THE Presidency has written to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to express its support for Port Harcourt’s bid to be the World Book Capital City in 2014.
It said the campaign by Port Harcourt to be the World Book Capital City is in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s “Bring Back the Book Campaign” which places books at the very forefront of national development.
Special Adviser to the President on Strategy and Research, Oronto Douglas, in a letter to UNESCO Division of Arts and Cultural Enterprise, described the activities of the Rainbow Book Club, which is behind the bid, as laudable as it embraced the President’s “Bring Back the Book” initiative.
Molara Wood, who represented Douglas, read the letter in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, at the formal launch of the city’s bid to be designated as World Book Capital.
Other cities across the world vying for the same designation include: Ganja (Azerbaijan), Incheon (South Korea), Krakow (Poland), Lyon (France), Moscow (Russia), Oxford (United Kingdom), Pula (Croatia), Sharjah (United Arab Emirates), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Yaoundé (Cameroun).
According to Douglas, the Rainbow Book Club, which has organised the Garden City Literary Festival that attracts writers and scholars from across Africa and beyond, has remained relentless in its efforts to get youngsters to imbibe a reading culture.
“In line with the Federal Government’s transformation agenda, the Rainbow Book Club has been a very positive influence in Port Harcourt at the heart of Nigeria’s once-restive Niger Delta. The designation of Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital City 2014 would strengthen on-going efforts towards the revival of our reading culture, to help set our country on the path of greater progress,” said Douglas.
Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Alice Lawrence-Nemi, said the launch of the bid in Port Harcourt was a testimony to the huge investment made by the state government in reviving the reading habit of Rivers citizens, thus, improving the reading ability of people, especially in the rural areas.
Lawrence-Nemi said the state government was totally in support of Port Harcourt’s bid. According her, the government has succeeded in making education free and compulsory in public schools. In addition, it has made available free books to pupils in both urban and rural areas of the state.
Founder of Rainbow Book Club, Koko Kalango, said Port Harcourt would serve as the ideal host of the 2014 World Book Capital because Nigeria’s great literary tradition, which had enriched the global book culture, could serve as a driving force for a new literary renaissance in Africa.
She explained that Nigeria deserved to win because it had given the world some great writers such as Prof. Wole Soyinka, the first Black African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Prof. Chinua Achebe, author of the widely read novel, Things Fall Apart, and other world renowned writers such as the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, Elechi Amadi, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Kalango said Port Harcourt, as the World Book Capital, would galvanise stakeholders to address the wide array of challenges that confront the African book and reading culture, which include low school enrolment, high level of literacy and limited availability of books.