The Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria (NBPR) says it has chosen Uyo, capital of Akwa-Ibom State, as Nigeria’s first National Book Clubs City.

Announcing the choice of Uyo during a zoom meeting of NBPR on Friday, the group’s Interim President, Mr. Richard Mammah, said the decision automatically accords Uyo the hosting right for the first ever National Conference of Book Clubs in Nigeria, which comes up in September 2021.

Taking its inspiration from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Book Capital initiative, which adopts one city in the world annually to serve as hub and anchor for reading promotions activities across the given year, Mr. Mammah said NBPR thought it appropriate to introduce a variant of this into the Nigerian environment. In his address, Mr. Mammah said the choice of Uyo had come after NBPR members deliberated and considered the merits of consolidating book activities in one location for a whole year so as to achieve greater traction.

“As we make history today, many advocates who have gone before us on this track have longed and worked towards a time when Nigeria would be a massive field of book clubs that are contributing their quota to the educational enrichment of the citizenry and the well-being of the nation. In cities, towns and communities across the country, bands of book enthusiasts have always gathered to read and share experiences on the books they treasure,” Mr. Mammah said.

He added that, “for most of the time, these reading activities have not been harmonised.”

As a result of this, he said, the idea of the NBPR, he disclosed, is to bunch these isolated energies together for greater effect.

“It is in the course of doing this over the past fourteen months that we came to the conclusion that we needed to add National Book Clubs City to the coordination of books clubs and reading promotion in Nigeria,” he said.

According to Mr. Mammah, a National Book Clubs City is decided after NBPR members have received bids from active book cities and have voted.

He said the Book Clubs City will serve as focus hub and anchor for the composite reading promotions activities of the group between 23 April of the awarding year and 22 April of the following year.

“Through this focus, our desire and hope is that the chosen city, its friends, residents, governments, businesses and publics would rally round our anchor Book Club in the city to organise and drive a year-long carnival of books and reading, more books and reading, and even more books and reading,” Mr. Mammah said.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Udeme Nana, Founder and President of the Uyo Book Club, expressed gratitude to the network for the honour and pledged that the club would do all within its power to justify its choice.

“Uyo Book Club gladly accepts the honour accorded it to serve as the Book Clubs City and to host the first ever National Conference of Book Clubs in Nigeria. This is historic and all of our Members, indigenes and residents of Uyo are elated by this momentous development. When Uyo reads, Akwa Ibom reads, Nigerians will read again,” Dr Nana Said. He also mentioned that a book, Village Boy , written by a member of Uyo Book Club and launched by the club recently in Uyo, has been selected as one of the books for the UN SDG’s Book Clubs Reading list as announced on the occasion of the 2021 World Book and Copyright Day.

“Uyo Book Club will sustain its collaboration with the NBPR and all relevant stakeholders in their resolve to mobilise and motivate people to embrace the culture of reading; we will also work to revive the waning culture of reading among our people and we will take this drive to all the nooks and crannies of Akwa Ibom State, setting up more book clubs and focusing on a campaign to inculcate the habit of reading among our people,” Dr Nana disclosed. He said the ultimate objective is to refine the sensibilities of people in the belief that people whose sensibilities are refined make for better citizens and a better society.

While commenting on the development, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi, President of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, wished NBPR well in the task of driving aggregated reading promotions in Nigeria amongst book Clubs and through investing one city annually as a National Book Clubs City. Noting that the choice of the announcement date coincided with the notable World Book and Copyright Day, he tasked the organisation to be conscious of challenges that could show up in the execution of this project, adding that with the right resolve, the challenges will be surmounted.

Speaking further, Mr. Oluwatuyi said: “As President of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, and one who was privy to the birth of NBPR only a little over a year ago, I will say with all confidence that having seen all that have been done in this period and given the simple imperative that all of us in the book chain – libraries, authors, readers, booksellers, publishers, illustrators, and so on – need each other, it is only appropriate that we continue to support the initiatives of NBPR, amidst those of other stakeholders in the book trade, for a greater and better culture of reading and books environment in Nigeria.”

He also commended members of NBPR who have, in the spirit of synergy and collaboration, signed up as ambassadors for the UN SDGS Book Clubs African Chapter, which the entire industry is championing at the moment and for which an impressive launch has already been recorded. He called on other NBPR members who have not done so to also sign up.

To the Uyo Book Club, the good people of Uyo and Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Oluwatuyi said it is within their right to celebrate this stride while also noting that they must do everything within their power to ensure that much of Nigeria will have a great reading year on account of the power of their example and the strength of their influence, impact and motivation as it has to do with the books and reading promotions activities they will be undertaking from this year into the next year.

Dr. Uwemedimo Udo, Chairman of Uyo Local Government Area and Chief Uchenna Cyril Anioke, President of the Nigerian Publishers Association, also pledged their commitment to work with the NBPR and the Uyo Book Club in delivering on the set mandates.

While Anioke saluted the strides recorded by the NBPR till date, Udo affirmed that he was giving his word that all would be done by the City of Uyo to ensure a very befitting National Convention and AGM for the Network in the Akwa Ibom State capital in September.


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