Mr. Camillus Chima Ukah is a contemporary Nigerian writer educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka among other institutions. He has authored eleven creative literature books, edited a five hundred and forty-nine page biography composed essentially of creative conversations, scripted and produced two historical documentaries and two motion pictures.
In 2004 he received the ANA Imo Golden Pen Award; in 2006 he was honoured with the ELSA Award of Excellence for his role in mentoring young undergraduate Nigerian writers. One of his novels, When the Wind Blows was, in 2008, long listed for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, and in 2012 his entry, Nkechi the Heroine, won the ANA/Lantern Prize. As a critical thinker and gifted intellectual, Ukah has been vigorously engaging the subject of ‘Literature as Tool for Development’ both at national and international forum, while his books keep making waves in Nigeria as subjects of research at undergraduate and post graduate levels; as well as required reading at secondary and tertiary institutions.
He has served the Association of Nigerian Authors in various capacities at both the state and national levels; at the state level, as Financial Secretary, Secretary and Chairman (Imo State); at the national level as member ANA National Constitution Review Committee (2005), member ANA National Teen Authorship Committee (2011-2015), National Coordinator, ANA Teen Authorship Scheme (2015- ), National coordinator, A-BOOK-A-CHILD project (2016- ), Member ANA Land Committee (2016- ) and current ANA National Vice President.
It was during Ukah’s tenure as Chairman of ANA Imo in 2005 that the branch organized the epoch making state convention where Prof. Charles Nnolim, in a paper titled Contemporary Nigerian Fiction, took a swipe at contemporary Nigerian Writers as fleshly. Nnolim’s generative essay not only drew national attention but it generated international interest in contemporary Nigerian writing. ANA Imo thereafter played host to fourteen literary students and scholars from University of Michigan, Flint during the following year’s convention.
The 2005 ANA Imo convention remains one of the most impactful of its type. Ukah’s administration pursued the gains of that convention with vigour and soon the relevance of creative writing became a demonstrable reality among the government and people of Imo State. By 2006 ANA Imo’s membership had grown from less than twenty members in early 2005 to one hundred and fifty members. It was part of that troupe that besieged the Bayelsa ANA National Convention of 2006 where Imo State, for the first time, won the right to host the 2007 ANA National Convention. It was such a landslide victory with one hundred votes against ANA Niger’s twenty eight votes.
Ukah’s pledge as he took office in April 2005 as ANA Imo Chairman was to help make ANA relevant in the state. The realization of that pledge was eloquently demonstrated during the ANA National Convention of 2007 when the good people of Imo State rallied around ANA Imo to ensure a successful hosting of that convention. Particularly schools that benefitted from ANA Imo’s popular Young Writers Club saw the convention as a payback opportunity and made selfless donations towards the success of the convention. One of the schools, apart from a handsome cash donation of money derived from ‘sign card’, made available two buses for the entire period of the convention with all expenses paid. Such was the kind of goodwill that aptly demonstrated the impact of the activities of ANA in the state.
Camillus Ukah believes strongly in the reward of impact as a sustainable way of growing an association like ANA (LET THE PEOPLE FIRST FEEL THE IMPACT OF YOUR OFFERING AND THEY WILL NATURALLY PARTNER WITH YOU). Certain overtures during Ukah’s leadership of ANA Imo from 2005-2009 and afterwards aptly demonstrate this conviction. In 2007 he was invited by the office of the Petroleum Department, Government House, Owerri to develop a programme for the campaign against youth restiveness in the oil producing areas of Imo State. It was during the heat of the Niger Delta militancy nightmares. He successfully developed a two-hour motion picture entitled ‘Road No Dey’, which was effectively used in the campaign against militancy in secondary schools in the state. The reports of the programmes were published in some national dailies. Based on the huge successes of the Young Writers clubs in secondary and primary schools in Imo State, he was again invited in 2008 by the Imo State Ministry of Education to develop a programme for the improvement of reading culture in the state. He articulated a programme captured in a slogan:
“Let’s go back to books
the sure ladder to excellence
Read your books everyday
Read one book every week
Read four books every month
Read fifty-two books every year
and you will shine as a star.”
The slogan became a popular jingle for media campaign. In the same year and based on the strong waves being made by the reading campaigns in Imo schools, the Imo State Government, against the norm, supported his conference trip to the USA with the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand naira.
At the demise of the legendary Chinua Achebe, Ukah was contracted as a Consultant to the committee that organised a day of tribute for the late literary icon in Imo State. He was equally commissioned by the Achebe’s National Burial Committee to organise a regional day of tribute for Achebe at Nekede, Owerri where Achebe took the entrance examination to the secondary school. It was Ukah that introduced the then ANA National leadership to the Achebe Burial Committee. In all the above engagements and more, ANA Imo members were the key facilitators.
By the same token of recognition, Ukah has, by invitation, become a visible part of some elevated Igbo intellectual groups. Such groups as Conference of Democratic Scholars; Igbo Studies Association; Alaigbo Development Foundation. Little wonder Ukah naturally became the President of the Eastern Writers Forum on its inception in 2009.
As a people builder, Ukah has been deeply involved in the development of literary talents particularly among the young ones. In the past couple of years he has mounted several reading and writing campaigns at the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions of learning in Imo State and beyond. Presently he runs two creativity centres at Logos International Secondary School and CRM International Secondary School all in Imo State. Between 2012 and 2015 the two schools produced, by self help efforts, about seven thousand five hundred books in four different volumes of anthology. Ukah is enthused to see these young ones grow by the transforming power of literature into both literary practitioners and responsible citizens.
Camillus Ukah is an impactful team player, who has the noble endowment of the humility to naturally subscribe to superior argument irrespective of the source. His consummate preoccupation is the delivery of positive results. To him, any system that does not produce tangible results is akin to ‘discomforting drudgery’ and such a system must be catalysed to assume kinetics. Deploying that strategy, he was able to kick-start and drive activities in ANA Imo to the level of relevance it enjoys even to date at the state, regional and national levels.
As ANA National Vice President, Ukah has worked particularly closely with the kinetic and result-oriented current ANA President as special Presidential Envoy on peace and conflict resolution to bring stability to troubled branches of the association nationwide and fight for welfare of members. His visibility and selfless commitment to the huge successes of the Denja Abdullahi led ANA EXCO (2015-) was partly captured in a recent assessment of some ANA Presidential aspirants for the 2019 ANA National elections by ANA Legal Adviser, Barr. Isaac Ogezi. According to that assessment, Camillus Ukah is always the last to go to bed at National Conventions after ensuring that every delegate has been settled. He is Chief Editor, LIU House of Excellence, Owerri Nigeria. He is married to Dr. Pet. Ukah and they have two grownup children and a grandchild.