By Godwin Okondo
THE National Library of Nigeria (NLN) may have woken up from its slumber under the new National Librarian/CEO, Prof. Chinwe Veronica Anunobi, with the reading promotion activity that took place on October 5, 2021, at its old Lagos head office, now an annex. Many had characterized and lambasted the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) under Prof. Peters Aina, as an agency of government noted for its inactivity except to demand six copies of published books from authors. The library has not been known in recent memory to carry out any notable activity that is in tandem with the vibrant writing and publishing ferment in the country. However, the new helmswoman might have read the time right by deciding to come as ‘chief host’ of the reading promotion campaign to Lagos to kick-start her tenure with reading and discussion activities that may well define her time in office.
However, those who attended with the intention of finding out the direction of her tenure and possibly suggest a few tips how she could better discharge her duties away from the lackluster tenure of her predecessor were disappointed that she started her first major assignment by being absent. The development had man scratching their heads. However, Prof. Anunobi’s absence did not dampen the enthusiasm of Lagos ardent book lovers. The programme had as theme ‘Building A Nation of Readers: Share Your Story’ and aimed to develop reading culture among Nigerian youths with students from various schools were in attendance.
Those present were Deputy Director of National Library of Nigeria, Mrs. Franca Ofodili, NLN Chairman, Lagos Branch, Mr. Ojo Olade, Deputy Director, Head of Branch, Mrs. Obianuju Onuorah, writer and CEO of Book Midwife, Mrs. Ibukun Tunbi, President of Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria, Mr. Richard Mamah, and a representative from the Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs. H. O. Oyizi, among others. In her opening remarks, Onuorah staid, “The aim of this is to help children learn to listen and pay attention, and make them good readers. The national library goes on this campaign to sensitize the youths to read, as well as increasing the tempo of their reading. The aim of this is to promote the uses of reading beyond exams.
We support reading clubs, creation of libraries, improve reading habits in Nigeria. We are focused in literary activities to develop greater interest in reading.” Speaking on the importance of reading, Tunbi said, “It’s important to feed our minds the same way we feed our body. Doing this helps our mind grow and achieve success. Reading helps us understand and have access to information and opportunities. Reading is the first step to greatness.” Oyizi engaged the audience in a few body movement exercises before resuming the ‘Read Aloud’ segment of the programme, after which she asked the students questions based on lessons learnt. Each student was gifted a book prize donated by various book clubs in the state.
Following the Read Aloud’ segment was a roundtable discussion that featured different book clubs, such as Lekki Book Club, Books And Our Imagination, Arepo Book Club, iRead Africa, Bookworm Cafe, Read2Build, Young Readers Club with the Deputy Director, Lagos State Library Board, Mr. Taiwo Bogunjoko also playing a part. The founder of iRead Mobile Library, Mrs. Funmi Ilori, moderated the roundtable segment with the book club owners. She sought to know how they were sustaining their various book clubs.
The participants then shared stories how they began the book clubs and the motivation behind the initiative. In her closing remarks, Ilori thanked the participants for the important work they were doing and their words of advice, saying, “Thank you very much for being a part of this initiative; sharing your knowledge with us for the betterment of the Nigerian education sector. We hope the students will remember your words today and put them to good use. I thank the students also for being present, as well as the NLN for organizing such an educative event.” Prof. Anunobi certainly has her job cut out for her.
The first and urgent one that should be on her agenda is completing the National Library head quarters in Abuja that has remained shamefully uncompleted for over 13 years. As reminder, the young lady Amanda Gorman, who stunned the world with her poetry ‘The hill we climb’ which she performed at the inauguration of the current American President Joe Biden, was discovered at an event at a national library like the one Anunobi failed to attend by Biden’s wife Jill. That is the power such national institution holds that Nigeria continues to neglect. There are many Gorman’s waiting to be discovered at every turn if only NLN will work closely with the writers making the country proud in spite of stifling economic situation.