Hausa writers in Kano converged at the American Corner, Murtala Muhammad Library Kano in order to find solutions to the problems beleaguering the Hausa literature. The event which took place on Sunday 23rd September, 2012 by 11:00am had in attendance, of prominent Hausa writers from various writers’ associations; and the gathering was hosted by Kano state chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors.
Kano state which was known as one of the most prominent and vibrant centres of indigenous literature in the country is facing a number of challenges that put writers in dilemma. Since the period when publishing companies collapsed or went comatose, the northern Hausa writers could only get their works published through self-publishing. They have tried and penetrated into the regional markets and beyond, which gave opportunity to generate thousands of readers. As a result of that, many young writers in the state have taken writing as their professions and means of their livelihood. The Hausa literature involved a number of people who are solely dependent on the sector including the authors, the typists, the publishers, the printers, the distributors and retailers.
As time went by, the sector was overwhelmed with confusions, betrayals and backwardness to the extent that one could not depend on writing as his means of livelihood. In the late 80s to early 90s when the self-publishing was introduced and promoted in Kano, writers of those days were able to sell copies of their books without rumbling around. Even with the poor reading culture and criticism from their communities, there were writers that sold more than one hundred thousand copies of their single authorship. But nowadays, indigenous writers find it difficult to sell up to one thousand copies of their books.
Based on the above, the writers felt that it was pertinent to come together and discuss the problems so as to find enduring solutions. At the meeting when the floor for discussion was opened, writers shared their experiences with the sector and suggested ways forward. Most of the speakers were of the opinion of devising new strategies that would expand the marketing and distribution of books. While some of them accused book marketers in the state, as people who delighted in creating blockages in the system that hinder the effective flow and movement of books. This is because they hand pick whose books to accept; they delay payment even if they sold the books and there is no room for new writers to come on board, because they haven’t established their readership. Some of the writers were of the opinion that writers created the problem themselves, because majority of them sold the copyright of their manuscripts to these marketers and are now paying for that erroneous business decision.
While responding, the Chairs persons of the writers associations including ANA Kano, HAF, HAWAN and Kallabi respectively welcomed the idea of boosting the indigenous literature. They also shared with the participants the effort made by their associations to improve and promote writers on one hand, and writing on the other in the state.
At the end of the programme, two committees were formed to study the problems and suggest ways out. The first, was a nine-man committee which had the task of improving and promoting literature, and it had representatives from the writers associations present. The committee had the following membership: Nasiru G. Ahmad ‘Yan-Awaki, Adamu Yusuf Indabo, Ilyas Umar Maikudi, Auwalu Garba Danborno, Bashir Reader Fagge, Ummulkhair Sulaiman, Hadiza Nuhu, Lubabatu Ya’u, Danladi Haruna Zakariyya, Jamilu Jiddan and Lawal Faruk Da’u.
The other committee was charged to monitor and evaluate the implementation of findings of the earlier committee. The Chairs and Secretaries of all the four writers associations constitute the membership of the committee. They are Ismail Bala, Muhammad Lawal Barista, Ibrahim Daurawa, Sadiya Garba Yakasai, Zaharaddeen Ibrahim Kallah, Ibrahim Mu’azzam Indabawa, Abdullahi Gidan Dango and Bilkisu Yusuf Ali. The committee are to submit their report within four weeks of their formation.
Well, this is a good attempt to improve literature, and we are hoping that the committees will work hard with unflinching commitment to put things in order. I know there are opportunities for indigenous literature lying untapped. Kano state alone has a population of over ten million people and at least more than three million of this population can read books written in Hausa language. If one goes down to the neighbouring states there are market potentials for the indigenous literature. Similarly, countries like Niger Republic Chad, Cameroon and Sudan have a sizable number of people speaking in Hausa language. The market can be expanded to reach areas of interest that need attention, I am sure this will help enormously in awakening the indigenous literature.
The question to ask is “how can the Hausa literature penetrate into regional and international markets?” To me, the writers have to improve the quality of their publications to meet the minimum international standard. The quality here can either be of the packaging or the quality of what they write. This is because in any kind of business that has to do with commodities, packaging is very crucial to the success of those products. This is the first step to win the heart of your customer by presenting something very attractive, because naturally, the eye is the first judge. The quality of your product in terms of its impact on the lives of the people is equally important. By this, the era of publishing pamphlet books without good packaging has gone; they should try to learn from other people’s works that have succeeded in attracting more readers even on a glimpse. Indigenous writers should expand their horizon in the area of research and learn from other prominent writers’ styles of writing. By so doing, that will no doubt attract a large number of readers who are eager to buy books of such qualities.
Publicity is another area of informing people about your products. Nowadays in northern Nigeria, the marketing strategies are weak, writers are not utilising their media houses to publicise their works. Many people are not aware of the richness of Hausa literature; neither are they aware of the large number of writers especially women who write in Hausa language. There are various marketing strategies that need to be adopted for the promotion of the sector, but the major one is publicity so as to let people know the existence of the products. No matter how good and important one’s products are, if their existence and is not known to the general public, there is no way people will patronise it easily. So the task ahead for northern writers is the improvement of publicity their creative works. Let them share with the world the quality and richness of their works, let them know that contemporary writers have come of age in terms of vastness and quality of their literature. When that is done, at least one has taken some steps ahead in the steady journey to the literary world.
Back to marketing strategy, there are basic things that need to be considered in the marketing of books. In this case, I will dwell on few that I believe will improve the flow of books across the country and beyond. The distribution channels of books in northern Nigeria are very weak and few, when compared with the number of states that need the books to reach their doors. It was discovered that the number of distributors available cannot go round to cover every corner and areas in need. To tackle this problem writers should forge a relationship with regional book distributors and bookshops in the country that are likely to generate more customers. They should also linkup with major bookshops in the neighbouring countries that are more interested in the Hausa literature. Their personal effort is very crucial here, because it is like starting it afresh, so they should be prepared to endure.
Marketing of books online is another area that is generating income for writers. I saw chances of indigenous writers to penetrate the internet like their contemporaries and make money. Today, internet groups such as Yahoo Groups, Facebook and Twitter have linked Hausa writers with their colleagues and readers in the world. To me if such networking is used effectively they will find a way to expand the market of the books.
Advertisement is another area that is related with publicity, but in this case all the marketing strategies to reach people shall be adopted. Synopsis of their books shall be published in magazines and newspapers; they can also publish it in other prominent writer’s books that have wide readership. Let them also get their books and hand bills to super markets that have large patronage.
To succeed in all these, young readers should be generated from their grassroots. Writer’s associations should endeavour to organise reading campaigns in primary and secondary schools. The participants should be encouraged with gifts such as books and certificates. When these youths are captured from their early stage, they can maintain the reading culture even after schools. Special readings that could bring both young and elderly people should also be encouraged.
In conclusion, the issue of book renting should be addressed because it is doing more harm than good. Many people especially women in Kano depend on renting of books by circulating them among interested readers. They generate money from that and at the same time reduce the legitimate circulation of books. I hope all stakeholders in the development of indigenous literature will put hands together and move the sector forward.
Zaharaddeen Ibrahim Kallah is the Branch Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Kano State Branch.