Uyo returned as NBRP Annual National Book Clubs City for 2022
By Godwin Okondo
IT was a glorious maiden outing for the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria convention held in the weekend of September 17 – 19, 2021 in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. Writers, librarians, academics and essentially those in the book promotion value chain made their way to Uyo to discuss how to deepen book reading in a country fast abandoning one virtue that defined it in years past. But the enthusiasm of guests and participants at the event showed that there is hope again that reading and book promotion will be on the ascendancy again once the people get behind excellent programming that gets young and old reading again.
The overt endorsement by the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, represented by the Hon. Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Idongesit Etiebet, as he received award as grand patron of the local organizing book club, Uyo Book Club, and his pledge to support the club’s book activities will go a long way to give confidence to club members who will be invigorated to do more to promote books in and around Uyo. Already, Uyo Book Club, through the indefatigable efforts of its president, Dr. Udeme Nana, has set up two other books clubs in the state.
The reward for hard work, they say, is more work. Uyo Book Club has therefore retained the right to host the convention again next year, starting from April 23, 2022 through April 22, 2023. Lagos will take over hosting from Uyo as National Books Club City from April 23, 2023. The Interim National Executive of Network, led by Mr. Richard Mammah, is returned for a full substantive term in office to continue its good work that saw his leadership and team seeing to the successful maiden convention.
After months of diligent planning, the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters (NBRP), held its first national conference and Annual General meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, at Watbridge Hotels & Suites, Uyo. It featured over 40 book and literary clubs across Nigeria. The lineup of activities for the event included reviews, a keynote speech, tours, presentations by various clubs, spoken word, festschrifts, drama, cultural variety, and local delicacies.
This year’s conference had as theme ‘The Place of Public Libraries in the Age of e-book and Challenges of Social Reading,’ and attracted notable book sector players. While speaking about the arrangements of the session, the president of the network, Mr. Mammah, said the conference is a first of its kind in a very long time in the country, in that it brings book clubs around the country together to brainstorm on common challenges and engagement approaches.
Underscoring the critical importance of book clubs in the reading and books ecosystem as the last mile in the chain, stakeholders from different tiers of the book chain also participated in the conference, some of which include the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) and the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN).
The opening ceremony was chaired by Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Russia, Chief Assam Assam. The keynote was presented by the University Librarian at the Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State. Other speakers include the University Librarian at the University of Uyo, Prof. Ahiaoma Ibegwam; President of the Nigerian Publishers Association, Chief Uchenna Cyril Anioke; Dr. Nkem Osuigwe of the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA); President of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN), Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi, and Founder of iRead Mobile Library, Mrs. Funmi Ilori.
The governor who spoke through a representative, the Commissioner, Ministry of Education, Mrs. Etibet, attributed lessening intellectual curiosity among young people as a result of a deficiency in the reading culture. The governor therefore assured the local organizers and Uyo Book Club of his readiness to support and encourage the club’s effort to revolutionise the art of reading among the people.
According to Emmanuel, “So, it is my hope and belief that this book club will help engender a robust reading culture in our state and help expand the knowledge base of our people across layers of human experience while still deepening the core professional bona fides of our people.
“As you may have observed, we are determined to produce future graduates who would think outside the box of conventional knowledge; we want our children to be well rounded and be ready to compete in the marketplace of ideas and skills, which the 21st-century technology-driven world demands of us.”
Earlier the Patron of Uyo Book Club, Rt. Honourable Ekong Sampson, said the partnership to reinvent the reading culture in the State has expanded to Ikot Ekpene and Eket, as part of Uyo Book Club’s milestone achievements. The former legislator and state executive member further solicited for legislative actions to strengthen the reading and writing initiative for full cultural and economic benefit to Akwa Ibom and Nigeria at large.
“One sure way to reinvent our value systems is by returning to the book,” Sampson said. “In Akwa Ibom State, the book clubs are sprouting; we have established one in ikot Ekpene, one in Eket. We are taking the message to schools and in no distant future many schools in Akwa Ibom State would be the proud host of book clubs.”
It was also suggested that the time had “come for us to look at the role of having a legislative framework to guide reading culture in Nigeria. A bill to make it mandatory for book clubs to be established in a number of institutions is not a bad idea.”
Eminent scholars, authors and librarians were also at the event, with 16 years’ old’s Maadiah Johnson’s Clawed to Death, Uboho Bassey, The Uncommon Housewife and Anietie Usen, The Village Boy on display at the bookstand. Others were Professor Des Wilson, Professor Felicia Etim and Justice Ita Mbaba.
Also addressing a press conference ahead of the commencement of the session in Uyo, the Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee for the Conference and AGM, Dr. Ekong Sampson, said the event was aimed at reviving the culture of reading which has been on a steady decline in the Nigerian society.
“We are delighted to inform you and indeed the entire world that the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria has approved Uyo to host its first ever national conference. The approval is in recognition of the conducive, peaceful and intellectual environment in Akwa Ibom State, and is organized to draw attention on the need to reawaken the reading culture in our society. This is done conscious of the fact that we must use the book to fight ignorance and superstition, two weaknesses that have held Africa down.
“There is no doubt that the Nigerian reading mentality is in decline. It is not enough for us to helplessly blame this on some larger global lethargy. If we must address the myriad problems that confront us in this country today, concerted efforts must be made, as an imperative, to revive the most critical components of our education and value system.
“The conference will attracted eminent writers, readers, policy makers and the general literati across the globe. Delegates will also have a firsthand feel of some of the historical sites in the state and the rich array of our famed culture and cuisines. The conference clearly has a huge potential to showcase Akwa Ibom profile to the international community given the strong impact of the book as a global citizen. In all, it will present an opportunity to compare notes on how to deepen the reading culture and widen the flanks of our scholarly discourse.”
One of the highpoints of the conference was the launch of a book by an eight-year old Victoria Motunrayo Apanisile titled, My Pretty African Story: How I Became the Princess of Africa. Young Akpanisile’s book launch at the event signifies that the future of the book is bright with youngsters also coming into the fray of book writing and publishing.
Renowned writers and intellectuals such as Dr. Wale Okediran, Dike Chukwumerije, Ini Iteh, Moses Ibanga Akpabio, Prof. Joe Ushie, Ekong Sampson, Ofuma Agali, Udeme Nana, Precious Semaediong, Anietie Usen, Martin Akpan, Aniedi Etim, Ndueso Young serenaded the audience with their stories and presentations.
A book village and galleria authors, vendors and exhibitionists displayed varieties of books was one of the interesting aspects of the conference.
One of the highlights of the event was the declaration of the successor of Uyo as the second Annual Nigerian National Book Clubs City, an award which runs for one calendar year, and which sees the successful city engaging in massive and vigorous reading promotion activities. Within its current hosting year, the Uyo Book Club under its founder, Dr. Udeme Nana has successfully also championed the establishment of book clubs in Eket and Ikot Ekpene.