Stakeholders in the education sector, at the 7th edition of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO)’s Annual Round Table on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO), held on Thursday 15th December, 2011, at the Yar’Adua Centre, Central Business District, Abuja, have been called upon to rise to the challenge of reviving the culture of reading in our country.

Professor Olu Obafemi, chairman of the occasion made this call, while giving his opening remarks at the event, saying that he aligned himself “with the dynamic, progressive, forward looking but extremely humble Executive Secretary of NICO, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, who is a younger brother and friend, because of the great strides and exploits that he had led the Institute to achieve in the few years of his leadership.”

According to Professor Obafemi, the topic of NICO’s ARTCO for 2011 – “Promoting  Reading Culture in Nigeria: The Role of Institutions,” cannot be more appropriate given the horrifying decline in the reading culture in Nigeria, noting that this trend is tilting us towards a pervasive national illiteracy, threatening the nation’s strive towards becoming a great and vibrant nation.

“Reading, like manner, maketh a man,” he said; therefore, a nation that does not read cannot achieve greatness, as there cannot be literacy in a non-reading culture and no civilization can grow on a barren land, which could be likened a non-reading nation.

Professor Obafemi stated further that this is why the theme of ARTCO 2011 is so rightly conceived by the Institute to give Nigerians a sense of awareness of the need to read, noting that the alarming rate of examinations failure in our schools as manifest in poor results from all our examination bodies – WAEC, NECO, and JAMB, is largely due to the non-reading culture which has crept into our national psyche.

He said that the country’s growing population needs to be told that reading is the crucial tool needed for effective learning, not just for examination purposes only, but for the acquiring of knowledge in life generally, because as Kingsley Igwe puts it, “reading is both for school and for life, it makes man to be a thoughtful and constructive contributor to a democratic and cohesive society.”

This campaign of promoting a reading culture in Nigeria, Professor Obafemi stated, should therefore not be left to NICO alone, but should be a massive campaign by all stakeholders and agencies of knowledge production, distribution and exchange, which include, the Reading Association of Nigeria, Association of Nigerian Authors, the Nigerian Publishers Association of Nigeria, the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, Civil and Corporate Societies, Religious Organizations, the Media Guilds, Community Development Organizations, as well as Parents Teachers Associations.

Concluding his address, Professor Obafemi said, “The essence of this roundtable is to propel us as a nation to recognize the power of reading to the development of our people and nation and to make sure that the “Bring Back the Book Campaign” initiated by Mr. President recently goes beyond a political whistle stop. This is so because, as succinctly captured by one time American President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, said, ‘Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education, because the human mind is our fundamental resources’.  So, let us all join hands with NICO to spread the read-a-book-today campaign.”

Jonathan N. Nicodemus

Corporate Affairs