By Godwin Okondo
IN its resolve to put Nigeria on the sustainable path of a book reading society for mass literacy, a society that is alive to its civic obligations, as agreed to in its last month’s first convention in Uyo, the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP) inaugurated a committee to drive the establishment of a library in each of the 774 local council areas in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. The event was held via Zoom meeting on October 19, 2021, with President of NNRP, Mr. Richard Mammah, presiding.
At the September convention in Uyo, a communiqué issued had detailed plans the body wished to undertake to engage the entire Nigerian society in the urgent task of reviving book reading culture through actions that would make books available in neighbourhoods through community libraries and book clubs.
Among the resolutions reached in Uyo include “the imperative of an all-out drive to place the reading enterprise at the centre of national development process, given its notable multiplier effect across all levels and strata of national growth and achievement; the urgent need for value reorientation, and aggressive readership promotion to entrench reading culture in all communities within the Nigerian society, endorsing the campaign of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria for the establishment of at least one well-kitted library and book club per local government in the country, and demanding that a Library Bill of Rights should be passed by the legislature as an instrument to provide uncompromising support for intellectual freedom and the provision of all types of libraries for all.”
Lastly, the conferees agreed that “libraries’ advocacy group comprising book clubs, stakeholders in the book trade, schools, students, parents, journalists, non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, etc should be formed to lobby for the continued prioritizing of libraries on the agenda of governments at all levels – federal, state and local governments.”
While inaugurating the NBRP Project 774 Steering Committee, Mammah said, the Network of Book Clubs was taking one more step in its crusade to ensure book clubs and libraries’ adequacy all over Nigeria through its ‘774 Book Clubs and Libraries Reading Project’, which he said was conceived as a way of getting all local government areas in Nigeria to host at least one book club and library. Mammah traced the origin of the project to the decision to host a forum on it at the Nigeria International Book Fair (NIBF 2021) held in Victoria Island, Lagos, in July.
Subsequently, he said, a workshop was convened in Ikeja, Lagos, noting, “to give it more flesh and this was followed by even more discussions at the AGM and Conference held in September in Uyo. Tuesday’s session was the formal inauguration of the steering committee for the project, chaired by a University Librarian at Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, Prof. Felicia Etim.
In her acceptance remarks, Etim said, “On behalf of the just-inaugurated NBRP Project 774 Steering Committee, I accept this calling to serve albeit with a bit of trepidation. I say this in consideration of the daunting task ahead. Before now, in Nigeria, several Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), professional associations, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups have tried to intervene in the improvement of the reading culture in Nigeria. This is because we recognize that the absence of a widespread culture of reading acts as an effective barrier to our development and international competitiveness. The economic, social and political health of our nation today depends on building literate citizens that are able to read widely and apply it practically for development.
“The critical question now is: ‘What unique and outstanding intervention will the NBRP Project 774 Steering Committee make? What positive significant difference will be recorded as our contribution? I presume that in accepting to be inaugurated, we are making a bold statement of faith to put ourselves out there to be used by God for the service of our dear country, Nigeria.
“First, we shall attempt to evaluate the status quo by conducting a baseline survey of libraries and book clubs in the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. Armed with this data, we will set in motion strategies towards the implementation of Project 774 over phases and timelines. As we establish libraries and book clubs, we will be conscious of the need to train and equip people with the skills to develop, manage and run successful libraries and book clubs. This we intend to do in collaboration with relevant regulatory bodies in the profession.
“We shall identify with and initiate communication with relevant Federal Government MDAs and international NGOs for partnerships and collaborations. NBRP Project 774 should be launched in major cities in the different geo-political zones in Nigeria subject to the outcome of the baseline survey.
“It will be a joy that in no distant time, the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters (NBRP) will earn credibility with government and private sector organizations as the major driver of readership development in Nigeria.
“We thank you for the confidence reposed on us. We pray to make you proud. God bless us all.”
Mammah expressed confidence in the committee and restated the determination of the executive to work alongside the team to get the job done. Other members of the committee are Mrs. Farida Ladipo-Ajayi of Bookworm Cafe, Dr. Udeme Nana of Uyo Book Club, Mr. Adedapo Adegboyega Conde of Pea Foundation and Mammah.