Day Akubuiro held Makurdi spellbound with Prodigals in Paradise

Recently, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Benue State chapter, hosted Lagos-based arts journalist and writer, Mr. Henry Akubuiro, the author of the novel, Prodigals in Paradise, in Makurdi, who read from his debut novel

Before the event and on August 2, Radio Benue FM and social media were abuzz with news of Akubuiro’s visit to the state. And the news generated a lot of enthusiasm among Benue writers.

What interested them mostly was the opportunity to interact with the award-wining author and Arts Editor of The Sun newspaper face-to-face.

On August 3, everybody gathered early at ANA secretariat on No. 34 Ankpa Road, Makurdi, to receive the August visitor. At about 12pm, Akubuiro breezed into the secretariat, and after a brief introduction of members to the guest writer, the interactive session commenced.

Present were author of Midnight Cry, Paul Ugah; author of Davidic Harp, Mrs. Hope Idani; author of Dog Tales, Mrs. Regina Nege; author of The Return of Our Land, Mrs. Victoria Aduma; essayist and author of Sunrise at Night, HC Kochis; critic and poet, Charles Iornumbe and poet, Fater Vange, among others, who engaged the guest writer on his writing style, how long it took him to write the novel, how he published his work, his inspiration to write, among other questions.

On how long it took him to write Prodigals in Paradise, Akubuiro said, “It took me almost a decade to publish Prodigals in Paradise, and it is because I took time to improve on the work before it was finally published in 2016.”

On how he got his inspiration he said, “I got most of my inspiration from the society as a journalist. In fact, most of the stories are based on happenings in our society. I only fictionalised them to make them more interesting.”

The guest writer explained that the reading tour he embarked on was to promote reading and writing among writers and the general public, and not a campaign for any elective position in ANA national level. The interactive session, which lasted for about two hours, came to an end at 2pm.

The evening session of the reading, which coincided with the association’s monthly reading, was held at the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ hall. At about 4pm, members of the association, guest and students of Benue State University had gathered for the event. After some writers had read their works, the guest writer took the stage to the admiration of the audience. There was dead silence as the guest writer held Benue writers spellbound, while reading from Prodigals in Paradise. He got a loud ovation from the admiring audience.

While commenting on the guest writer’s work, a Common Wealth award-winning short story writer, Dr. (Mrs.) Maria Ajima, said, “Henry’s voice is a fresh and novel one on the literary prose scene, as it can be noticed that the language he employs in Prodigals in Paradise engages in a storytelling narrative technique, using flashback and a present reportage style that shows his journalistic background and compels continuous attention to the episodic scenario found in his novel.

“The extensive dialogues that his characters employ also entertain, keep the reader transfixed. He has used many words not commonly used in every day speech, employing local idiomatic expressions that are highly engaging, hilarious and sarcastic at the same time.”

Ajima tasked the author, in the next edition, “to use a picture or an illustration of an African for the cover if he has to use one in order to enhance the Africanity of the novel.”

Also commenting, a former president of ANA, Prof. Jerry Agada, described the reading tour embarked upon by the Lagos-based writer and journalist, as a noble cause that should be emulated by writers across the country to promote reading and writing.

Agada, who currently chairs Benue State Civil Service Commission, further noted that Akubuiro’s reading tour reminded him of his past, explaining that one of the characters in the novel named Nicodemus reminded him of his experience during his first visit to Lagos. He lauded the author for a job well done.

The Vice Chairman ANA Benue, Mr. Ugah, commended the guest writer for choosing the state for his reading tour in the face of economic recession in the country and noted that the writer had added great value to the monthly reading session of the association.

ANA Benue Chapter Chairman, Mr. Iornume, said ANA Benue was happy to host a notable writer like Akubuiro, stating that the event was an eye-opener for the members, who may wish to embark on such a similar exercise in the near further. He thanked all those who took time out of their tight schedules to grace the occasion.

In their separate remarks, a university don, Dr. Terumun Gajir and Managing Editor, Bahiti and Daliala publishers, Maik Ortserga, lauded the guest writer and ANA Benue for creating such a great opportunity for writers to interact. On the work, Gajir said, “I’m seeing new things in Prodigals in Paradise. I can see descriptive language; I can see journalistic language; I can see Nigerian English – we have driver Ezekiel; I can see street lingo. Besides, there is evidence of nominal strategy in the names of the characters, such as Nicodemus, Job, etcetera, whose fortunes bear resemblance to their biblical equivalents.”

On its significance of the event, Central Planning Committee chairperson, Ajima, said, “The hosting of the guest writer in Benue shows that ANA Benue is one of the few state chapters that is in the forefront of literary activities, as we usually demonstrate from the volumes of writing coming out of the state. The event would equally spur other notable writers to come to Benue to read their works.

“In the past, ANA Benue hosted Usman Shehu, Unoma Azuah from the U.S., Chuma Nwakolo, among other writers I cannot recall for now. Such activities attracted others and brought recognition to the state.

“It is also of great significance to the entire Benue literary community and the Benue State University students, who attended the event. In fact, the university had produced some award-winning authors like Fater Vange and Sam Barki, among others. Again, the event created an avenue for notable writers to engage with writers in the state to learn from each other.

“I thank God for the success of the event because the guest writer didn’t go back with a single copy of the books he brought to Benue in the face of economic hardship. It goes to show that Nigerians love literary works.”



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