Despite the importance of books, the number of graduates produced by the various universities and the volume of books produced in the country every year, statistics available has revealed that Nigeria, the most populous country in black Africa is not a book friendly country.
This was the submission of Prof. E. Nolue Emenanjo of the Dept of Linguistics and Communication Studies, University of Portharcourt while delivering his keynote address at the 5th edition of the authors forum held at Kakanfo Conference Centre, Ibadan .
The forum which was well attended is an idea conceived by the management of UP Plc as a forum for finding solutions to various problems facing the book industry in the country.
Speaking on the topic titled How Safe is the Book,the erudite scholar who has published over 100 books described Nigeria as a book less country. Emenanjo who is of the view that the book remains an effective medium of mass communication, with education, information, entertainment persuasion and news among its specific objectives, pointed out that despite the importance of book and efforts by many to revamp the reading culture, Nigeria is not a book friendly country, “Nigeria is a chronically book less country and most Nigerians are great lovers, great buyers, avid readers, nor fanatical users of books. Indeed, Nigeria is not a book friendly country.” He stated.
Enumerating some of the challenges facing the book, Emananjo lamented that the book in Nigeria today is an endangered artifact. Some of the challenges include: the social media, games and sports, especially association football, the film industry, the rise of aliteracy, non-existent legislation and weak laws about book piracy and plagiarism, conflicting signals from educational system, poverty, uninspiring attitudes to the book. He observed that all people, agencies and institutions with high stakes in the making, development and use of books find themselves on the horns of the same dilemma.
To him, these factors “are dealing deadly blows to the book as a metaphor for enduring literacy, serious learning and sustainable growth and development, worldwide.”
The greatest single threat to the book globally is social media. But he rightly noted, that the truth and reality in the evolution of the media line is that no new medium ever displaced those before it. Rather, the new medium complements and synergizes with those before it.
“The greatest competitor to the book is the internet with its multiplicity of sub-media. Given its poorer of resilience, relevance and immortality, the book has developed its sub-medium, the e-book for those who have the know-how to access and use it, and the audio book.
It is true that today we have serious book clubs here and there.” He also noted that, “revolutionary and far-reading as the e-book, and, in fact, the entire social media have become, as avenues for information and entertainment, they can never replace the hard/ conventional book. All that one needs to use the hard book in most climes is sunlight/daylight. Not so for the e-book and (some of) the engines of ICT and of the social media which relief on electricity.”
For the book to be safer, in the comparative degree, Emananjo proffered the following: strengthening the educational system; longevity for education policies, programmes and practices; making Literature in English and Nigerian languages compulsory for certificate in the entire formal school system, strengthening weak laws and legislation that negatively affect the book, making the use of English for special purposes compulsory all through tertiary education, putting in place a National Language and Literacy Policy as some multilingual countries like Australia, Lithuania etc have and functional and sustainable literacy and numeracy should be the major thrust in all’ that are taught and learnt in the formal and non-formal educational systems of our states and the nation.
As according to him, “whether imaginative/fictive or informative in thrust, the e-book, the audio book or hard book, general or specialist, in its audience, the book remains one of the solid realities in today’s print medium.”
Earlier in his speech, the Chairman, University Press Plc, Dr. Lekan Are, urged publishers to pay greater attention to quality book production in order to build the intellect and shape the consciousness of the citizens.
He stated that the role of authors as knowledge and character moulders has become relevant considering the intellectual challenges the citizens are facing. He also disclosed that as part of its corporate social responsibility, the company donated books worth Five Million Naira to nine secondary schools in Oyo State, adding that they will follow it up next session with the establishment of Readers Club in these schools to ensure that the books are put to good use.