There was a time Jerry Agada flagged off his new project to promote reading and literary activities in Benue State tagged Reading tour and lecture circuit. This project was intended to promote reading in the state and encourage writers to get more involved in their literary calling: “It is unarguable that science and technology have their place in the progress of any nation. But both of them can only make robots of the human population; it is the literature and the arts that bestow a soul to man’s existence. Without literature and the arts, man becomes a machine. Literature humanizes him. That is what the writer does. And this is why when he is neglected, a nation loses its human touch.” – (“The writer and the soul of man”, The [Nigerian] Sunday Vanguard newspaper, October 16, 2005, pages 40 and 42)
Camillus Ukah reminisces on the writer and his work: “Writers are drummers in their own rights charged with the tall order of generating irresistible tunes capable of creeping into the fortress of the human person to appeal, cajole and at times compel for desirable changes. The more a writer fine-tunes his art, the more effect he achieves.” – (“A god became human”, The [Nigerian] Sunday Vanguard newspaper, January 15, 2006, page 42)
Fear is an instinctive emotion aroused by impending or seeming danger, pain or evil. When one harbours this fear of creative writing and publishing, one has this intense emotion about the danger lurking for those two separate worlds – writing and publishing. In the light of all the people I have quoted above to justify having the initial bout of fear of publishing in this contemporary world, we are made to understand that a huge gulf exists between writing and publishing – and this gulf widens day by day. Because of the persistently deteriorating, debilitating and chronically dwindling socio-politico-economic condition prevalent in Nigeria, the country has become a cemetery of potentials, which appears beyond redemption. The straightforward process of publication earlier mentioned in the second and third paragraphs of this exhaustively lengthy piece is realistically unobtainable in most cases and definitely unattainable at this present phase of life as a budding writer in Nigeria when hunger for the basic necessities of life is apparent.
But fear is a dangerous journey to embark on, an interminable voyage that stretches for as long as one keeps it in that state. A creative writer will lose focus when this unsafe emotion lingers in his heart. It is imperative for the creative writer to be aware of the publishing atmosphere and climate in his country, in this case Nigeria, hence the mention of the authorities in the several paragraphs of this piece. He should feel challenged, not discouraged, to abide by the duties assigned to him and overcome those obstacles publishing a book can cause.
My reading audience should permit me to mention one more authority to illustrate this point. B. M. Dzukogi talks of time as an indispensable concept in creativity as both a constant and a variable: “Writers being restive often appear depressed, disenchanted by the seeming hopelessness that thwarts their effort at redirecting the society. This is often caused by opposing forces. But, the writer in regenerative art is a cheerful if not gleeful participant, enlivened by the hope of imminent realisation of goals. More, he is not isolatory but socially and politically available to provide focus in an accommodating way. He is harmless and not seen to be harmful. He is like the characters in his work with astonishing tolerance for time, since actions, results must undergo the natural processes of growth during conformity to order.” – (“Artistry of Time in Creation”, The Post Express newspaper [defunct], Sunday, February 10, 2002, page 17). I conclude this lengthy piece by quoting a passage from Obi Egbuna’s novel The Madness of Didi:
‘Writers are men who dream impossible dreams, my boy. Anyone can be a writer, if he wants to badly enough. And if he is willing to pay the price.’
‘What price, Uncle Didi?’
‘The mistake people generally make is to romanticize writers as giants with two heads. Supermen. Human-gods who live in a world of absolute freedom, with no master to boss them around. The truth of the matter is that this is pure fiction. The opposite is in fact the case. My guess is that you’ll be finding this out for yourself one day, Obi, my friend. You may find, from personal experience, that a writer is no more free than a common labourer or a petty messenger, slaving away for a master in unquestioning obedience. It’s true, Obi. A writer is only a typist in the employ of Truth. He takes dictation from Truth just as any other typist takes dictation from a boss. Truth is a ruthless employer, who demands nothing short of everything, including your soul. In the writer’s job, there is no clocking out, because your office is between your ears, and you can’t clock out from your head, can you, Obi? In the writer’s job, there is no resignation, because the contract terminates in the grave. In the writer’s job, there is no real pay, or payday, for Truth is the only employer who expects payment from his employees. Some pay with their lives, some with their sanity, some with unrequited love, others with years of imprisonment. Yes, it’s true, Obi, my young friend. The history of world literature is littered with great names who have made such payments. They all do it in different ways, but they all do pay in the end.’
‘You make it sound so horrible, Uncle Didi.’ (pages 206 – 207)