From Left. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi and Festival Director, Mrs. Koko Kalango during Garden City Literary Festival in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, Wednesday said literature could provide the needed catalyst for the political transformation of the country.
Also, American civil rights activist, Rev. Jesse Jackson, said it was imperative Nigerians embraced the impact of literature in national development.
While Amaechi argued that there was no way literature could be divorced from politics, as it provided the platform on which any meaningful development could be transmitted, Jackson described literature as a “key to liberation.”
Both spoke at the fourth Garden City Literary Festival 2011 tagged: “Literature and Politics”, held in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi argued that literature was a reflection of realities in the society; hence it was difficult to separate both in charting the course for a country’s development.
He said: “For me, and a lot of others, we believe that writers have a responsibility to society, to present society as it is. Once literature fails to mirror ills in the society, then such society is on the verge of collapse. I belong to the school of thought that literature is not only there for us to enjoy.”
The governor decried the sudden decline in the reading culture of Nigerians and warned that if nothing was done to protect the country's rich literary heritage, most works of renowned authors would be lost.
On his part, Rev. Jesse Jackson recalled that literature provided the vehicle through which American black rights activists pursued their agitation in the 60s.
He added that the same could be used in Nigeria to drive the needed transformation.
Chairman of the occasion and former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku stated that politics, democracy and literature were inseparable in intellectual expression.
“Politics if it is to produce change needs literature to reinforce it,” he said.
The former Commonwealth scribe lauded Amaechi’s development strides in state and his encouragement of literary activities. He expressed the hope that the literary festival would grow to become one of Nigeria’s foremost literary forum like the Edinburgh festival in the United Kingdom (UK).
Also, Nigeria’s literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe has said that Nigeria cannot make any meaningful developmental stride if it fails to harness its literary potentials.
Speaking through his son, Dr. Chidi Achebe, the Novelist and poet said, “a society that does not read would have little imagination and the absence of imagination drowns a nation to littleness.”
Achebe added that with the institutionalization of the literary forum by the Rivers State Government, the country was on the pathway to greatness as he commended the Governor Amaechi led government for initiating the festival.
In the same vein, Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Joseph Ajienka, pledged support in ensuring that the Garden City Literary festival was popularised through academic research, stating that the University has over the years become a centre for arts and culture following its hosting of the event in the past four years.
The Festival Director, Mrs. Koko Kalango had in her address disclosed that the festival has started reaping benefits with the discovery of young writers, while serving as an intellectual tourism event in the state.