By Udeme Nana
EXCEPT for the cold, harsh harmattan haze blowing across the country and the resulting dry wind, the brown grass and leaves on some trees, the hard soil and ubiquitous dust, nothing special showed the transition from one year to another in the few days of the new year. The clock still ticks in seconds, minutes and hours – an evergreen legacy of the Babylonians or Sumerians who divided ‘time’ into seconds, minutes and hours. They were really special. The sun, the moon, though being buffeted against by extra-terrestrial elements in the larger universe of galaxies, would continue their seemingly slow trajectory to turn day into night and night into day. Absolutely NOTHING humans can do about that. Nobody, no matter how powerful, can tip the planetary bodies off their courses.
Over the years, human beings have made the environment toxic and made the air we breathe and the water we drink dirtier. Humankind has harmed itself and its existence by practices which have affected the ozone layer, resulting in climate change and diseases. In almost every sphere of endeavour, humankind has destroyed its habitat, its ecosystem, its socio-economic, cultural and political systems. It seems that humankind is on auto-drive and humanity and its civilization are cascading on a free fall to self-destruct. This doesn’t seem real to most people, and it’s normal for them to be blind to it. However, the reality is that humanity is nearer the abyss now more than at any other point in history.
Herein lies the vision of our Book Club initiative – to mobilize people who are interested in gaining intellectual depth to meet, read together, share ideas, gain knowledge, and spread that knowledge in a social setting. I don’t want to submit wholesale that the regular structures of socialization in our society have failed, but I am witness to a yawning chasm.
The Book Club initiative is based on the understanding that ‘man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence should be, and what he will become in the next moment.’ Every human being has the freedom to change and instigate changes positively or negatively. It is therefore up to members of this knowledge hub to begin to usher in the changes in the society. We may not be able to affect the ebb and flow of the tide, we can’t stop the harmattan breeze, we can’t stop the sun or moon in their revolutionary odyssey, but it lies within us to affect our “emotions, our judgements, our creativity, our attitudes, our perspectives, our desires, our decisions, our determination” because “that’s our playing field”.
The Book Club initiative now has homes in Uyo , Ikot Ekpene, Eket, Abak, Ibiono Ibom and in Oron. Our task is therefore cut for us to renew our resolve to spread the virus of social reading as a means of refining the sensibilities of our people. I see this as the strong leash to use to attempt to drag back our society from the precipice. It’s not an easy task. Nothing good comes easy. As we celebrate the dawn of a “new year”, let’s include in our resolutions a commitment to become more active in our engagements here.
We will continue with our monthly meetings but we would like to sail with this knowledge of book clubs to schools, churches, residential estates, streets, offices and wherever human beings can gather to discuss.
In 2023, we must continue to publish our newsletter – The Brook. We will host the World Book and Copyright Day on April 23; we will attend the Nigeria International Book Fair in May. We are most likely to host the South-South Regional Book Fair (August) and attend the 3rd National Book Clubs Conference at Lagos in September. We need sponsors for our monthly meetings, our outreaches and for participation at the events outlined above. I appreciate our wonderful patrons, our very active members, supporters and people of goodwill. Welcome to 2023.
This Book Club Initiative can midwife a new society. That’s my belief.
* Dr. Nana is the founder of Uyo Book Club and progenitor of the Book Club Initiative in Akwa Ibom State