To have a viable book and reading culture in Nigeria, Book Publishers have been urged to raise their profile and work in tandem with the media who propagate the ideas in books through publicity and book reviews, as this will foster the realization of vision 20-2020.
The call was made by resource persons in a one-day National Media Workshop for Arts Writer and Editors, organized recently by NICO in collaboration with the Federal Capital Territory Administration, in Abuja, even as they also accused the media of not giving adequate attention to reports on education.
The theme of the workshop, which had more than fifty arts and culture journalists with their editors in attendance, was Media Strategies for Propagating the Book Culture in Nigeria.
The resource persons, Maj-Gen Mathias Efeovbokhan (rtd), Dupe Ajayi Gbadebo, and Ali Mohammed Ali, made the submissions at the workshop, which took place at Merit House, Aguiyi Ironsi Road, Maitama-Abuja, in their presentations, titled, “Book Culture as an Imperative for National Development and Actualizing Vision 20-2020,” “The Impact of the Nigerian Media in Sustaining the Book Culture,” and “Media Strategies for Propagating the Book Culture,” respectively.
Maj-Gen Efeovbokhan (rtd) wondered why the book culture was dwindling in a country like Nigeria that has produced some the world’s most outstanding personalities in academic and intellectual engagements, like Professor Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel prize for Literature in 1986, Phillip Emeagwali, father of the Internet, Professor Chike Obi, a renowned mathematician, and so on.
Attributing this to the falling standard of education and the university system, Gen Efeovbokhan stated that the book culture started having problem in 1965, with the civil war, lamenting that while two South African Universities are listed among the top 500 Universities in the world, there is a gloomy and pathetic picture of only eight Nigerian Universities in the top 100 African Universities.
According to him, a major problem is that the country lacks adequately trained teachers from the primary to tertiary level, and advocated that a state of emergency be declared on the Nigerian educational sector, so that plans to improve the book culture would be immediately put in place.
Dupe Ajayi Gbadebo, on the other hand, challenged publishers to be ready to spend money on the advertisement of their publications because media business is capital intensive, and urged lovers of Nigerian literature to use social networking site, naijastories.com, for reviews, short stories, poems and fiction stories of new authors, as the impact of the social media in terms of publicity was crucial for the success of books in the marketplace.
Itemizing the strategies the media should employ to propagate book and reading culture, such as book reviews, interviews with writers and authors, reporting on reading sessions by writers, promoting exhibitions on books, awards of prizes, and translation of books to indigenous languages, Gbadebo faulted the media for not giving enough support to the literary circle: “The media which ought to be the critical establishment for books of various forms, from the serious academic journals to the most unserious reading matter, has not seriously constituted itself into a tradition of support for the literary community. In the mainstream media, arts pages were not considered as serious and prosperous as sports, politics, and business pages in newspaper paging consideration.’’
In his paper, Ali, also criticizing the media for paying very little attention to the book and education, observed that politics receives more attention, harped on the advent of new media as what has undermined book and reading culture in Nigeria, and called on filmmakers in Nollywood to redress the situation with films. “The advent of the new media undermined our book culture. The dawn of the internet, facebook, Ipads, blackberries has pushed the book culture to the backbench. In this regard, I challenge those in Nollywood to use the film medium to propagate book culture. When they make film with parents reading to their children, it will affect the psyche of the viewers. Indian used the films in Bollywood to sell their good cultures to the world.’’