From April 23, 2014, Port Harcourt the
Rivers State capital will become the World
Book Capital. This position, it will hold for the next one year, within which period, the people of the city may be opportuned to improve on their reading culture.
The World Book Capital which is an initiative of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) would be coming to Africa for the second time and first time to Nigeria. Its contribution to the development of literary excellence has made the competition for its hosting very competitive and its award very prestigious.
With the theme: “Books: Windows To Our World’s Possibilities” being hosted in Port Harcourt clearly underscores the uncommon educational programming and development of world-class infrastructure for schools by the Rivers State Government. Indeed, the expected benefits of the programme to the academia in the Rivers State are also exciting.
Although, the Rivers State Government has embarked on some steps including publicity, we think that the feat has not been celebrated enough. With just weeks to its take-off, we think that a little more is required to prepare Port Harcourt for the World Book Capital and the intellectuals that would be coming from across the world.
Our excitement with the award is not only based on the fact that UNESCO gives the award to cities with the best quality of educational progammes, promotion of books and reading as well as dedication to education via books, but that Port Harcourt stood out against all odds is heartwarming.
According to the Project Director of the Port Harcourt World Book Capital, Mrs Koko Kalango, the city was ready for the programme. She said nothing less than N1billion has been made available by government for the purpose. She said as part of the programme, libraries would be built, teachers would be trained and steps taken to restore the reading culture.
While we should be worried over the poor reading habit of the average Nigerian, we think that programmes like this can actually make a difference. Even as targeting the young ones would be very advisable, the opportunities this provides can indeed be limitless.
For too long, the African has done very little over sayings like “if you want to hide anything from the African put it in the book,” the adverse effect this has had on the continent has become too obvious to deny. So, opportunities like this should be used to incubate a fresh love for reading.
Sadly, the situation has been brought about by the harsh economic climate that makes the fight for survival the first and the last concern on the minds of the population. In some places, education, especially quality ones, no longer determine the success nor prestige of anyone.
But that must change in the new Nigeria that is being built. Fortunately, both President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi have taken steps to promote reading at different times. This should become the passion for all persons if Nigeria must move to the next level. Indeed, the attack on educational institutions by Boko Haram should underscore the importance of education in the survival of a people.
It is no longer in contest that the one that is incapable of reading is seriously disabled. It is a fact that people who read are easier to govern and can also function better in the polity. Reading is a skill that opens the window to different worlds and opportunities. It develops the character, elevates the man and shows the way to peace, health, wealth and spiritual wellbeing.
That is why the people and government of Rivers State must be prepared mentally and otherwise to leverage on the opportunities that the World Book Capital brings. They must also provide the fertile ground for people to write, for publishing companies to survive and for values to spring from reading.
Without a doubt, we think that the time to bring people back to the book has come. The time when books are given as gifts or prizes that are greatly cherished has come. The time when reading becomes the major part of the culture of the new Nigerian has come. Those who embrace it will be the leaders of the new era.
From April 23, 2014, Port Harcourt the