullahi said, ANA’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) has a shortfall of N780,000 from this year’s convention.
“When we hold a convention, there are two layers of expenditure, that of the National Executive Council (NEC) and that of the LOC. The LOC provides the venue, security, transportation and so on. It used to accommodate all delegates but now only does for specific ones. They write for sponsorship and depend on the state government. At the national level, there is the concern of producing the ANA review, paying the judges, providing convention materials,” Malam Denja said, adding that this year’s budget cannot be less than N5m.
The former president explained that the LOC didn’t get any monetary assistance from the Enugu State government, rather they contributed amongst themselves.
What disrupted the electoral process?
A writer, poet, and lawyer, Maiwada said the immediate past president already had a preferred candidate in the person of Camillus Ukah, the association’s vice president. “It puts a question mark on the morality of the election,” he said, adding that Abdullahi called a few people to tell them categorically that he wanted the vice president to win the election and that he knew Maiwada couldn’t win. “So, I took that as a challenge and wanted to give him a run for his money.”
Maiwada explained that the sign of trouble came when Abdullahi prepared a list of delegates. “Nobody had seen the delegates. Not even the general secretary who was supposed to prepare the list of those to attend the convention. The president has no power to prepare a list. About three of us demanded to see the list but all to no avail,” he said.
According to Maiwada, when it was time to call the names of the delegates, they realized that Abdullahi didn’t let most of the people who registered to vote.
“But they let many people from the president’s state to enter the voting arena. They broke some rules in favour of the vice president. They said no student voters but they let students to vote. The candidate from Akwa Ibom also objected. Ofonime Inyang and I observed the foundation for the election was not there. The names of the people we saw on the list did not reflect the names of the people who had registered. So, we said based on that the election cannot go on. The other two people said that even though there is a problem with the list, nobody contested it so we could move on with the election. At this point, our time in the venue had expired. So, we had to move to the venue for the award dinner.
“On our way out, we decided that the chairmen of the various chapters of ANA should meet together with the newly constituted electoral panel. It was decided that by a vote of twenty to five, the election be cancelled. Twenty of these chairmen said that we couldn’t have an election based on what they had observed and that there was no credit whatsoever in the list provided by the president.”
In the same breath, Ofili, a writer and poet, said ANA’s electoral process was compromised by the immediate former president and vice president of the association.
“They adopted the list in a way that nobody else was able to access it. Not even the secretary or the executives. It is the same secretary (Ofonime Inyang) who for four years assimilated his office. When it came to the turn of Akwa Ibom to be accredited, the secretary realized that seven people had been taken out of his list. So, he kept insisting very vehemently that his people be brought back to vote. When you look at it, you see that he stood up to some people who constituted themselves as the electoral body, and they gave us election outcomes we don’t believe,” Ofili said, adding that Abdullahi tried to ensure his Vice President, Ukah became winner and humiliate the General Secretary, Inyang.
Inyang concurred that there were irregularities in the list of delegates after the executives were dissolved. “I am the immediate past General Secretary. I believe the former president did this to influence the outcome of the election without my knowledge. I personally asked Denja to explain why those from Akwa Ibom were removed from the list, and he couldn’t say anything. To the shock of the Akwa Ibom delegates and others, we discovered that those names were deliberately removed to disenfranchise them. I was there because I am also a presidential candidate.”
But Abdullahi denied these allegations. “I had conducted the election up till the time the executive was dissolved. Till that time, there was nothing untoward in what we were doing, in the sense that when we were to constitute the electoral committee before the executive was dissolved, I did the usual practice of constituting the electoral committee from ANA elders, fellows and past presidents. One of the contestants, particularly Ahmed Maiwada, said he would not agree with that process. That each of the contestants must have a representative in that committee, which is an anomaly in ANA.
“When people got agitated and were shouting, we now appointed a chairman. After that my Exco was dissolved, so in what way was I in control of anything? When accreditation was taking place and reached the last two states, which included Akwa Ibom, nobody complained.
“We had already agreed on the process of accreditation before my Exco was dissolved, that anyone who was attending the convention for the first time would be excluded. This has always been there. Students were also not allowed to take part, and everybody agreed. That was the criteria the electoral committee were using.
“A state had 47 people accredited for election, in the end only seven were admitted into the hall. The same thing happened to many other states, including Abuja and nobody complained, until when Akwa Ibom was to be accredited. They had 17 candidates, but only eight were qualified and allowed to come in. That was when Inyang insisted that all the 17 who were from his state must enter, including his wife who has not been in Nigeria. He disrupted the election and people forced themselves in. That was how the election stopped. There was no electricity at that point. We tried to move to another hall but the election could not go on.”