Bridging Nigeria’s poor readership gap with book clubs, library infrasrtucture

by anote
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‘…Our leaders failed to read and have led us into crises, precipice’

‘…To promote reading culture, there must be infrastructure like books, libraries

By Anote Ajeluorou

AT the tour of some book clubs and interesting places in Akwa Ibom state, conferees made the last stop at Ikot Ekpene, where the founder of Uyo Book Club and initiator of book club revolution in Akwa Ibom state, Dr. Udeme Nana inducted three prominent personalities as patrons of the Abom Toni Esu-led Raffia Book Club. Those inducted were Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, Dr. Emmanuel Abraham, and Prof. Felicia Etim. While inducting them, Nana charged the young people present to make book their chief companion, when he said, “As a young person, I valued books so much that for me, books were better than bread.”

While responding to the honour conferred on them, Ibok-Essien said, “Nigerians prefer hearsay to what they can find to read a book. I thank the founder of Raffia City Book Club for the initiative. One of my hobbies is read and there’s virtually no subject I’ve not read. You’re only knowledgeable to the point you’ve read up to. If you have not read anything, you cannot claim to have known. There’s so much wisdom from what we have read here. The challenge for young children is to read widely, so their success in life is tapped from various experiences. We withstand challenges because of things we have read. A book title says Tough Times Don’t Last But Tough People Do.

“There are so many business, mystical and other kinds of books to read and gain from. So my children, read up, so that your horizon will expand. We will support this book club especially now that we have been made patrons. We will enrich it with books. I have personal books I will donate to this club.
Many don’t know that there’s opportunity to come here to read, since there’s no functional library in Ikot Ekpene. We are in talks to get a library in Ikot Ekpene, and we will get it done. Before the end of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration we will have a library in Ikot Ekpene.

Chairman, Watbridge Hotel and Suites, patron and LOC Chairman, NBRP confab/AGM, Rt. Hon. Ekong Samson welcoming guests to the 2nd conference of book clubs in Nigeria

“So children, we were like you over 40 years ago. You also be like us and even better than us in 40 years plus. Use the opportunity presented here. There’s something we used to say: ‘Books before babies because babies before books produce bastard boys. So book before babies is best!’ You have great opportunity here to make something of your life, so your future will be greater than us.”

For the founder of the highly successful Top Faith Group of Schools, Ekpatak, Dr. Emmanuel Abraham expressed excitement at being made a patron of a reading project in the state. He, however, lamented the gap in knowledge experience that exists between pupils and students in private schools and public schools, and called for greater synergy to bridge such gap for a better society.

“Coming to induct us today as patrons brings home wonderful memories of carrying this crusade forward,” Abraham said, adding, “I’m excited to see these young ones here, to go through this exercise. We are on course to achieve our objectives. Since we are patrons, we will make sure there are books here. Each of us patrons will personally endorse schools to invest in, sponsor and motivate pupils from public schools to mentor to close the educational gap and advantage their counterparts in private schools have. In 40 years plus from now, you have to be better than us. You must be school proprietors, professors, senators, etc.”

While also responding, President of Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP), Mr. Richard Mammah reaffirmed the commitment of the national body to work closely with Raffia Book Club in Ikot Ekpene and other book clubs and reading spaces across the country to ensure everyone is brought up to speed in the reading revolution.

According to Mammah, “If we did not read, we won’t be here. Iron sharpeneth iron. We read and are still reading. You too must read. Across this country, we think we are not reading enough, that’s why this network was established to encourage everyone to read. We have signed agreement for people to read more. We need more readers. NBRP will support Abak, Raffia & every other body promoting book reading in the country. We need our public libraries to work for our children. If we are to promote reading culture, there must be infrastructure, books, and we must have professionals moderating reading activities.

“We are tired of hearing that there’s no reading culture. We must all help change that narrative. In one book, we have thousands of loaves of bread. When you pursue that book, loaves of bread will pursue you now and in the future.”

EARLIER at the opening of the conference, all the crises relating to bad economy, insecurity, poor political configuration and educational impairment were blamed on Nigerian national leaders who have continued to exhibit the behaviour of people who are poorly read. This is against what obtained during the First Republic when the country had leaders like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Herbert Macualay, Anthony Enahoro, among others who were well read and it showed in the quality of programmes and policies that guided their actions in office. Nigeria was a much better place to live than now.

Participants at this year’s conference and AGM of Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP) that took place in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state capital stated last week were agreed that because current Nigerian leaders are poor readers every action that they take lead the country down the precipice rather than the expected turn around. The conference had as theme ‘Nigerian and African Stories: How they Fare in the Global Village.’ The event took place at the innovative Watbridge Hotel and Suites on IBB Way, Uyo. The hotel also boasts of a library stocked with good books for guests, the first of its kind in Nigeria.

The President of NBRP, Richard Mammah and the patron of Uyo Book Club, local organising committee chairman and Akwa State Senatorial candidate, Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Ekong Samson said current Nigerian leaders do not read, saying it is the reason they have failed in the task of leading the country right, but have instead become rudderless.

According to Mammah, “Nigerian crisis is chiefly and squarely a reading crises. Our leaders failed to read and have led the country into crises. We therefore need to read ourselves out of the crises we have found ourselves. We had Awolowo, Azikikwe and the old leaders who read and we saw the difference in their leadership quality as against what we currently have. What we have now are leaders who pretend to have read or who just read to get certificates only.

Poet, Uboho Bassey; NBRP President, Richard Mammah; NBRP internal auditor and Director of Yenagoa-based 1402 Book Lounge, Annette David-West; founder of Uyo Book Club, Dr. Udeme Nana and NBRP secretary, Anote Ajeluorou at the 2022 NBRP conference/AGM in Uyo

“If actually our leaders read, they would know that rather than merely develop the crude oil in the ground, they should be investing in the brain power of Nigerians that should be capable of bringing out the oil in the ground and not having foreigners digging the oil out for us which we cannot also refine for our use. All this shows how poor readers our leaders are at the moment.”

Also, Samson stressed that a poorly read national leadership is at the heart of what has endangered the Nigerian society, adding that the bipartisan nature of the book should make it an item of endearment to everyone: “The more we read the safer we are, but the less we read, we are more endangered. The book is bipartisan; it does not know tribe or religion. The more we read, the safer we are as humanity. The less we read, the more we move towards the brink, towards the precipice. With book clubs, we are pioneering a new consciousness in our polity, in our society.”

Earlier in the seminar on ‘Emerging Trends in Resources Organisation for Easy Retrieval in Libraries,’ a library expert Prof. Felicia Etim did not only canvass properly funded libraries, she also sued for patronage of readers in the few libraries in existence. According to her, “How do we get readers tot the few, poorly funded libraries? Nigeria needs to make libraries part of their lives. Libraries and book clubs have the common goals to promote reading culture in Nigeria. Together, we would have been able to enhance most public libraries having book clubs in no distant time.”

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