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Opinion: THE DEATH OF THE PORT HARCOURT LITERARY SOCIETY

The 2013 edition of the Garden City Literary Festival now renamed Port Harcourt Book Festival has ended. It was a splendid 6-day outing with literature and its relations. The Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina and the German based Nigerian writer, Chika Unigwe and a lot of other writers gave it a youthful face. I can say that confidently because I was a volunteer worker throughout the days of the festival. My place as a volunteer has a lot of stories; interesting and the less interesting.

 

In course of the event I picked up a copy of the programme of events and discovered to my bewilderment, that the Port Harcourt Literary Society, a small scale book club I founded with friends in Port Harcourt, to have weekly and later, monthly reading of books had been adopted by a greater figure without due courtesy or acknowledgement.

 

Mrs. Angela E. met me by the poolside at the Hotel Presidential, venue of the weeklong event and congratulated me on my ‘amplifying’ the small group, the Port Harcourt Literary Society into a larger platform, such that had a chair and board of trustees. Before she finished her compliments, I laughed. I knew she had seen what I had seen also. And what was not funny was the fact that fellow club mates who had gathered with me for over a period of one year and those who have followed our conversations on Facebook would be disappointed unlike Angela, that I lent the name: The Port Harcourt Literary Society, a name I had created after following the Abuja Literary Society closely, to Mrs. Koko Kalango’s organisation without calling for a meeting and duly informing those involved. Though late, this message is to state what happened and how the name was transferred.

 

One day in 2012, my phone rang. A friend, who coincidentally works (he said he worked) with the Rainbow Book Club called me. He told me in a moment that ‘madam wants to register the Port Harcourt Literary Society.’ The call was to confirm the fact that it was a name that had originated from me and that I had been using and s/he wanted to have it registered as her own organisation.

I thought it was a joke. I later became apprehensive when I thought of the implications but relaxed my nerves as I felt I would be informed officially like the human I was and maybe be engaged in a conversation. I did not get any of such luxurious treatments. I discovered to my amazement in 2013, in the programme of events of the 2013 edition of the Port Harcourt Book Festival that the society has been registered and that it now has a chair, Board of Trustees, one Dr. Chidi Amuta. I wish to inform my friends and fellows who ran the organisation with me that I, Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent, the young man who had been running the Port Harcourt Literary Society for about a year before I received the phone call, with an active and interactive Facebook page and meeting venues in the city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, that I was not duly informed of any such plans of coveting the name of the organisation I had founded.

 

The society had over 20 members in major meetings and more members on the social media platform. We have had numerous events and guest writers also. Mr. Chimeka Garricks, the author of Tomorrow Died Yesterday attended one of our sessions with his wife. He read his book and donated two copies to the club. Mr. Annah Dornubari, a Port Harcourt based poet had also been a featured guest. We had meetings at Witty E Cafe, a place owned by Mr. Youpele Ayagere, a friend I met in the course of discussion on books. The club became less effective when I finally relocated to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, for a degree programme.

 

I wish to state unequivocally, by this letter, and inform the members of the Port Harcourt Literary Society that I did not sell the name of the club to the organisation of Mrs. Koko Kalango who currently runs it, even if I had received a call from her office through Mr. Kenneth George-Kalio. And I also wish to say that nobody negotiated anything with me officially aside what has been stated above. My meetings with the aforementioned names, especially Mrs. Kalango have always been passive.

 

I wish to say that when I eventually return to Port Harcourt fully, I will create another book club with a new name and learn to have it registered as a club so this type of mistreatment won’t occur again.

 

I am grateful for your patience and the support to give literature the little push I have been able to do using the PHLS platform.

 

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