NIGERIANS read for profit. Not for most Nigerians the studious attitude with which people read books and newspapers in countries. The difference is not in the literacy level, as some are wont to suggest. Nigerians, except for a few, consider reading an unprofitable venture.
The attitude has infected schools. Our future leaders – our children – are growing up with even less attraction to books and serious reading. They like to watch television, especially the addictive cartoon channels. They surf the internet for “chatting”, social networking, various levels of entertainment and satisfaction of their other curiosities. Their “leisure” leaves them with little time to search for knowledge in books.
A nation whose young and old wallow in banalities, showing little quality interest in useful information and education is obviously doomed. Years ago under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, a ministerial nominee under-going Senate screening did not know that NEEDS stood for National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy.
NEEDS had just been launched as the administration’s roadmap to revive a private sector-driven economy. The nominee, an economist, said NEEDS meant the difference between human needs and human wants! He failed the screening.
Many people in high offices do not read and are uninformed about happenings around them. Yet they are decision-makers, and many of them confidently pontificate ill-digested concepts they want to impose on the society, mainly ideas already overtaken by current knowledge.
We must make conscious efforts to return our citizenry to reading. We must re-ignite interest in the search for knowledge over the race for material acquisitions. Those who cannot read should not lead. Those who cannot read, cannot write because there is no knowledge to pass on to others, and no intellectual equipment with which to transmit it. We must support the work of several private organisations, such as the Rainbow Book Club, which launched “Revive the Library” campaign and most recently realised the making of Port Harcourt the 2014 World Book capital.
The club has been able to draw the attention to their book reading activities to revamp the appetite of young people in books. We need more book clubs for the task ahead. Every support should be given to efforts to get our people to read. It starts with parents reading; the children would follow the example. Government, through policies, should ensure books are affordable.
A major challenge for younger readers is the distraction the internet serves. Rainbow Book Club should extend its campaign to online reading of books, and use of virtual libraries.
Knowledge is power. Those who are blindly chasing money today would one day discover that those who pursued knowledge through close contact with books would decide what happens to society.