The contrast in reading culture between Nigerians and nationals of other countries, especially those of Western orientation is so obvious. A typical Nigerian may not buy a newspaper unless he is about to travel, and even at that he reads it if there is nothing else to occupy him.

Few Nigerians studiously read books and newspapers as is common in Western and Asian countries, where almost every train, plane or bus has publications for travellers.

The situation is getting worse because our leaders of tomorrow – our children – are growing up with even less attraction to books and serious reading. They like to watch television, especially the highly-addictive cartoon channels on cable television.

The older ones surf the internet for “chatting”, social networking, various levels of entertainment and satisfaction of their other curiosities. Very little time is spent searching for knowledge which is super-abundant in the worldwide web.

A nation whose young and old wallow in banalities, showing little quality interest to useful information and education is obviously doomed. Years ago under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, a ministerial nominee while under screening by the Senate did not know that NEEDS stood for National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy.

The NEEDS had just been launched and the regime wanted to use it as its roadmap to revive a private sector-driven economy. According to the nominee, NEEDS meant the difference between human needs and human wants!

He failed the screening, which was right, considering that the man also claimed he was an economist. This is just a minor illustration of the functional illiteracy that abounds in this society. Nigeria was lucky. This individual was caught before he became a Minister.

Many people in high offices do not read and are ill-informed about what is going on around them. Yet they are decision-makers, and many of them have the confidence to pontificate on ill-digested concepts they want to impose on the society.

We must make conscious efforts to return our citizenry to reading. We must re-ignite interest in the search for knowledge over the rat race for material acquisitions. Those who cannot read cannot lead.

Those who cannot read cannot write because there is no knowledge to pass on to others, and no intellectual equipment with which to pass it on. We must support the work of several private organisations, such as the Rainbow Book Club, which has launched its “Revive the Library” campaign.

This club has been able to draw the attention of some of our literary giants and political leaders, such as Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Chinua Achebe, Miss Chimamanda Adichie, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Governor Chibuike Amaechi and Governor Babatunde Fashola to participate in their book reading activities to revamp the appetite of young people in books.

Knowledge is power. Those who are blindly chasing money today will one day wake up to discover that those who chased knowledge


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