Lagos must get its reading culture right again, says NBRP President
By Ada Anioji
The President of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria, NBRP, Mr. Richard Mammah has said that Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre must look back into its modern foundations and make a determined push to get its reading culture, which has been most instrumental in its success story, right again.
He made the remark during an address he presented as part of the Lagos Book Walk, a mega-advocacy reading promotions activity that the NBRP and partners staged on Thursday, April 27.
The walk which began at the Ikeja Bus Stop on Awolowo Road took the book lovers that included contingents from the National Library of Nigeria, the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Nigerian Library Association to the State Secretariat, Alausa before closing activities at the premises of the Lagos Television.
Other organisations that were represented in the walk include the Association of Nigerian Authors, the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Book Fair Trust, the Nigerian Publishers Association, the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, and the Bullridaz Motorcycle Club.
Below is the text of Mr. Mammah’s address:
Welcome remarks on the occasion of the Post-Lagos Book Walk event by Richard Mammah, President, Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria, NBRP, at Lagos Television, Ikeja, Thursday, April 27, 2023.
The journey towards today for this speaker personally did not just begin yesterday. Some four, five decades ago, a number of people contributed in stirring the love of reading and books in him. And because they did so and succeeded at it, he now carries a burden of ensuring that the candle of reading does not go dim.
From the records, the first modern, formal book club in this city came into being in the 1920s. But that was definitely not the first modern book activity. Schools had been established in the 1840s and a bookshop, the still surviving and thriving CSS Bookshops Limited, by 1869. Libraries, newspapers, authors, publishing houses, printing presses have been added features of the book surge, in this city-state where the novelist Cyprian Ekwensi reported penned his quite notable ‘People of the City’ and that Odia Ofeimun very kindly defines as ‘Lagos of the Poets.’ So, the Lagos area has a rich heritage of creative, educational, book and intellectual activity.
As we undertake this event today, we pay tribute to the very notable men and women that blazed this path before us. But we also note that we stand on the cusp of new challenges. In the period before now, the hunger for the book was fresh and inviting, now we are faced with a literal struggle across many fronts.
Too many of our children are out of school. An embarrassing number of adults still cannot read and write. And for many that have ‘passed through formal school,’ there is a real challenge of how to continue to sustain their interest in books and reading. There is work to be done.
It is on account of our appreciation of the enormity of the challenge that the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria, NBRP decided on a multi-sectoral approach. By staging today’s walk, we are asking all of us to probe deep and come out with answers. We are asking government to do more. We are asking corporates to stand up to be counted. We are asking communities to own this vision. We are restating our commitment to continue to work with the very wonderful stakeholders in the book ecosystem (library institutions and librarian, publishers, schools, NGOs, booksellers, authors and book clubs and readers) that we have partnered with in putting this event together, and with whom we would in the next two weeks be co-hosting the 22nd Nigerian International Book Fair in this same local government area.
Notably, this event is taking place in the season of the World Book Day. It is also the beginning of a year-long celebration of Lagos as the 2023 Nigerian National Book Clubs City (an honour that had been enjoyed by Uyo in 2021 and 2022 and which Yenagoa would be stepping into in 2024). As part of the fare, there will be a myriad of activities taking place between now and April 2024, which we encourage everyone to keep abreast of, with the chief next one being NBRP’s 3rd National Conference and AGM that holds in this same city in September.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the moment, what is left is to acknowledge that by the grace of God, we have had the walk. It has taken weeks and months of pushing the needle and we are relieved that today has indeed come. But it is not over yet. Now is the time to savour some readings. As they say in the theatre, ‘let the show go on.’