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Day 4 @LABAF 2023: ‘Nigerian Books Ecosystem’ in focus as publishers, writers, booksellers, readers hold dialogue

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  • November 16, 2023
  • 6 min read
Day 4 @LABAF 2023: ‘Nigerian Books Ecosystem’ in focus as publishers, writers, booksellers, readers hold dialogue

* Honour for Gbemi Shasore and Femi Odugbemi @60

By Godwin Okondo

RICHARD Mammah, who is deserving to be enrobed ‘Champions of Readers’ in Nigeria, will lead the conversation today at the 2023 Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF that will take place at Freedom Park, Lagos. It is Day 4 at the festival fondly called ‘Feast of Life & Ideas” which began on Monday, November 13, with “Youth Day”. Today is branded “Literacy Day” and devoted to instilling in festival attendees as well as the general public the importance of education and knowledge acquisition, as the only route to enlightenment and empowerment. This is according to the conviction of the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), the 32-year old leading advocate for literacy through the instrumentality of the arts and culture.

The Publishers-Readers Forum, as it is captured, will have speakers spread across the whole publishing and writing spectrum, with participants carefully selected by the curators and president of Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters of Nigeria (NBRP), Mr. Mammah and the Programme Officer of the CORA and poet, Mr. Samuel Oriakhi Osaze. The day is dedicated to a leading player in the publishing industry, Mrs. Gbemi Shasore, publisher and CEO of Quramo Publishing, who only recently staged the 7th edition of her equally engaging festival, Quramo Festival of Words as well as Quramo Writers’ Prize. Mrs. Shasore, who has been at the front of campaigning for education and human capital development, turned 60 on August 6, and the Publishers-Readers Forum is devoted to celebrating her in a special way. She will deliver the opening remarks at the forum to which she was an early subscriber, and in fact was collaborating on curating until two editions ago.

Speaking on why the 25-year-old session changed from its founding name “Publishers Forum” to the mouthfull-tongue-twisting nomenclature – “CORA-NBRP Publishers-Booksellers-Authors-Readers Forum,” the curators in their general invitation to the public to participate (in-person or virtually) in the session states, “Formerly known as CORA Publishers’ Forum, it was conceived in 2010 to provide a space for publishers in Nigeria to gain critical insight into their current operations within the context of the challenges facing their industry, brainstorm on their findings, and identify key steps that can be taken as individual businesses or as a collective to improve their bottom line.

“The rising profile of all other agents in the book chain, especially READERS has, however, necessitated the reconstruction of the name and objective of the forum to its present identity as CORA-NBRP Publishers-Booksellers-Authors-Readers Forum. One of the goals of CORA is to build capacity and knowledge in the Nigerian creative industry space. By helping to build publishers’ skills, we hope to support the development of the nation’s publishing industry.”

The outline of the session is given as follows. The theme as The Nigerian Books Ecosystem: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, will have Mrs. Sashore give the opening remarks before Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, Nkem Osuigwe and Adachukwu Onwudiwe will speak on topic, ‘Artificial intelligence: Thrills and Perils: A Publishing Industry perspective’ while Mr. Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu will moderate the panel session. This will be followed by another topic titled ‘From Ife till Today: Nigeria’s Book Fairs, Festivals and the Reading Culture’ with discussants being Dapo Adeniyi, Adegbola Adesina, Abiodun Omotubi and Olatoun Gabi-Williams. A third panel will speak on the topic ‘Winning with Book Publishing and Marketing: An Insider’s lens (Running successfully. Achieving goals. Rising above limitations. Tapping opportunities and advantages….’. and will have Dotun Eyinade, Awele Ilusanmi, Yomi Ogunlari and Mike Ekuno with Funmi Ilori moderating the panel session. The fourth panel session is on the topic ‘The Guinness World Record and the Reading Culture in Nigeria’ and features Mr. John Obot and Mr. Bayode Treasures Olawumi, who will be in conversation with Amara Chimeka.

A FEW hours after the publishers and readers would have risen from their intense session, it will be celebration time as the festival celebrates a notable figure in the campaign for literacy and knowledge acquisition through another medium – film and television, Mr. Femi Odugbemi, who is a passionate storyteller and media content producer. Those familiar with the name Odugbemi, especially through his regular writings, public speaking and his numerous works in the field of documentary films and fiction, know that he is a passionate, perhaps the foremost campaigner for the status and standard of storytelling to be elevated. He is particularly interested in ensuring that African culture producers, especially filmmakers, devote greater attention to authenticity in content and context in their representation of the African experience. His articles are regular and must-read features in the news medium, NaijaTimes.ng.

The festival programme directorate says that CORA resolved to celebrate Odugbemi on the occasion of his 60th birthday (May 24) to draw greater attention to his “campaigns” for good storytelling to the very basis for African media content, especially Nollywood, which is gaining ascendancy in the global circuit.

The invitation to the public states as follows, “Through his well-applauded and travelled body of work, Odugbemi has shown how the film medium, especially the documentary format, could help to deepen the spread of literacy among the citizenry, and in effect, bolster human capital development in the course of nation-building. Odugbemi has been a consistent advocate for African storytelling to be authentic in content and context, to dig deeper into the cultural environment from which they are produced, and in which they are first consumed before they become global products. His argument segued in to the critical conviction that an artist or creative producer must be conscious of the cultural and environmental universe of his/her work to gain relevance and acceptability in the global market. His argument challenges the nature, texture and character of SCIRPTING and NARRATIVE content, form, style and technique of the extant Nigerian movie system christened NOLLYWOOD.”

Thus, the celebration has been schemed into two parts: first a seminar on scriptwriting/storytelling, which envisages that professionals in the field of moviemaking and television production, examine the challenges that may be facing their vocation of storytelling; the second session is more celebratory, as it is an evening of relieving the works of Odugbemi who, through his films, lay emphasis on using the medium to document history and celebrate people and heritage.

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