The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola; former Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Olusegun Mimiko and human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana have called on all Nigerians to fashion out ways to make writers, poets and other intellectuals in the country materially comfortable.
They spoke separately yesterday at a conference organised in celebration of the 70th birthday of poet, journalist, critic, columnist and public commentator, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, at the University of Lagos.
In his speech entitled: “The Poet and Writer in a Challenging Economy,”Aregbesola who chaired the occasion, said that intellectuals, writers and poets do not make enough materially to live on their works.
According to him, intellectual outputs are infrastructure of the mind for human development that will ultimately lead to production of goods and services if well channelled.
“But they are not exactly commodities that have immediate pecuniary value for gross national product on their own. Because of their economic dependency status, writers’ economic value and hence remuneration have not been well computed and their contribution to national wealth determined, even when their value to society is priceless.”
He argued that Nigeria’s poverty has been the result of the burgeoning non-qualitative and non-productive population, which regrettably and ironically has impacted badly on writers who devote their lifetime chronicling the challenges of the nation and working hard on how to overcome them.
“If the writers did not fare well in good times, they are certainly now worse in these challenging times. They are the social capital of any society and should be well maintained in order to guarantee continued production in society,” Aregbesola added.
The conference was held in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos with the theme, “Taking Nigeria Seriously: A Conference in Honour of Odia Ofeimun.”
In his speech, Mimiko said writers are not rich because the value system of Nigeria is upside down, adding that prayers are needed for a Nigeria of tomorrow where real values should be celebrated.
Falana on his part, challenged the celebrant, writers and intellectuals to collaborate with men, women and all revolutionaries of progressive ideas, in establishing a social justice that will wage a battle and dismantle the oppressive status quo in the interest of the people.
He argued that those that have been at the helm of affairs have never taken Nigerians seriously, and called for collaboration, so that Nigeria can occupy a prominent place in the committee of nations.