•As UP Plc celebrates 70yrs of publishing in Nigeria
By Iheanacho Davidson
THE popular saying that “failure is an orphan while success has many relatives” was brought to the fore last week in the ancient city of Ibadan as dignitaries from all walks of life gathered at Kakanfo Conference Centre to celebrate with the foremost publishers, the University Press Plc as they marked 70 years of excellent publishing in Nigeria.
The main hall of the centre was filled with notable figures and the ushers with well designed T shirts bearing UP Plc’s 70 years of excellent publishing were on ground to direct the guests. The event which was the yearly Authors’ Forum that affords opportunity for authors to celebrate themselves and reflect on their roles as nation builders, this year, took a different form as a result of the celebration and as usual, the organisers chose a renowned scholar, Prof. Niyi Osundare to deliver the anniversary lecture.
Present at this year’s event were prominent writers and educationists including Eze Prof Chukwuemeka Ike, Dr Lalekan Are, Mr Sam Kolawole, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo; Professors Niyi Osundare, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Chief Oladipo Yemitan, among others.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the board of directors, Dr Lalekan Are who thanked all for coming to celebrate with the company went down memory lane and told the audience how the company started business in Nigeria. According to him, it took off as the branch of Oxford University Press, OUP, UK in 1949 with the name Oxford University Press, Nigeria and published many titles until it changed to University Press Limited in 1978 after the indegenisation policy of the Federal Government before it finally metamorphosed into University Press Plc. He also highlighted some of the landmark achievements of the company that contributed to the development of the country.
However, Dr Are regretted that despite the contributions of the publishing industry, many, especially those at the helm of affairs, do not appreciate their efforts which has seriously affected the continuous flow of intellectual and developmental ideas from the minds of intellectuals that abound in the country.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government and other tiers to make concrete efforts towards supporting the publishing industry especially in the area of copyright protection.
Are who is of the view that the future of our children should be of utmost importance to all, also enjoined government to initiate efforts towards improving reading culture in the country. To do that, governments and individuals should establish functional community libraries across the country and maintain them so that people will see books to read.
Finally, he commended the authors, former staff,customers and shareholders for their contributions with special tribute to Chief Oladipo Yemitan, the first author of Oxford University Press in Nigeria who was present in the house and also paid tribute to all the fallen heroes of the company.
Speaking on the topic,African Diaspora, Brain Flight and Our Republic of Letters, the guest lecturer, an erudite professor of English at the University of New Orleans, USA and social commentator, Professor Niyi Osundare, urged Africans to think well before jetting out of their country.
Osundare who described publishing as one of the intellectual instruments of self liberation, commended the foremost publishers for their role in the advancement of scholarship in the country in the past 70 years, pointing out that they were able to actualise that because they were successful in the galaxy of leaders from the first manager, to the present.
On the topic, Osundare started with what he tagged the voices of Africans in various fields that featured quotes from many African authors about their views of Africans in diaspora and the need for them to come home and develop their land.
Osundare who has seen it all having transversed many parts of the world and seen the plight of many Africans in diaspora, posits that despite what they feel they gain over there, there is no place like home as suffering afflicts strangers in foreign land.
He enumerated some of the challenges of Africans over there and the issues that force them to leave their land which include some writers believing their dreams can never come to reality if they remain in Africa, the unconducive environment in Africa, the vision of African leaders who have no plan for the masses amongst others.
According to him, the result is the migration of the best brains and worse still, when they leave, they never return and he asked if all the children of Africa leave, who will develop Africa?
He further stated that as far as the continent remains like this, the diaspora move must continue unless something is done, if not, it will get worse. He then tasked the government to do the needful, provide the enabling environment for its citizens to excel.
The erudite scholar who is always critical of government’s inaction urged the masses to ask African rulers why they make the home uninhabitable. Do they know what is happening and take responsibilty, how can a continent so richly endowed with the needed resources be poor? He concluded by saying that Africans must get it right and the only way is to take interest in people who govern us. The world, they say, is ruled by people who think,until we get the enlightened minds in power, Africans will continue to jet out.
Professor Akachi Ezeigbo who made the toast for the anniversary cake commended the company for its 70 years success story. According to her: “When it comes to publishing, there are words we use for UP Plc, they are dependable, competent, reliable and loyal. They are the only company that pays royalties and dividends to its shareholders.”