Denja Abdullahi ~ The Chief Servant of Nigerian Writers

Denja Abdullahi,  poet, playwright, literary essayist and culture technocrat was born exactly 50 years ago, on the 27th day of August, 1969 at Idah, Kogi State, Nigeria. 

He has been writing poetry for over three decades since his days as a student of English and literature at the University of Jos, Nigeria, where he was the best graduating student of the 1990 set. He also has a Masters in Literature-in-English, acquired at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria in 1992.

His poems and other literary pieces have appeared in anthologies such as A Volcano of Voices (1999), Uncle Bola’s Promise (2003), Confluence Blues (2004) Abuja Acolytes (2000) Five Hundred Nigerian Poets (2005) Camouflage (2006) Crossroads(2008) Pyramids (2008),Fireflies(2009), Agogo(2009) and in several other newspapers, reviews, journals and magazines. His first published poetic volume Mairogo: a Buffoon’s Poetic Journey around Northern Nigeria (2001) received honourable mention for the prestigious ANA/CADBURY 2001 Poetry Prize.
Denja Abdullahi published two poetry volumes in 2008, The Talking Drum (February, 2008) and Abuja Nunyi (This is Abuja)(May,2008). His other published works are A Thousand Years of Thirst( 2011), Hajj Poems(2014) and Death and the King’s Grey Hair and other Plays(2014).He also co-edited the book Themes Fall Apart But The Centre Holds, published in 2009 in commemoration of the 50 years Anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which was celebrated worldwide in 2008 and Arrows or Gods? Critical Essays on the Leadership Question in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God published in 2017. 

Denja Abdullahi has published two volumes of his collected newspaper interviews on arts, literary and cultural administration entitled On His Turf Vol 1(2015) and Vol.II(2019). In February 2019, Denja Abdullahi co-edited a book of Tributes entitled For Ikeogu , For Poetry. 
Today, in Abuja, Nigeria, to celebrate his 50th birthday, an Arts festival, the Denja @ 50 Literature and Arts Festival  (DAFLAF 2019) is underway to celebrate his golden age and pay tribute to his fecund imaginations poured out into his many impacting literary output and to serve to soothe his tireless brawn dedicated to the service of Nigerian writers for the past two decades. At DAFLAF 2019, Denja Abdullahi will unveil another book of poetry entitled The Road to Bauchi and Other Poems, and the second volume oh his collected media interviews, On His Turf Vol II
Other activities of the festival include a short public lecture on "Leadership and Institution Building in the Creative Industry" to be delivered by Prof. Sunday Enessi Ododo, a former ANA Vice President who teaches in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts of the University of Maiduguri. DAFLAF 2019 will cap off this evening at the Cinema hall with a production of Denja Abdullahi’s award-winning play Death and the King's Grey Hair  by the Visage Theatre of Nasarawa State University, Keffi.  

Denja Abdullahi has held several Executive Council positions in the Association of Nigerian Authors(ANA). He is arguably the only member of ANA who has served the Association in various official capacities for an unbroken span of 26 years! This matchless record makes him worthy and deserving of the fitting sobriquet, the Chief Servant of Nigerian writers. He was the founding Chairman of the Kebbi State chapter of ANA from 1993-1998 when he was a lecturer at the Waziri Umaru Federal Polytechnic, Birnin-Kebbi. After relocating to Abuja, he held several positions at the Abuja Branch at various times from 1998-2001. After his ANA Abuja service, he went ahead to seek and win elections into practically all the critical positions there are in the national Executive body of ANA from 2001 to date.
Denja with ANA founding members - Profs. Wole Soyinka and Chukwuemeka Ike.
Stepping onto the national level in 2001, he first offered his service as a National Ex-officio at the 2001 national convention and election which he won and served from 2001-2003. Subsequently, he got elected as Assistant General-Secretary(2003-2005), General-Secretary( 2005-2009), and Vice-President (2011 -2015). In November 2015, at the  34th Annual International Convention which held in Kaduna, he was  elected as President of ANA. He received a re-election for a second term of 2 years at the 36th International convention of the Association which held in Makurdi ,Benue State, Nigeria in October 2017. Come October this year at ANA's 38th national convention to hold in Enugu, Denja Abdullahi shall take a glorious bow as ANA President and handover to a new president to be elected at the convention.    
Since his assumption of office as the President of ANA in 2015, he has brought greater visibility to the organization with resourceful and impactful programmes and projects across the country. He was in 2009 appointed as the Manager, Operations, Abuja Carnival after having consulted for the Carnival since its inception in 2005. In 2015, Denja Abdullahi’ s play Death and the King’s Grey Hair won the SONTA/Chris Iyimoga Master Playwright Prize. The same play was in 2018 shortlisted for the 2018 Nigerian Prize for Literature administered by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company(NLNG). 
Denja and wife
The influence of his teachers such as the late Professor Ngwaba, Prof. Olu Obafemi and Late Dr Pius Dada engendered his love for poetry. Consequently, he is keen in mentoring other writers, discovering talents and positioning new writers for opportunities and recognition, and by so doing furthering the cause of literature, and ensuring its development. He is a firm subscriber to popular and accessible poetry.  
Denja at an event outside Nigeria
Denja Abdullahi, apart from teaching and other public service vocations, has also practiced active journalism with The News/A.M News/Tempo group in the mid 90s. Denja Abdullahi, playwright and theatre director, currently works at The National Council for Arts and Culture as a Director, Performing Arts, deployed in 2014 to the Bauchi Zonal Directorate of the Organisation. He has attended international literary festivals, conferences and residencies in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Senegal, Gambia, South Korea and the USA. He is a UNESCO certified expert and facilitator on Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.