A keynote address presented to the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation at the Hadiza Aliyu Ibrahim Schools Festival – MINNA 2020, held at the International Conference Centre, Minna, Niger State on the 19th to 22nd February 2020.
All praise and gratitude are due to Allah for making it possible for us to converge here today for this very important occasion.
Dear respected guests, literary enthusiasts, the distinguished Chairman of this occasion, Royal Father of the Day, my fellow brothers and sisters and writers and creative minds here present, ladies and gentlemen, assalamu alaikum.
I appreciate the festival organizers and members of Hilltop Art Centre who found me worthy to make a speech on the topic Creativity for National Development. A topic that bothers us as a country, as a people, as writers, as change-makers in charge of making Nigeria the kind of creative hub where literature and creativity thrive, are celebrated and made to serve as a veritable tool for national development. It is a timely topic, considering the situation in our country where a lot is left undone for the masses. Especially for creative people and us writers. And for those millions who are yet to find their voices and talents.
Creativity is one of world’s most spoken words. This is due to its relevance and importance in almost all aspects of human endeavour and in the sustainability humanity. The world today will not be the way it is without the contributions of creative people. In the same way, no nation can have growth with the absence of creative minds. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines creativity as the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative. This, certainly, is about coming up with ideas, therapeutic ideas, which in our context can help contribute towards national development. This means having a generation of people, who, through their inquisitiveness, are able to create ideas, problem-solving ideas; and creatives committed to selfish contributions for the growth of ones nation and humanity.
United Nations Decade Report describes national development as growth plus change. Change in turn is social and cultural as well as economic and qualitative as well as quantitative. This is the ability of a country to effect gigantic changes in the social welfare of the people. Nation building requires our intent and most conscious understanding of endowed knowledge, strength and resources to better our existence and societies. The preservation of culture is tied directly to the creativity of any nation and how well structured and functional such a nation is.
What then, is creativity for national development?
In 2016 I was in JSS2, I was very passionate about reading and writing. (I still am.) I was a boy in a society where creativity-writing usually is not only less encouraged, but almost absent, where even those with the consciousness of what it means to have a junior secondary school student read and write, had less means to support him. (Although I later began to get support from people who realised and understood the need to support me.)
Much later, my writing became beneficial to other people. Some even confessed they use my writings as therapy and as a boost to their creativity. I believe this, in a way, as a form of nation building because a nation is nothing but the overall maturation of the seeds of imagination in the minds of everyone. After the publication of my book When Day Breaks, Gombe State University recommended the book for its students. Who knows? Those who study my book may end up becoming change makers, apart from the obvious that they will gain newfound consciousness of becoming better humans and probably invest in the literary years to come.
There are times I muse: if the government has sufficient provisions for people like me whose passion lies in writing, and who derive pleasure in flipping through pages of book? Undoubtedly, I could have been better than where I am today. Undoubtedly, I would have found easier access to books and mentors. And who knows, as a result, I would have immensely contributed in distinct ways, providing better and enabling literary stuff to nation building.
It is in places like Minna that creativity enjoys some support from the government and, obviously, from individuals like BM Dzukogi, who have been sacrificing to nurture and produce writers who go on to touch innumerable lives. Apart from Minna, I know of very few other places, where only NGOs provide spaces to appreciate creativity.
I know one young man in my state–Usman Dalhatu, who has just gained admission into the university. Since his secondary school, he has invented useful machines. Recently, he invented a machine called DALMOND BEYOND CLEAR that could be of immense help in sanitizing our environments without the aid of any human force. So many international organizations have already reached out to him to buy the idea and transmit the wonder child of this young minds creativity into a world class appliance, since our government, unfortunately, seems unready to support and help him with the resources he needs to help him realise his goal.
This frustration by an unsupportive system is where many amazing writers find themselves in and they rather smuggle themselves out of this country to places where their talents are truly valued and known. Many profound Nigerians books are now irredeemably published outside the country. This means that Nigeria earns zero benefit in terms of revenue from the publishing industry. What if the government builds centres where publication of books is made easy and accessible? And what of friendly reading recreational centres?
Today, there are a few publishing houses in the country. And these are privately owned and mostly, they do vanity publishing where one pays huge amounts of money to get published or self-publish which after tireless work, before and after the publication, one gets very small profit and enormous debt in return. This is very discouraging to the writers and equally to those coming up the ladder.
Distinguished audience, we the younger ones are very angry because it seems there’s no future for us. If truly the government is serving its purpose, why wont it build centers where artistic works and creativity in general are appreciated, centres where mentorship is accessible to all interested within their proximity? How many secondary school students today have manuscripts ready but without knowledge what to do or where to turn for help? The country doesnt know the frustration and apathy in the hearts of such students who know their government will continue to ignore boosting the creative industry and never support them.
A topic like this is not a one-shop affair that can be explored and justified within a small timeframe. It is a topic for many more elaborate discussions, which we must doggedly pursue until a positive change comes out of it. Everyone here must have a say in it, as we know the reality. The government has an assignment to design programmes and erect structures to support the creative industry. Nation building will only suffer without full attention to the creative industry.
I conclude by encouraging all young writers present to continue honing their talents. I believe it’s only a matter of time before things begin to change.
Wassalamu Alaikum. Thanks.
By Adamu Usman Garko,
2020 Winner of the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors, Author of When Breaks.