Since its formal launch in December 2010 and with stops in Edo State, Abuja, the Bring Back the Book project of President Goodluck Jonathan seemed to have been consumed in the political, economic and insecurity challenges confronting the country as it had laid inactive for a year or thereabout.
However, the novel initiative by President Jonathan at lifting the rather uncomfortable literacy level of the populace with the children and the youth as the major target bounced back into reckoning last week with the official Bayelsa State launch.
The launch was highlighted by the formal commissioning of the Prof. E.J Alagoa Library, in Yenagoa, the state capital, a project itself realised in partnership with the Community Defence Law Foundation (CDLF), as well as the donation of 50 computers to selected schools and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) in the state by a businessman, Alhaji Musa Bello, as a way of boosting the President’s book initiative.
The Bring Back the Book campaign launch in Bayelsa is also believed to be a timely intervention in government’s efforts as eradicating illiteracy in the country in general and the Niger Delta region in particular and also as a springboard to reach the riverine communities in need of education.
It was no surprise therefore as school children, mothers, educationists, government officials, media practitioners, artistes thronged the Gloryland Cultural centre, in Yenagoa for the Thursday, July 12 event which had Prof John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo as chairman, Prof E.J Alagoa as Guest of Honour, in addition to the special performance by top rap music artiste MI as attraction.
Such Nollywood stars like Desmond Elliot, Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde, Dakore Egbuson, were also thrown in the mix to endorse the project launch which went a long way in impressing on the teeming school children present on the need to embrace the quest for education.
As it turned out, the endorsement by MI and the Nollywood stars who themselves took turns to read out popular poems by such iconic Nigerian writers as JP Clark and Gabriel Okara, impressed the children who responded in wild reception and applause to their admonishments.
Opening the floor for remarks, Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research and Strategy, Dr. Oronto Douglas said the country cannot afford to be left behind as the world nears the second half of the 21st century in which countries of the world position for dominance in the information technology and communication.
“The 21st Century will be dictated by a country rich in knowledge. We are already in the second phase of that era and if Nigeria is to drive that development then the launch of the Bring Back the Book in Bayelsa represents a milestone in spearheading this growth,” Douglas noted.
Notably, each child present was handed a school bag containing 8 books selected with the aim, according to Douglas, of helping the children to grow and enrich their personal libraries.
For Prof Clark, the best legacy any child should be left with is the knowledge of books, hence, his personal choice to identify with the project; further adding: “I’m giving my children books and the exposure to knowledge. They shouldn’t expect land, or houses from me. The choice of pursuit of knowledge from reading of books is a great choice in life.”
On his part, Prof Alagoa, who has the library dedicated in his honour, the future of the Niger Delta peoples lies in the development of their human resources and capacity.
State governor, Seriake Dickson, who was represented on the occasion by the Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government (SSG), Prof. Edmund-Allison Oguru, corroborated Prof Alagoa’s position when he restated that the development of human resources of any state was key to any meaningful overall progress.
“If you want to develop the society you start with the human resources. We’ll do all that we can to ensure that we bring back the book so that meritocracy and good governance are returned to the state system as the launch will be followed by the upgrading of schools and capacity building as well as provision of free textbooks and school uniforms in the state,” the governor stressed.
President Goodluck Jonathan who was also represented at the event by the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, said the idea behind the Bring back the Book project remains to reinvigorate the reading culture in the country which in turn should drive development in all sectors of the economy.
Noting major feats in the literary world achieved of recent by the country, like the recent naming of Port Harcourt as the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2014, the literary award to Babatunde Rotimi, and others, President Jonathan remarked that: “If we can catch them young, our children will be productive citizens in the future. Give a child a book and he or she will enable the success of the future generations to come.”
Wife of the state governor Mrs Rachael Seriake Dickson, widow of late human rights activist and playwright, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Mrs Maria Saro-Wiwa, Rev Canon Stephen Davies and wife, were among dignitaries who graced the occasion.
The Bring Back the Book initiative is a brainchild of President Jonathan established with a view to developing a book reading culture in Nigeria especially amongst the youth who have seemingly lost value for reading either for educational purposes or entertainment.
The initiative seeks to empower the youth for the future by preparing them for the opportunities and challenges faced by us as a people by engaging in series of activities designed to encourage the culture of reading amongst the youths.
The initiative was formally launched December 20, 2010 in an event that had a balanced mix of its audiences in attendance at the Expo Centre of the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island Lagos Nigeria.
With laudable objectives like revitalising the reading culture, with knowledge serving as a tool for development; projecting the nation’s culture, for survival, sustenance and protection, the project engages in organizing book readings in educational institutions at all levels across the country, establishment of Bring Back Book clubs in educational institutions to serve as hubs for development of intellectual capacity of the youths, support for literary events and projects.
In addition, the project also engages in creation of platform for national discussion on ways to develop the educational system cum reading culture, conducting research and supporting organizations carrying out related activities, support the production of books locally by encouraging publishers via buying of books for distribution to libraries nationwide, construction, refurbishment and stocking of libraries across the country, and organizing national competitions aimed at driving the culture of book reading in the country.