Abuja Book Club Gets Nigerians Reading Again!
By Umelo Ojinmah
When the Abuja Literary Society (ALS) decided to inaugurate the Abuja Book Club in association with NU Metro Mediastore Abuja, some felt that it was the logical progression for a society that is in the vanguard of literary promotions, creative writing and reading.
The Abuja Literary Society came out of the desire by some creative Abuja residents for a place and time for intellectual discourse and creativity, away from the usual daily hustle and bustle of eking out existence and sustenance. The impact and importance of the Society's activities can be measured by the fact that such top rank hotels as Transcorp Hilton and Hotel Rosebud are willing to extend hall facilities for their weekly readings at no cost; as well as the British Council, Signature Gallery and NU Metro Mediastore.
The formation of the Abuja Book Club to which the then Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, showed personal interest and declared open, was, for the Society, a way to consolidate on its formidable achievement of weaning intellectuals, academic and creatively inclined youths away from video films and games and Friday night clubbing, to take very active interest in reading and creative writing. Naturally then, the question would be asked as to what extent the Society and Book Club have succeeded in their set objectives of getting Nigerians, to once more, begin to have an inclination for leisure reading both as a hobby and for entertainment.
The numerical increase in the attendance at both the weekly poetry and short story readings and the monthly third Saturday Book Club reading at Ceddi Plaza, while indicative of interest, was not empirical proof that people were actually beginning to read more. At each monthly book reading, a contemporary novel was chosen for the next month's reading and analysis, and members would usually be enjoined to buy and read the book before the next meeting.
Began in 2006, the Abuja Book Club has led members to study several books, both bestsellers and very new books. Members have read through Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Adichie; In the Blink of an Eye, by Eugenia Abu; The River Died , by Ken Ike-Okere; 26A by Diana Evans; Merchants of Flesh, by Ifeoma Chinwuba; and several more.
At the May 2007 reading, Chimamanda Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun was chosen for the June reading. Members were excited when the book won the Orange Broadband Prize for fiction but were more pleasantly surprised that the book which NU Metro-Ceddi Plaza was asked to stock in a large quantity had been sold out. Popular Bookshops such as BKL Bookshops also confirmed that they had literarily run out of stock of the book.
In June Kaine Agary's award winning Yellow Yellow was read and analysed. The novel, which tells the coming-of-age story of Zilayefa, a young Niger-Delta girl born of a Nigerian mother and a Greek sailor, who left Nigeria before she was born, is set in Port-Harcourt. Seduced by dreams of a better life in the city, Zilayefa leaves her village for Port Harcourt. There she passes through another aspect of oil exploitation rarely discussed – what women are going through in the Niger Delta. In the book Agary puts a human face to the Niger Delta problems – away from hostage taking and communal clashes.
Last month the, Book Club, considered Umelo Ojinmah's The Pact, a compact book which retells the historical clash of two south Eastern towns and the multi-level defence and blood pacts that shaped the early 20th Century clashes. Currently, the Club is reading Segun Afolabi's A Life Elsewhere which won the 2005 Caine Prize for African Writing. Nu Metro grants Club members significant discount to purchase the selected book of the month.
While it could be argued that the award won by Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun is contributory to the interest people have shown in the book, the fact cannot be denied that the Abuja Book Club readings at NU Metro-Ceddi Plaza every 3rd Saturday of each month is gathering interest and momentum among Abuja intellectuals and young writers.
So will you join Abuja Book Club and get Nigeria reading again?
Ojinmah is Associate Professor of Literature, Nassarawa State University, Keffi, and Coordinator of the Abuja Book Club. To contact the Club write to: firstname.lastname@example.org