Posts Tagged ‘Saddiq Dzukogi’

The Poet’s Corner is a column being anchored by the Nigerian Poet: Saddiq Dzukogi

Dike Chukwumerije is one of the prime lights in the business of performance poetry in Nigeria. He has over the years distinguished himself as a revolutionary in the act of the stage. He is an award winning Novelist, a poet and a book lover. In this conversation with the Poet Saddiq Dzukogi which took place on the 18th of September, 2014, he spoke on the wealth of talents that abound in the country and underlines the differences between spoken word, performance poetry and poetry as poets know it.

Dike Chukwumerije, Photo courtesy of Dike Chukwumerije's Facebook Image

Dike Chukwumerije, Photo courtesy of Dike Chukwumerije’s Facebook Image

“…the existence of a vibrant undergrowth is one of the best indications of the state of an economy. So, Nigerian literature is alive and well”

Dike, you are revolutionizing poetry, rescuing it from the dormancy of pages and giving it life on stages- can you talk more on what drives you?

ANS: Thank you for the kind words. In many ways, I am on a journey of self-discovery, just following a path; the end of which I do not honestly know. In that sense, you can say I am driven by curiosity. How far can this thing go? How much can this thing do? Fundamentally, though, it is that stubborn desire to express one’s self – one’s creativity – and find fulfilment at the end of the day.

There is a lot of talk about how performance poets have watered down Contemporary poetry, as a performance poet, what’s your take on this.

ANS: For me, the literary art is a continuum. This, sometimes, makes it hard to tell when one genre ends and another begins. That said, I think most of these comparisons (between contemporary and performance poetry) are flawed by the fact that they are usually made between extremes; typically comparing the best of contemporary poetry with the worst of performance poetry. If you come to the middle, you will find the differences between the two less distinct. In my opinion, at its best, performance poetry does not water down contemporary poetry. In fact, it enhances it by bringing it alive and extending its reach to the non-literary audience. However, I also believe that when taken to a certain extent performance poetry begins to morph into a distinct genre, let’s just call it ‘spoken word’, closer perhaps to hiphop and related musical traditions. At this point, it would be slightly unfair to judge it the same way you would judge a basic poem.

What is the role of performance poetry in promoting tradition?

ANS: As an oral/spoken art form, performance poetry is in itself an incarnation of a very, very old tradition. More so for us in Africa than elsewhere, our history was preserved orally. And even people of my generation can remember growing up and being told folk-tales by candlelight. We are a ‘speaking’ culture in many ways, and sometimes, it just feels a lot easier to express our idiosyncrasies in spoken form than in written form, particularly when one is trying to writing according to the ‘rules’.

You have taken a bold step, taking poetry to stage and most recently you did a video. You also have audio cds, what do you aim to achieve by these strides?

ANS: Well, firstly, like I said above, I am looking to find fulfilment. Secondly, I came and met Nigerian poetry somewhere; I would like to be part of those who take it further. Thirdly, I am seeking wider recognition and acceptance for the genre.

Do you perform poems by other poets?

ANS: No. But could I perform poems by other poets? Yes. It just happens that I have a lot coming out of me at the moment. So, I’m not short of material right now. But performance is itself a skill. So, I always encourage people who are so inclined to perform poetry, even if they don’t write it themselves, so long as the writer is acknowledged.

What does it feel like, to be on stage with your poem and having an audience listen to you?

ANS: A combination of excitement, pride, nervousness and peace.

I wasn’t surprised when you were long-listed for ANA poetry prize, but I was shocked to see you win the ANA Prose prize. So can I call you jack of all trade and master of all?

ANS: Master? Then what would you call Achebe? Seriously though, at the moment, I am totally immersed in what I’m doing. Let posterity be the judge.

How does one remain relevant on two jealous fronts of creative writing?

ANS: To remain relevant, don’t worry about remaining relevant. Worry more about the honesty and authenticity of what you write. Worry more about how close you come each time you write to expressing yourself EXACTLY. Add to that discipline, patience and consistency.

