14 August 2019

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It gives me great pleasure to be here today at the ANA Ekiti Conference.  I bring you warm greetings from HE Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State, who sends his sincere apologies for his absence due to an unexpected program he was pulled into in Abuja. He asked me to tell you that he looks forward to personally hosting some of you at a mutually convenient time in the near future.


I believe writers have many roles and obligations, key of which include:

  • To create
  • To be heard
  • To bear witness
  • To teach
  • To learn
  • To speak up

Whether we write novels, poetry, plays, children’s books, essays, however we choose to express ourselves, when we write we are doing a combination of creating, speaking up, bearing witness, teaching and learning. Very few writers ever get rich from writing, they are a tiny percentage. Yet we are astronomically rich when it comes to imagination, creativity, passion, courage, envisioning and engineering. These are the attributes that help transform societies and change narratives. There is a lot to discourage us as writers and a lot that makes us feel unappreciated. However, as we harness our respective talents using the formidable platform that ANA provides across the country, we discover that the burden gets easier as we leverage on our mutual strengths, use our diversity to full advantage and take our responsibilities as creators of ideas and knowledge seriously.


Here in Ekiti State, our Governor Dr Kayode Fayemi identified Knowledge Economy as one of the five pillars of his administration alongside Governance, Social Investments, Infrastructure Development and Agriculture and Rural Development. This means that the State will not only prioritise investments in education, an enabling environment that encourages creativity in all its forms will be provided.  The reward of the writer is not in heaven. Our reward is right here on earth, in every line, page and volume we write, living testimonies for generations to come. People will love us, some might not like us, it does not matter. What is important is letting the world know what we think. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about a revolution in Nigeria, whether we need one or not and who is/are best placed to lead it. Last week the world lost a literary giant, Toni Morrison. I would like to share with you the tribute I wrote for her last week, because I believe it has some relevance for our gathering here and our collective tasks ahead:


The True Revolutionary – Toni Morrison

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and although it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom’.

You spoke to us so many times in hundreds of ways

Words that warmed our souls and sometimes chilled our bones

Your voice was always clear and true

Even when many doubted its depth and misunderstood its meaning

Year after year your piercing gaze missed nothing

And you slowly but surely peeled away the arrogance of dominance

Replacing it with a simple truth – the right to be.

The right to be present

The right to be absent

The right to be lost

The right to be found

The right to be heard

The right to remember

The right to fail

The right to succeed

Now at a time when our world is bruised and bleeding

And the pain is almost unbearable

You leave us to grope our way through

You spoke about malevolence

Yes, there is so much of that around, we can barely breathe.

We are not safe anywhere anymore

We struggle for meaning with all the desperation and meanness around us

A ten-year old girl is a mother

A mother locks up her son with dogs

Dogs eat the bodies of those left to the dogs

Crazed demons hunt and gun us down

Spilling our blood in torrents so they can reap where they did not sow

Boundaries and borders make no difference

Satan has a penchant for global real estate

You told us that if we want to fly, we should give up the s..t that weighs us down

There is so much s..t, so flying is not an option right now

Perhaps we can settle for crawling while we clean up the s..t bit by bit

We are failing sister Toni

Failing at being human

Failing at being heard

Failing at loving

Failing at living

Yet you told us that there is knowledge to be found in failure

You stayed long enough to share your wisdom

Yet we need more lifetimes of knowing

The chaos you spoke of might be our redemption

Yet not in the ways the brash and the excitable might think

Chaos on the streets means rivers of red

The blood of the innocent and bodies of the blameless

You taught us to be fearless as we stood in our truths

You admonished us to be fearful of those who would gag and bind us

Your life’s work has been a revolution that spoke to our minds, souls and spirits

As you leave us, perhaps we will think more about the revolution we truly need

A permanent, bloodless, timeless revolution

One that carries through the air from generation to generation

A life of meaning

A life of service

A life of truth

A life of teaching

A life of giving

A life of freedom

The kind of life that you lived

The life of a true revolutionary

And when we are free in however we define freedom

You told us,

‘If you are free, you need to free someone else.

If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else’.

As you surrender to the air and fly with it

Thank you for leaving us with these clues to wisdom.

Rest in peace dear Sister Toni

Please give our love to Maya Angelou

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