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Is PAWA Dead or Alive?

REJOINDER
Is PAWA Dead or Alive?
The Mirror of Saturday, November 13, 2021.

I read the article titled, “Is PAWA Dead or Alive?”by Larweh Therson-Cofie in the Saturday, October 30, 2021 issue of The Mirror and a subsequent rejoinder on the GhanaWeb, on Monday, November 1, 2021, written by Wale Okediran, the Interim Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers’ Association (PAWA). 

The rejoinder was also published in the Saturday, November 6, 2021 issue of The Mirror on page 15.

Both the original article and the rejoinder have some inaccuracies which need to be corrected, and I do so in this rejoinder in my capacity as the President of the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW), which was mentioned several times in the original article.

In response to the first publication, it will be important to present the history and objectives of PAWA. PAWA was founded in 1989 in response to African writers’ desire to come together and address the cultural colonialism and ignorance imposed on the continent by European colonialism.

PAWA is a continental organisation that comprises all African national writers’ associations. The idea of unity in strength was underscored by Professor Atukwei Okai, PAWA’s former Secretary-General, of blessed memory, when he said that the unification of individual strengths and resources offers the members of the unified whole more strength than they have as individuals.

As we all know, Professor Okai, the founding (and only) Secretary-General of PAWA passed away suddenly in 2018 and a vacuum was created in the Association which necessitated an immediate call to action. To this effect, a Joint Meeting of Council and some member-associations of PAWA was held on Friday, September 14, 2018, at the Leopold S. Senghor Seminar Hall at PAWA House in Accra. The meeting was attended by 10 individuals in all:

  1. Prof. Femi Osofisan: Vice President of PAWA/Chairman;
  2. Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng: President of GAW:
  3. Denja Abdullahi: President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA)
  4. Prof. Kofi Anyidoho: Member of GAW
  5. Francis Gbormittah: Vice President of GAW/Secretary
  6. Seyoli Sow: Secretary, Senegal Writers Association
  7. J.E. Allotey-Pappoe: Public Relations Consultant to PAWA
  8. Ambassador Silcarneyni Gueye: Member of the Senegal Writers Association
  9. Wale Okediran: Member of ANA
  10. Nii Addokwei Moffatt: Executive Member of GAW

The main outcome of that meeting was for GAW to assume immediate responsibility for PAWA while reporting to the PAWA Council. For administrative purposes, the meeting formed a Steering Committee composed of an all-GAW membership made up of Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng as the Chairman, Prof. Kofi Anyidoho, Francis Gbormittah and Nii Addokwei Moffatt.

One of the Terms of Reference for the Steering Committee was to recommend someone to the Council for appointment as Interim Secretary General.

At the beginning of 2020, the Steering Committee recommended Dr. Wale Okediran of Nigeria for appointment as Interim Secretary-General for a two-year period. His main remit was and remains, to organise a General Assembly (not Congress) of the Association.

The Steering Committee also presented a full report to the PAWA Council, covering its tenure and clearly stating the roadmap and the way forward for the Association.

Dr. Wale Okediran, was appointed Interim Secretary-General of the association from August 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022. His appointment came as a matter of necessity and with it, some crucial tasks which he must carry out by the end of his appointment. So far, GAW has no report on the progress being made towards the General Assembly which must be held before or in May 2022. It has also been an informal understanding that the next full-time Secretary-General must NOT be from an Anglophone country in order to underscore the diversity within PAWA.

It is a matter of verifiable record that in the matter of its operation, PAWA has depended, to a large extent, on the Government of Ghana/GAW for support more than on any member country/association.

As is clearly stated in the minutes of the September 14th Joint Meeting, PAWA has struggled financially since its establishment. So, these are the facts:

  1. GAW ensured the continuous existence of PAWA from September 2018 until August 2020 through the Steering Committee. No amount of compensation can make up for the time and commitment expended by the Steering Committee to make sure PAWA continues to exist.
  • GAW paid PAWA’s bills for a long time, especially during the period of the Steering Committee.
  • The Secretariat of PAWA is in a building that was procured in the name of GAW.
  • Historically, until 2020, GAW had always supported PAWA to organise the International African Writers Day Lecture, and provided financial support for it to do so in 2018.

Seeing how immensely instrumental GAW has been, it is no wonder why it was stated emphatically and agreed to, at the Joint Meeting of Council and some members- associations of PAWA that “… GAW must be strongly involved in the restructuring process of PAWA, and that the current President of GAW should play a major role in the affairs of PAWA from now on.” It will, therefore be naïve and ignorant on the part of anybody who does not view these roles played by GAW as meriting commendation but as a mere membership duty.

In recent years, the Government of Ghana has been the sole funder of PAWA. Currently, GAW continues to pay for utility and maintenance bills while PAWA receives about GH¢60,000 quarterly from the Government of Ghana for these commitments.

GAW’s hosting of PAWA means embracing all the above responsibilities towards the survival of PAWA. How could the PAWA Secretariat be located in Accra if Ghana had no national writers’ association such as GAW? Is it a case of tortoise on a journey and declining an offer to lodge with the snail?

The record narrated above corrects the erroneous claim in the earlier mentioned rejoinder that “… GAW is just one of the other 42 National Writers Associations that are under PAWA’s jurisdiction”because as has been demonstrated here, and in the minutes of the Joint Meeting, GAW is one of the very few member-associations that make any contributions to PAWA’s upkeep.

Other inconsistencies in the Rejoinder

First and foremost, the Interim Secretary-General uses the term “Congress” repeatedly in his rejoinder, to mean a “General Assembly.” The right terminology for such gatherings is found in Article 5 (1a) of PAWA’s Constitution.

The second blatantly wrong admission found in the rejoinder is that PAWA only recognises membership through country members and not through individuals.”Article 4 (1b) of the PAWA Constitution clearly grants individual membership to prospective members living outside their African home countries and to other Africans in the diaspora. The only reservation that the Clause clearly states is that members in this category do not get to vote. No Secretary-General can disenfranchise this category of members.

Thirdly, there is the mention of “… 42 National Writers Associations that are under PAWA’s jurisdiction” in the rejoinder. Once more, the Constitution clearly states the number of member associations as 52, and PAWA’s official website also pins the number of member states at 52. Knowing the exact number of members is extremely important as it has implications for the election of substantive officers in May 2022. The constitution stipulates that a two-third majority must be met before an election is considered won.

Fourthly, in relation to membership also, the Interim Secretary-General mentions in his rejoinder that meetings have been had with several national writers’ associations in the continent towards resuming their memberships.

Out of the several, manyare said to have pledged to become more active and pay their yearly subscriptions to keep PAWA afloat. It would be more useful for the Interim Secretary-General to mention specific numbers instead of using generalities.

Conclusion

For time immemorial, unity has been a source of insurmountable power and it is for this reason why throughout history, cultures, individuals, civilisations have united to create formidable forces to help them conquer adversaries.

In the case of PAWA, however, the unity of the many constituents resides chiefly in its name and very faintly in the number of members who take action when the need arises.

In addition to this is the fact that the Association is constantly in debt and, with the exception of Ghana/GAW, its membership is dormant, hence not yielding in the payment of their yearly subscriptions.

Knowing this, it is evident that the Pan African Writers’ Association does exist, in its full rights and lukewarm membership. By asking if “PAWA is dead or alive?” is like calling for the opening of a Pandora’s Box.

Knowing that PAWA is doing very little than is expected of an association with such continental influences and that a staggering majority of its constituents have assumed inactive status, one question rings relevant: Where is the PAWA of African literature? I rest my case.

Francis Gbormittah

President

Ghana Association of Writers

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