What’s your prose (Urichindere) about?

ANS: It’s about Nigeria in the 1990s. It’s also the story of boarding school life at that time and the coming of age of a young boy. It’s very funny. In fact, I always tell people; if it doesn’t make you laugh, bring it back to me. I’m not so sure about making you cry. But it could just do that as well.

Do you think there are distinct differences between spoken word and performance poetry?

ANS: Like I said above, the literary art [to me] is a continuum and so drawing distinctions can be hard. However, performance poetry is more closely related to poetry as we know it. To me, it’s basically writing a poem (respecting most of the disciplines of poetry writing while at it) and then performing it. Spoken word takes more liberties. It could, for instance, become prosaic, or conversational, or dramatic. The focus is not so much on how it reads in this case, but on how it sounds, and how it comes across to the listener.

You are arguably the finest performance poet in the Country; can you recount your steps to stardom?

ANS: Thank you for the kind words. But like I said before, my brother, let posterity judge. I began with writing poetry and reading it out whenever I found the opportunity. Then, about 9 years ago, I stopped reading and started performing my poetry. When I came to live in Abuja, I joined a literary group (the Abuja Literary Society) and became a regular at open mics and poetry slams. Winning a few slams helped. I started a blog as well, and writing regularly online. Then I joined ANA. And released a poetry CD too. And then, still in pursuit of that elusive ‘fulfilment’, began to experiment with other ways of communicating poetry. So, I went into videos. Honestly, I’m not too sure about the ‘stardom’ thing. But where I am now is a culmination of all this activity.

Dike Chukwumerije on Stage, Photo Courtesy of Dike Chukwumerije's Facebook Image

Dike Chukwumerije on Stage, Photo Courtesy of Dike Chukwumerije’s Facebook Image

Dike Chukwumerije on Stage, Photo Courtesy of Michaela Moye & Lexash Photography

Dike Chukwumerije on Stage, Photo Courtesy of Michaela Moye & Lexash Photography

Do you think the cries about the dearth in the Nigerian literature is justifiable, or is it just a foul cry by a group who is refusing to embrace the new guys because of its fraternity with the old guys?

ANS: Are you trying to drop me into a war zone or what? Well, I belong to the camp that thinks Nigerian literature is alive and well because I see it every day on-line and in various literary groups around the country. Yes, there are those who think it must first have been published by a ‘traditional’ publisher before it can qualify as literature. That’s fine. It always takes a while for the establishment to catch up. People are writing and (I must add) reading voraciously. Quality varies wildly, as is to be expected in a free market. But the existence of a vibrant undergrowth is one of the best indications of the state of an economy. So, Nigerian literature is alive and well – at least, to me.

Do you have a word for writers who may want to be as successful as yourself in performance poetry?

ANS: Determine your own parameters for success. Study those you TRULY admire. Work tirelessly on your craft. Do not be easily discouraged, for many, many times you will have to perform to a cold or hostile audience. Take every opportunity to perform. Don’t be intimidated by any platform or competing genre or act. Have confidence in your gift. Be yourself. And, while at it, don’t forget to enjoy the ride because it will end one day.

What are the specific things you are doing to get young guys come to your passionate genre?

ANS: Currently, I volunteer with the Abuja Literary Society. So, I host open mics twice a month, providing a platform to writers, poets, performance poets, spoken word artists to share their works with the public. I’ve also done spoken word workshops with ANA and other organizations. Two years ago, I collaborated with ANA Abuja to host a special spoken word event on Valentine’s Day. It was lots of fun! I regularly organize poetry events in Abuja as a way of introducing even more people to the genre.

What’s your view about ANA, generally?

ANS: It’s the oldest literary association we have and the only one that can truly claim a national spread. It’s done a lot to groom and give visibility to writers; and in my city of Abuja it gives me somewhere to go at least once every month. Plus ANA looks out for home-grown, home-based writers. And that’s something that should never be taken for granted.

