Friday, August 21, 2015 9:31 am
At a book launch, Nigerians show concern for poor reading culture and suggest solutions
Book lovers gathered at the Trenchard Hall of the University of Ibadan, UI, on Tuesday 18 September 2015 for the public presentation of a book, “On the Bank of the River”, by a young broadcaster working with the Ibadan based Splash FM radio station, Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi, an orphan and a second class upper graduate of English from Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU. The book was reviewed by her senior colleague, an Electrical and Electronic Engineering graduate turned broadcaster, Edmund Obilo, the presenter of ‘Voices’ on Splash FM.
At the occasion, the wife of the Oyo state governor, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, was represented by Mrs. Bola Alli. Also present were Chief Bamidele Aiku, SAN; Chief Adebayo Akande and his wife, Chief Onikepo; Alhaja Aibat Muraina, a successful business woman; former governorship aspirant under Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and now an APC chieftain, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu; former People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governorship aspirant and Chairman of State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, Professor Soji Adejumo; Catholic Archbishop of Ibadan, Most Reverend Gabriel Abegunrin and management team of Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, led by its Managing Director, Engineer Akintunde Soyemi. Scholars, students, friends and relatives also attended.
The occasion was spiced by performances by UI Theatre Arts graduate, Oluwaseun Omisakin aka ‘Filudara’ who beat talking drum to the delight of the audience and a cultural troupe that recited poems and performed dances.
At the occasion, accolades were showered on the author for the efforts to write for her generation. She was described as a humble, amiable, gentle and wonderful writer who might be one of those that would take over from the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka. The occasion also frowned at the dwindling reading culture in Nigeria. Both Professor Adetokunbo Lucas, a former UI lecturer and Dr. Kehinde Ayoola of English Department of OAU, listed causes of poor reading culture to include: technology, distractions by electronics (majorly, television, internet, and social media) and quest for money.
Professor Lucas said, “To have good reading culture, we must have writers whose works would inspire others to read. Reading culture is dying, and it needs to be re-awakened. The reading culture is gradually fading out because it is partially affected by technology. People are now looking at television to get information more than reading it in books. They are using the internet, so it is affecting many people not to go through the rigour of reading books. As a way out, I believe there should be digital search through which a lot of information can be got. But at the same time, there is something very good in being able to read from the book. I sat for the School Certificate examination in 1947 and I still remember some of the things I read in books like Julius Caesar that we used then. Technology should not be allowed to completely take over reading habit in our people, especially, the students.”
Dr. Ayoola added, “To tell you how bad our reading culture is, white people believe that if you want to hide anything from Nigerians, hide it in a book and give it to them, they will never see it because they will not open the book. This tells you how bad we do not appreciate book. Nobody is interested in scholarship any more, what we are all after is money. Our passion now is money not book and money and books don’t go together. People don’t even read newspapers. It is a surprise that print media is still in business in Nigeria.”
Highlighting the effects of poor reading, the duo said that Nigerians are now less informed, they exhibit lopsidedness of value and attitude, and they lack appreciation of their culture and themselves. To encourage reading culture, the dons strongly urged the government at all levels and well meaning Nigerians to support writers in whatever form like awarding grants for writing, participating in book launch, and enlisting the books for reading in schools.
In her speech, Ifeoluwa who read an extract titled, “Enitan” from her book that took six years to write disclosed that right from her tender age, she had been nursing the ambition to be a writer. “When I was a young girl, I was asked many times, what will you like to be in the future? Innocently and with all genuineness, I answered, I wanted to be a writer without understanding what a writer goes through. Now, I understand that in this part of the world, writing does not earn the writer so much of comfort. A little commendation from here and there, criticism from a man or two and then you end up being bitten by mosquitoes at night while struggled to squeeze words into stories. Despite the discomfiting circumstances that surround writing, I wonder why is the art of writing not accorded its right of place in this part of the world. In a culture where the general perception towards writing does not elicit respect, it is sure that the writer becomes an endangered species. If you ask me I still want to be a writer with a difference”, she said.
Speaking about the book, she said that she tries to portray the paradox of human relationships, show that relationships are not devoid of crisis, tensions and pleasures as well as raise a fundamental question about relationships among people and what it means to find happiness in life.