Early this year, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) secured the sum of N3million for the 2016 edition of ANA/Yusuf Ali nationwide literary awareness campaign.
Running its fifth year, the donor, Yusuf Ali (SAN), an Ilorin-based legal practitioner is an associate lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ilorin. Lover of literature and a quiet humanitarian, Ali forayed into this philanthropic venture by forming a friendly alliance with the Kwara State chapter of ANA before extending his goodwill to the national body.
The grant was first secured in 2012 and all state chapters of the association have received sub-grants of N250,000 at various times between 2012-2014 for the campaign involving secondary schools across the country.
In 2015, the grant was applied by the then National Executive Council of ANA to host a workshop on fiction writing in Abuja in which about 25 students, drawn from tertiary institutions across the country via a competitive process, participated. The anthology derived from that workshop process is at the final stages of publication.
This year, the association, in its dream to expand the horizon of the campaign has chosen to focus on tertiary institutions across the country through the States’ chapters.
Last Saturday, the Lagos State chapter of ANA convened reputable authors within the state, students of tertiary institutions and lovers of literature at the boardroom of the University of Lagos for the flag-off ceremony of the literary campaign.
Part of the activities was the literary quiz competition between the students of Yaba College of Technology and the University of Lagos.
According to the chairman of the chapter, Femi Onileagbon during his opening remark, the height of the enthusiasm was that the students of Business Administration and Accountancy from the Yaba College of Technology were involved in the competition. He expressed his gratitude to the donor for this philanthropic decision which according to him will further improve the reading culture in the country. He used the medium to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians and leaders of thought to invest in the literary campaign.
“If you are a parent and you have less than 200 books in your library, then you are a failed parent. A reader goes into protest not with gun but with his pen,” he said.
The chosen book for the competition, ‘Pass On The Baton’ is written by the ANA Lagos State chapter General Secretary, Yemi Adebiyi.
Addressing the writers before the competition, Adebiyi said the art of reading determines the level of intellectual integrity of all and sundry and that those who fail to read are doing more harm to their relevance in life. He assured young writers of a virile future. “I can’t tell you how to write but can tell you how not to write. Those of you who have words should know how to place it. Any writer who can only describe actual life cannot go far,” he said.
At the end of the competition, Yaba College of Technology came first while University of Lagos came second. Bags of books were presented to all the participants as they were encouraged to follow suit in the future.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Raphael James is a biographer, researcher, librarian and collector of rare items. Speaking on the theme: ‘The Nigerian Educational Journey And Reading Culture From Then To Now,’ James defined education as the bedrock of any nation.
“It is the heartbeat of economic, social and political growth and development of any nation. It is the beginning and end for any development. To me, education is more than schooling; it is the totality of our everyday observation and comprehension of the activities within our environment,” he said.
He identified policy inconsistency as a major factor that is dragging the educational flight of the country backward.
“Under Tafawa Belawa and Ironsi, the school year ran from January to December, with three months long vacation from July to September. Gowon administration changed it to run from October to September still maintaining the long vacation from July to September. When Obasanjo came in to power as civilian government, he attempted to privatise all Unity Schools, but for public resistance.
President Yar Adua under his 7-point agenda had education as number 4 but the truth of the matter is that we seem not to be progressing. Our universities now produce graduates who can hardly express themselves not to talk of defending the certificate they are carrying about.
The reason cannot be farfetched. We don’t read. We lack the reading culture, we only read to pass exams, pass job interviews, we don’t read to understand and comprehend, we don’t read to gain knowledge,” he said.
James, who in October 2004, commenced a free public library, with less than 100 books said today, the library is counting a stock that is well over 40, 000 books.
Encouraging everyone to invest in the reading campaign, he said:
“I am not promoting the library and book reading because I am rich, rather I am doing it as a matter of passion to make the world a better place. I have donated close to 20,000 books to schools in Nigeria and Ghana since 2008. In 2015 alone, I donated 6,000 books and between January and March 2016, I have donated over 4,000 books to assist in promoting reading culture.”
ANA distributed copies of ‘Pass On The Baton’ and some of the books donated by the keynote speaker to all the attendees.