Would you consider taking up a position anytime ahead?

ANS: No, not really. I prefer to volunteer my time (which I do regularly) because, at the moment, I am totally immersed in what I’m doing.

What’s your dad’s response to all this?

ANS: My dad? He is very happy with it.
Chukwumerije politics, Chukwumerije sports, Chukwumerije writer, why the mix-up?

ANS: There is no mix up. I am a writer. I have two brothers who are professional sportsmen, and a father who is a politician. It’s not as if I combine all these things in me. In our family, we believe in people following their paths diligently. So, no ‘mix up’ at all.

What other creative enterprise we are not aware of do you engage in?

ANS: I draw comics. Not seriously though.

What are you doing now?

ANS: I am working on a few poetry videos, a collection of short stories and [maybe] a novel.

Are you married? What did you read at the university?

ANS: Yes. I am married with two children. I read Law at university.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .THE END. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saddiq M. Dzukogi is a poet and author of the poetry collection: “Sunbeams and Shadows”. You may reach him on Twitter: @saddiqdzukogi

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Map of Nigeria (Red coloured area is Niger State)

Map of Nigeria (Red coloured area is Niger State)

By Bilkisu AbdulAziz Abarah (PRO- Niger State Book Agency)

Nigerian writers and artist(e)s in Niger State got three types of support from the Governor of Niger State; Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, last week when he approved the publication of works by the following new writers (marked ‘n’) plus some established ones for 2014. It is tagged Minna Literary Series:  

The Minna Literary Series is to create a platform for young writers in Niger State to horn their talents. The series will also develop a concrete reading culture in the state; a reading public that will trigger the flourishing of creativity, innovativeness and inventions that will bring about development in the society. The Literary Series will be an annual scheme in the state which shall comprise of writers resident in Niger State so as to saturate the immediate environment with books. It will be recalled that, the Nigerian Writers Series (under ANA National) endowed by the governor is currently at completion stage.  

Dr. Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu (Governor of Niger State, Nigeria)

Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Governor of Niger State, Nigeria)

Similarly, the governor has approved the construction of a Multi-media Unit for the promotion of film related activities, and Minna Art Gallery at the Niger State Book Development Agency.  
The Gallery is an artistic structure that will be used for the training and exhibition of art works as a medium of life-renewal and aesthetic bonding of the human heart with sense of good for a better humanity. The Multimedia Centre will provide optimal film related services including editorial, content development, scripting and other professional needs for the promotion of a flourishing indigenous film industry in the State.  
Also, the 2014 MBA International Literary Colloquium got its approval from the governor. It comes up from 10th – 12th November, 2014. This year’s Colloquium will run for two days; Pre-colloquium day (for commissioning of Multimedia and Arts Gallery) and the Colloquium proper which will have in attendance notable writers from home and abroad, literary critics, social activists, politicians, students and academics across the nation to grace the event. This year’s theme is Literature Culture and Social Re-engineering for National Development. Scholars, writers, creative performers and literary journalists from across the country would grace the occasion.  
2014 colloquium will feature a pre-colloquium lecture with the theme: Post Centenary Nigeria: New Literatures, New Leaders, New Nation to be presented by Professor Pius Adesanmi of the University of Carleton, Canada. There will also be an Interactive session on Literature, Creative writing, Leadership and Democracy among students, writers and politicians. Nigerian writers remain grateful to Prof. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya who facilitated all of the above.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Paul T. Liam

Paul T. Liam

by Saddiq Dzukogi

Writing: Experience bakes the best bread – Paul T. Liam

Once in a while, one comes across people who from a very young age have attained what long years of hardwork and persistence can achieve. Paul Liam is a young man, with a voice, which is currently echoing loudly around the walls of the Nigerian literary sphere. He is a rare gem that is making name for himself.
Saddiq Dzukogi, in this conversation with Paul; the poet, essayist, book reviewer, and columnist talks about his new book, Saint Sha’ade and Other Poems, and his progress thus far. The Interview touched on discussions about emerging writers springing from the North as well as why Nigeria is polarised along ethnic and religious divides. Paul Liam is the Assistant Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Niger State chapter, and also a Mentor at Hilltopart Centre.

