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PAWA, honour Achebe, Jonathan

The Pan African Writers' Association (PAWA) as part of its planned International Writers' Day (IWD) has announced plans to institute some programmes in honour of literary icon and late author of Things Fall Apart, Prof. Albert Chinualumogu Achebe.

Also to appreciate the physical presence of President Good luck Jonathan during the burial of the late literary giant last year and for being a supporter of literature, the continental writers' body has decided to confer its highest award on him, named, The PAWA Noble Patron of the Arts Award."

A delegation of PAWA from its Headquarters in Accra, the capital city of Ghana on a courtesy call on President Goodluck Jonathan in his office at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday sought the support of Nigerian government to "endow a literary prize of international standing to be called the Chinua
Achebe Prize for literature," which the association said it is working on its modalities.

The delegation, led by the Secretary General, Prof. Atukwei Okai disclosed PAWA's plan to hold this year's International African Writers' Day in honour of Achebe in recognition of his giant stride in literature. He therefore invited the President to be the Chief Guest of Honour at the event scheduled to take place in November in Accra, Ghana.

“The International African Writers' Day was established by the African Union to be celebrated yearly throughout the continent to afford all the African people a moment to pause to reflect on the contributions of the African writer to the continent's development On these occasions in the past, we had honoured writers like Nadine Godimer, Professor Ali Mazrui, Woke Soyinka and Professor Femi Osofisan. This year it is the turn of Chinua Achebe," the leader of the delegation said.

PAWA also congratulated the President and Rivers state government on the designation by UNESCO of Port Harcourt as the International Book Centre for 2014. He also congratulated Governor Rotimi Amaechi as well as Rainbow Book Club which efforts and supports have put Nigeria on the literary map.
The PAWA scribe also noted the pioneering role being played by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) in the survival of PAWA. According to him, all African writers the world over are members of PAWA. "But ANA remains one of the most active members of PAWA and a prominent Nigerian writer, Prof Femi Osofisan is the Vice President of PAWA”.

"We are proud to place on record that ANA is not only the most active member of PAWA but from the very foundation day of PAWA, it has stood by PAWA through thick and thin and demonstrated an inspiring spirit of commitment to the cause of the pursuit of excellence and the development of the African literary world.

"It is a real cause for joy and pride that the vigorous and dedicated literary activity of the Nigerian literary world has been noted and acknowledged. We are glad and inspired that the City of Port Harcourt has been designated by the UNESCO as the International Book Centre for 2014.

"Significantly, Nigeria is that African country to which God decided to apportion a totally federal quota of gifted writers and unique talents, and they have gallantly and humanely deployed these assets on behalf of the highest interests of the Nigerian people and even beyond."

Responding, President Jonathan thanked the association for the honour as well as its plans to honour Achebe, promising to keep supporting them in their activities. He asked the association to formalise the invitation by bringing letters to his office. He however pledged to support the association by mobilizing funds from Anambra sons and daughters for the Achebe literary prize. Besides, the President also used the opportunity to assure the delegation of his administration's commitment to vigorously pursue the "Bring Back the Book" programme, which he initiated in 2011.

The President said the decision to revive the Bring Back the Book programme was borne out his concern for the declining reading culture among Nigerian youths, occasioned by the advent of Internet and the short message text of mobile phones.

His word, "It will be recalled that I launched a programme called the ‘Bring Back the Book’ together with Prof. Wole Soyinka in Lagos in 2011. That programme was intended to generate the interest of Nigerian youth in reading culture, which has been going down. If somebody of Soyinka’s caliber is involved in a programme, you know that is a serious matter.

"So we will do everything possible to ensure that we resuscitate the programme to encourage our youth to read because any society, whose younger ones cannot read very well cannot be said to be making any progress." He blamed the poor reading culture among young Nigerians to the presence of the Internet and social media.

"I thank the association for what you have been doing to encourage writing culture. In this age of Internet and text messages, people don't like to write long sentences again. Our young people are used to reading very short things, they don't have interest in reading the novels we read in our days," the President said.

On the fund raising or Achebe, Jonathan said, "Anything about Chinua Achebe will be easy for us to mobilize funds. The money may not necessarily come from government coffers but I will be able to coordinate some friends especially from Achebe's home state, Anambra which has very vibrant young men and women who can support robustly if they are properly carried along which I can play that role. We will bring them on board to assist.

"Achebe has made the name, not just for Nigeria but also for the continent and writers like you should be able to promote the name further," the President said. The association also honoured the President as their Noble Patron. Among the Items given to the President for the honour include a certificate, plaque cold cast in bronze, gold medal and stool of royalty.

On the delegation were David Mungoshi, Vice President for Southern Africa, former President of Zlmbabwe Writers' Association, poet, novelist and Professor of the University of Zimbabwe; Prof. Remi Raji, President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA); Ms. Sylvie Ntsame Ngomo, novelist and President of the Gabonese Writers' Association.

Other members of the delegation were former member, House of Representatives and former President of ANA, Dr. Wale Okediran; former Registrar of West African Examination Council (WAEC) now a traditional ruler, Eze (Prof.) Chukwuemeka Ike; Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian poet and Director of Mother Earth Foundation as well as Miss Joy Aikoroje PAWA liaison Officer.