By Chris Onuoha
2018 WORLD BOOK & COPYRIGHT DAY:
APRIL 23 every year is marked as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day, and Nigerians are not left out in the celebration. As we all know, Nigeria has produced many great writers such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Cyprian Ekwensi, Ben Okri and in recent years, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Seffi Atta, and many others. Just recently, a Nigerian, Bayode Treasures, broke the Guinness World Record in Marathon ‘Read-Aloud’ contest in a straight read of 122 hours. To commemorate this World Book Day, Nigerian author of many inspirational books, Victoria Praise-Abraham, spoke to Vanguard Arts & Reviews on reading habit in the country and the need to revive the reading culture.
Today is World Book Day, what is your assessment of Nigeria’s impact in book development?
Our writers have done us proud on the global stage and continue to do so as great writers continue to emerge in Africa and Nigeria. Nigerians are scholarly in nature. Even outside the field of writing, we have continued to shine in the arts, science, sports and in all of life’s endeavours. We find more and more accolades coming to Nigerians, especially those in the diaspora. That is not to say that home-based Nigerians are not doing us proud too.
Very learned Nigerians can be found all over the global stage, though illiteracy level is still high. I believe Nigerians should celebrate this World Book Day like other countries. Nigeria is naturally rich. It’s just that we’ve not been blessed with good leaders who can help educate the masses better through sound policies.
There is a popular saying that readers are leaders and I will add that leaders too must be readers. We need to do more to get the culture of reading back into our educational system because our reading culture has diminished. As a young girl growing up in Lagos in the 80s, I delighted in reading and this helped to shape who I am today. We must do more in our educational system to encourage reading, even at primary, secondary and university levels. The government must work hard through excellent policy formulations to jump-start this habit within our educational system.
There is an influx of inspirational books into the market, and what those books contain are all in the Bible. Why repeat them?
I believe that writing should be versatile and varied. I do not agree that we do not need more inspirational writings and writers. Literature writing is an excellent genre but it should not pervade our polity. I do not agree that we should limit ourselves to the holy books. I believe that inspirational writing is still needed to help people (especially young people) to navigate through life. Most inspirational writers write from experience. The important thing is to choose carefully the kind of writers we read, because not every book is good or right.
Tell us about your works and their impacts on readers
I have published nine books. My books are inspirational, impactful, practical and needed for right living in a world that is soiled and greatly polluted by evil, greed and corruption. My book, 100 Life’s little lessons is a book that helps people to better navigate through life. It sheds light on different topics that we all have to deal with in life like minding your own business, focusing on the big picture and learning to forgive quickly so that we do not go around bitter, wounded and prone to hurting others.
My books are simple. I try not to write complicated books because I believe that life is already complex on its own.My Hope on the go shares 365 original and witty quotes. It took me about five years to write. Another title, The tiny big first step is a must read for everyone who is battling with the habit of procrastination. We all procrastinate and procrastination is the thief of success. The book highlights practical ways of getting out of the habit permanently.
I grew up reading Mills and Boon and plenty of other literatures. These genres of books are important but I am committed to writing practical books that have the power to transform lives of my readers for the better. I want to write life-changing books that are practical, insightful and engaging, not books that only help one to escape reality for a couple of hours.
What should we expect from you in the near future?
I am presently working on three new books that should be available before October 2018. Two of the books are faith-based, titled The Creative Force of Faith and Because I Believed. I am trying to help simplify the concept of faith in these two books because a lot of Christians do not properly understand what faith is, even though it is preached from the pulpit every other Sunday.
The third book I am working on is Insightful Nuggets for living. It is a compilation of about five years of work. I write a weekly word of wisdom on social media and I have done this for about seven years now. This particular book is a compendium of my writing over this period.
If you are to advise Nigerians on reading on this World Book Day, what would you tell them?
To all our teeming young people who are still schooling, they should read their textbooks to understand, not just read to pass examinations. Older people should read books that inspire them to take action, including books and journals that are relevant to their jobs, vocations and visions. Leaders must avail themselves of all kinds of books – on business, leadership, fun. Books help us to connect with the worlds of other people. They also help us to open up our minds to new ideas.
Nigeria and Africa desperately need new leaders. We are tired of old and recycled leaders. We need the younger generation to take their place. As a writer, I desire to see a new breed without greed taking up positions of leadership all over Africa and in Nigeria. Reading is becoming digitalised through new media technologies like the Internet and social media. The older generation needs to work very hard to be digitally-compliant. The world has changed a great deal and only those that are nimble and pliable will be able to seize the day.
Our leaders must work hard to give us enabling environment for growth and prosperity. Poverty pervades our land presently and most people are bogged down with the basic needs of life – feeding, shelter and general wellbeing. It will be difficult to get such sets of people to engage in the amazing and beautiful habit of reading. Unfortunately, if we do not read, we cannot grow. As Christians, we must read the Holy Bible and let it guide our way of life. We must read books that expand our vision and expand our worlds.
Reading is very beneficial. Reading takes us to places we have never been before. Reading helps us see new ways of doing things and it allows our minds to stretch and expand. Reading develops our minds and helps our lives become better overall. A people that want to grow, expand and develop must learn to imbibe the culture of reading and Nigerians are no exception to this rule.