Your name is gradually becoming a strong voice in contemporary Nigeria poetry especially Northern Nigeria, for the sake of those who are yet to know you, could you tell us who Paul Liam is?

Paul Liam is a product of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Niger Teen Authorship Scheme which discovered a lot of us back then as students of secondary schools in Minna. I love writing with inexplicable passion and I aspire to attain a certain level of perfection in the art that is beyond reason, I am still struggling to get there though. I am in my late twenties and Tiv from Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State. I lived the most parts of my life in the barracks in Minna, which is responsible for some of the themes in my works. I like to see myself as a product of my experiences. I started writing ten years ago and I have remained faithful to the calling of poetry albeit working with the other genres as well. My first work of poetry Indefinite Cravings (Leobooks) was published two years ago and I just published my second collection, Saint Sha’ade and Other Poems (Kraftbooks). I am an essayist with many essays to my name in the national dailies and currently, I am managing two columns with the Niger State Government’s weekly Newspaper, Newsline. I review books and sometimes people refer to me as a critic. I am a creative writing mentor and the Public Relations Manager of the Hilltoparts Centre Minna, founded by BM Dzukogi. I am the Chief Coordinator and Anchor of the centre’s Teen Authors’ Flash; a monthly interactive programme for aspiring teen writers who have written a book or more. I am equally, the current Assistant Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Niger State Chapter, and I am with the Niger State Book Development Agency where I am also the Head of Interpreter a government publication that analyses the Governor’s speeches. I am a lover of quality music, it is my stimulator. Well, this is the little there is about me.

Your new book Saint Sha’ade and Other Poems is out. With two bold collections of poetry in the space of two years, could you share the secret of being a productive writer?

Are there secrets to being productive? I would rather think it is an open secret since we all know that the road to success is determination and hardwork. I don’t think I can attribute it to any other thing other than my sole resolve to succeed as a young writer with several impediments on my pathways. Passion and the sheer desire to become a success story in the future drive me to function maximally. Aside these obvious reasons, I don’t have any secrets responsible for my productivity. And we may also say that divine intervention is responsible.

Copies of Paul T. Liam's book Saint Sha' Ade

Copies of Paul T. Liam’s book Saint Sha’ Ade

How would you view your progress so far?

To be candid to you, I wouldn’t know if it is proper for me to assess myself when I have mentors who have seen and nurtured my growth all these years. Maybe, you should put the question to them, instead. However, if I must respond to this question, I would like to say that, I have grown just like everyone else, both in age, wisdom and understanding of what the world of man is and I am still struggling to find my place in the scheme of things. I have grown to the admiration of my mentors, I believe. My writing has grown too and you know experience bakes the best bread.

Nigeria is surviving on an active volcano, what is the extent of the role of literature in mending broken ties and healing old wounds especially in the case of the Biafran war and other agitations across the country?

Well, I wouldn’t know if I have the liberty to corrugate any assertions on the Biafran myth, but in terms of how literature can mend broken ties and heal wounds I would like to posit without contradictions that, the role of literature in peace building has been undermined by partisan interests and understandably of course. Otherwise, the educated elites know the functions of literature for they are direct consequences of its implications on the human mind. Holy literatures such as the Holy Bible and Holy Quran have continuously preached peace and understanding across humanity but do we heed to these teachings? The answer is no and the results are the crises that have continued to threaten our collective existence. If the citizens were educated enough to read and understand the literatures that have been churned out since the end of the Biafran war, they would understand the dangers in stirring a new war and would learn to forgive each other for a common good. Literature has a very vital role to play in the lives of children especially as it teaches them how to communicate in inoffensive manner to each other; it helps them grow a greater understanding of life and positive virtues. To avert future conflicts and opening of fresh wounds, efforts must be made to ensure that children are properly educated and peace-literatures must be encouraged in schools to help students understand the intricacies of conflict and war. Literature can save humanity if given the chance, I am convinced. It has all the potentials to tame the most reckless mind and foster greater understanding. An informed mind has no time for irrelevances and that is the function of literature: to curtail the mind and abhor evil. So, yes, literature has a lot to do in peace-building amongst aggrieved persons, all it requires is the opportunity to function.

