Port Harcourt: The bidding for World Book Capital

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BY MCPHILIPS NWACHUKWU

As  Nigeria gradually matches on to her centenary year come 2014, the  modest effort of  Port Harcourt based non governmental organization,  the Rainbow Book Club, the organizers of  Garden City Literary Festival,  Garden City Book Fair and Get Nigeria reading may  bestow on the nation a garland of honour in the area of book and human capital development.

This feeling is anchored on the decision of the organization to bid for UNESCO’s right for the city of Port Harcourt to becoming the next host city of the global body’s world book capital.

Rainbow  Book Club was formed in the Niger Delta State of River  during the  high rise  militantism by disgruntled Niger Delta youths over Federal Government’s neglect of the region in its socio-political and infrastructural development programmes.

Following the activities of these disgruntled youths, all forms of economic and governance activities were brought to  the lowest ebb, and the city, which was known for its rich social  and enchanting night life and  tourists’ potential became a shadow of  her former self.

Therefore, the decision of a dynamic young woman, Koko Kalango with the strong backing of River State government under the leadership of His Excellency, Chibuike Rotimi Amechi to use the platform of the Rainbow Book Club to initiate a state cultural cum intellectual meeting that is capable of redirecting the minds of the aggrieved youths from militancy and criminality to a  more civil and cultured behaviour paid off handsomely and laid the foundation for what has become a strong intellectual and cultural renaissance in the state .

Ngugi wa Thiong with Koko Kalongo during a garden city literary festival

Since coming on board in 2004, Rainbow  Book Club has organized the now popular, Garden City Literary Festival, an intellectual feast that brings to the dynamic city of Port Harcourt, scholars, authors, publishers, book sellers and other facilitators and stake holders in the book industry and trade to  engage on issues regarding the development and sustenance of the book culture.

Hinging her belief on the fact that education is a key factor not only in the development of human capital, but  also as the most important factor in the positive development of the  human conscientiousness, the organization expends much energy in not only promoting the book, but also in   ensuring that it invites  renowned scholars to be part of this transformational agenda.

To her credit, the festival has had the honor of hosting Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, popular Kenyan writer and critic, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Africa’s Eagle on World Literature, Chinua Achebe , Ghanaian playwright, Ama Aita Aiido and African/American Civil Right campaigner, Jesse Jackson.

Established after the successful  flagging off of UNESCO’S initiated World Book and Copyright Day in 1996, the global body adopted with the nomination of  Madrid , Spain in 2001 to become the first World Book Capital city.

Why  We Are Bidding
Addressing the media in Lagos penultimate week, founder of Rainbow Book Club, Koko Kalongo explained that the granting of hosting right to Port Harcourt city for the 2014 world book capital will help not only to galvanizing the rich cultural and intellectual potentials of the oil city, but will also go long way in fast tracking the book and other allied economic and tourism treasures of the entire Niger Delta region.

“Port Harcourt  will demonstrate what is possible in the African context. This positive step towards meeting a pressing development need amongst the world’s illiterate population would have a ripple effect in other areas like the HIV/AIDS awareness in line with United Nations Millennium Development Goal.” She Said.

Continuing, she added  that , “ it will galvanise stakeholders to addressing wide array of challenges that confront the African book and reading culture which include; low school enrolment, high level of illiteracy and limited availability of books.”

Hoping to be granted the hosting right, Kalongo revealed that she has chosen the theme, Books: Window to  the world of Possibilities to drive  book activities for 2014. This theme, she further explains, captures the fundamental argument that  knowledge derived from reading  is the  needed catalyst for the over all human development.

There are also indications that Federal government is behind the River State Government in the support of Rainbow Book Club in this campaign bid.

According to Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Documentation, Strategy and Research, Mr Oronto Douglas, Nigeria will support the bid given the antecedents of the campaigners, Rainbow Book Club, whose activities key in several ways to one of  the President’s campaign programs of Bring Back the Book.

According to him , “ The importance of this campaign cannot be over emphasized and the many laudable activities of Rainbow Book Club key in very strongly into the citizen driven nature of the initiative, adding that “ in line with the federal government’s transformation agenda, Rainbow Book Club has been very positive influence in Port Harcourt, which is the heart of Nigeria’s once restive Niger Delta.

Other  cities of the world  bidding for the hosting right of  World Book Capital include; Ganja( Azerbaidjan), Incheon (Republic of Korea), Krakow( Poland), lyon(France), Moscow ( Russia), Pula( Croatia), Sharjah( United Arab Emirate), Vilinius( Luthuania) and Younde( Cameroun).

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