The Sights And Sounds Of Katsina State Books Fair

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The recurrent disturbing news reports on the state of insecurity in Katsina State should make anyone headed in that direction, even if for combat

By Mairo Muhammad Mudi

The recurrent disturbing news reports on the state of insecurity in Katsina State should make anyone headed in that direction, even if for combat purposes, to feel apprehensive let alone for someone going there for intellectual pursuits or literary interactions. So with fear stealthily accompanying me, I embarked on my journey to Katsina to attend the 4th Katsina State Books Fair organized by Lukman Umar Kankia and Amal Abdullahi Abubakar.

I arrived the venue in a combative mood fully armed with a poem I composed to vent out my anger and frustrations as a writer to the audience. And what other place could be more ideal for such ventilation than at an event I anticipated the massive presence of the notable high ranking individuals from Arewa and Nigeria at large? But then, their attendance lamentably turned out to be abysmally unimpressive. However, the few who attended the event reversed, to a certain extent, the misfortune occasioned by the poor attendance of those I thought would form a large part of the prospective attendees.

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The organizers commendably put in their best to maintain high standards in the event which showcased the beauty and culture of Katsina State. Some of the guests who are mostly authors like, Sumaila Umaisha, Prof. Razina Mohammed M.S Dogara
Ismail Garba came from Abuja, Kano, Kaduna and Nasarawa States. The event was all about writers, books, panel discussion sessions on different topics, books chats and entertainment.

Some well known and upcoming writers, both young and old, graced the occasion. Many topics and talents were discovered. Some dashed hopes and expectations were restored. But one thing that remained a constant bafflement throughout the Katsina State Books Fair that featured a lot of Katsina’s culture and economy was the near total absence of the Katsina State government except for the Commissioner of Women Affairs Hajiya Zainab Musa Musawa who came alongside her sister, the Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, Barr. Hannatu Musa Musawa. I must admit that the presence of the minister added immense value to the event. Her warm and humble disposition towards the guests and performers was highly commendable. She was definitely the icing on the cake of the event and that made both the organizers and attendees feel cheerful during the programme. The minister took it upon herself to compliment all the performers. She remained standing to honour each performer stepping off the stage; the women and children got complimentary hugs from her while the men got greetings by putting her palms together. I can refer to the minister and her sister as the Flowers of the event.

The beauty of our unity as a nation despite our diversity was on display by the Koroso cultural group, the Igbo and Yoruba dancers who delighted the guests with their dazzling performances. Poets, especially the young ones, recited their poems beautifully. The highlight of the entertainment was the performance by Sanusi Shata who looked and sounded much like his father, late Dr. Maman Shata. Another lone artiste also reeled out song after song of Shata that he could be mistaken for the real Shata. The astonishing part is that he is not in any way related to Shata!

Informal discussions preceding the arrival of the minister bordered on the displeasure of participants who felt the minister and/or her ministry accord higher priority to musicians and actors over writers. It was then I learnt the minister is also a good poet. This revelation further strengthened my resolve to read out my poem but the minister’s address stopped me from advancing my ambition. She talked passionately about helping writers and the upcoming talents whose brilliant performance she witnessed. She promised to get them involved in the ministry’s blueprints because she believes writers have immense contributions to make toward building the nation’s economy. She answered all the questions asked and allayed the fears of those of us skeptical about her ministry giving the deserved attention to authors who we feel should be at the top of the priority list.

After her speech and departure from the venue, many attendees praised her humble disposition. Personally, I found Barr. Hannatu Musa Musawa’s humility as exceptional as it was inspiring, a position echoed by many at the event.

The Katsina State Books Fair organisers have remained consistent and undeterred despite the lack of support and sponsorship. One would wonder why the state government and prominent individuals in the state, and even the federal government, would fail to utilize such a platform with great potential to promote Katsina State and its culture, and to foster greater unity amongst the nation’s ethnically and regionally divided citizenry. There is no better time than now that negativity, particularly banditry, has become a front-burner media feature of Katsina State, while consigning its good people and culture to the distant background. A first time visitor to Katsina would wonder if it is the same Katsina State the media has rendered almost totally unsafe as a result of insecurity. No such incident was recorded and people went about their businesses peacefully during the programme. The truth is insecurity is concentrated rather than widespread in the state. This is not in any way an attempt to downplay the severity of the security situation in the state but to place things in proper perspective. What we witnessed wasn’t as bad as what we read that usually scares people away from the state. Katsina is a beautiful place with beautiful culture that need to be showcased to the outside world.

The government should have supported or even partnered with the organizers by taking a cue from the Kaduna State government to invite more writers within Nigeria and beyond. This task shouldn’t be left in the hands of an individual. I was almost moved to tears looking at Lukman Kankia, the main organiser of the event, moving from one end to the other trying to take care of the needs of the guests. Even though the event couldn’t have in attendance the desired number of participants yet the number of those who turned out was quite a burden to be shouldered by an individual. It was then I learnt that the event was solely sponsored by him, Amal and a few others who believe that writing, reading culture, Katsina culture and discovering new talents should be given proper attention.

We all went there hoping that the Katsina State governor, Dr. Dikko Radda, would be there to address the guests in his state to showcase their talents and solidarity but not even a representative of the governor was sent to declare the event open as planned by the organizers. Many of us, including my girl who went there with a poem titled “The Culture of Playmates” were disappointed. The poem was to portray the culture of teasing between the people of Katsina and Nupe of Niger State, it was dedicated to the governors of Katsina and Niger States.

Stories got spread at the event about some supposedly known writers, who felt either snubbed or slighted, taking to the social media from the comfort of their rooms to blame the organisers for not engaging in wide publicity and for inviting obscure or not well known authors to the event. Some of us may be unknown to the ‘known’ writers but that doesn’t make us lesser writers. I expected them to make sacrifices and support the efforts of the organisers because even publicity itself requires money. But they chose to watch, wait and wail.

I am calling on the Northern states governors to give adequate support to events of this nature to promote writing, reading culture, cultural heritage and new talents who lack platforms to showcase their talents. I am urging the Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, Barr. Hannatu Musa Musawa to continue supporting the Katsina State Books Fair. I must admit at this juncture that the speech by the minister and her promises made me shelve my poem titled “My broken heart and my broken pen” for good.

Mairo Muhammad Mudi is an author of many books and a film producer.

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