I was a witness to a Facebook conversation where you had a small brawl with Ahmed Maiwada, your mentor over a short story you posted. Have you improved in that area since that event or are you sticking to just poetry?

Hahaha… a brawl with my mentor, since when did children begin to engage their parents in brawls? There was never a brawl over a short story I posted on Facebook. Perhaps you mistook the conversation for something else, it was a mentor discussing with his mentee in strong terms to send home a point. I take Ahmed Maiwada’s corrections seriously and I have always taken his corrections very seriously because, over the years they have helped my craft and I appreciate him for those frank criticisms of my works all the time. And again no, that conversation has never stopped or discouraged me from writing stories and in fact, I have over sixteen short stories now waiting for attention which I hope to give to it when I am less occupied with other engaging activities. Stories are like new brides who needs special attention and I just don’t have that time at the moment. Poetry only comes to me more naturally, that is why I create time for it and it is more exciting to me than prose.

In your latest offering, one sees the poet romanticising with death. What informed that type of poetry?

My relationship with death is one of nature’s designs. I lost my mother at a very young age, she died around the mid-90s and since then I have lived with the pains and fear of death. If you look at the situation of the country at the moment, it is impossible for you not to want to talk about these happenings. The fact that you could become the next victim is enough reason for you to live in constant fear of the unknown and death is our greatest enemy. So, the life of a motherless child stolen away by death, and the realities of today’s world of deaths and maladies inform my notion about death.

Judging the content of the book, would you say you have found your distinct voice as a poet?

Yes, I think I have found my voice and I actually did that a long time ago. You may need to read Ahmed Maiwada and Kamar Hamza’s comment on my first work and peruse my second work to get what I am saying. In fact, when I gave my second collection to Tade Ipadeola when it was still in manuscript form to review he said that I would soon find a voice for my writing but unknown to him he was actually looking at my second work. Even Steve Shaba my publisher could not hide his feelings on my work and it all points to the fact that I have a distinct voice. So, I know I have a voice already; perhaps, I need to master that voice so it becomes my identity as a poet. Even you, have recognised my having a distinct voice before.

You are a mentor at the Hilltoparts Centre, Minna, what exactly do you do there?

I am surprised you are asking about what we do at the centre when you were once a president of the centre. Well, for those who may not know, the Hilltoparts centre is a nursery for the propagation of talents in creative writing, photography, painting, craft and every artistic endeavour of interest to a child, with the purpose of influencing a better society through the arts. The centre provides mentorship to the aspiring writers/artists for free. We believe that if a child is tamed early enough, chances are that he will live a responsible life that will impact positively on the larger society. The centre encourages young people with interests in creative writing to develop such interests into realities and we have success stories at the centre such as Deborah Oluniran, Hauwa Nuhu Shafi and Richard O. Jacob. We are working on publishing some of them soon since many have written books already. Some of them are going to be published through the Niger State Book Development Agency. Hilltoparts Centre is probably the best place for idea cultivation in young people who will become role models to their peers. It is a place for everyone interested in a better society of peaceful co-existence. To get a better understanding of the activities of the centre you need to either watch our documented programmes or visit the centre itself.

How has your interaction with the young ones affected you as an artist?

In several ways, firstly, you improve in knowledge when you try to make someone better because you need to be better to be able to make someone better, right? So, my experience with the young ones at the centre has affected me in many ways, I may not even realise it myself. It is a challenge to work with younger people when you are also young because in a lot of ways your challenges are almost the same. It is inspiring working with them and I hope to continue to contribute the little I can to influence them positively.

You are the current Assistant Secretary of ANA Niger, what was the brouhaha over leadership about and what is the situation now?

Well, the ANA Niger situation is a peculiar one because it is difficult for anyone to change a system that has benefited a lot of people for decades especially if that system is a positive one. The congress of ANA Niger has never been awash with the type of autocratic and arbitrariness witnessed during the tenure of the former chairperson who alongside a few others turned the association into a private business. The congress decided that it could no longer trust the EXCO to administer its affairs again so they clamoured for and got a new Exco team being ably led by the amiable Mallam Nma Hassan Mohammed. The chairperson also couldn’t protect the association when an outsider attacked its credibility. She opted to become an accomplice. Peace has returned to the house even though the brawl has not been totally resolved because of the ways of man. The house is better and happier now than it was two years ago. The situation is calm yet we are all calculative and ready to wrestle with anyone who wishes to privatise the association. And again, it may interest you to know that the former chairperson has taken some of us to court for some reasons she understands better as a result of her removal alongside her Exco team of which I was a member.

What is the talk about Niger being the intellectual capital of Nigeria?

This is an interesting question because it raises several issues. First, if you look at the foundation, you will agree that nothing starts from the top but from the basics and in terms of building an intellectual power house, only Niger State can boast of such a foundation now. For over twenty years our Annual Schools Carnival of Arts and Festival of Songs (ASCAFS) has continued to discover talents in creative writing and the other arts. You and I are parts of those discovered talents and there are several others like us. Talk about the teen authorship scheme that is grooming pen soldiers who are starting to dominate the literary cycles. Look at the organizational and administrative impetus backed by the establishment of a book agency by the Niger State Government of Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu. Look at the impacts of the MBA International Literary Colloquium on the Nigerian literary space. Niger State sponsored a national programme geared towards the discovery and cultivation of talent in creative writing through the Association of Nigerian Author’s National Teen Authorship Programme that has benefited over five states in the country. Niger State also gave a grant of ten million naira for the establishment of the Nigerian Writers’ Series which has begun already. We have a hand in this because it is the programme of our mentor when he was contesting for the National Secretary of ANA. What can you compare to that? All these things I am mentioning are rough itemization. If you need to understand the full impact of that declaration you may have to come down to Minna for a proper research that will provide you with the adequate information that you seek on this subject. But, I am assuring you now that Niger state is the emerging intellectual capital of Nigeria. And we are the one driving it along with Prof. Kuta who leads the pack.

There is a new crop of interesting writers springing up from Northern Nigeria. Writers such as Vershima Agema, Maryam Bobi, Gimba Kakanda, Halima Aliyu, Samson Abdalmasih, Jimo Olawale and you, what does the future hold for these emerging writers?

A lot, more than self-actualizations they must realise that they have a burden on their shoulders and this burden is to cast light on the path of the region and ensure that they contribute to the emancipation of the region from the grips of dysfunction and ignorance around. They must endeavour to carry others along; it is only in that way that they can impact a perpetual legacy on the region. They must see themselves as the representatives of the rest of the region and must protect that interest. Ironically, you are also a part of them and you owe the region the same allegiance. (Laughs)

Nigeria has always been polarised along religious and ethnic lines, what do you think is responsible for this trend?

Absolute lack of trust, the polarisation has taken a dimension that only divine intervention can salvage, and it is solely the making of the elite politicians who feed from the people’s woes. Religion has since become a political tool in the hands of selfish individuals who must eat from where there is chaos and because of the poverty of the mind that is affecting the people, everyone seems to be culpable in the crimes, because, by our statements or silence we are contributing to the woes. Without trust and respect for our collective humanity, we will remain the same people of a divided nation united by poverty and perverted inclination towards each other.

Thanks for your time, Paul.

Thank you for interviewing me.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity