‘Nigeria must Have Good Books to Achieve Global Standard’

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In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, the President of Oxford and Cambridge Club of Nigeria, Mr. Akinfela Akoni, highlighted the impact of the club on alumni of the institutions in Nigeria; he said the country must have the necessary tools to produce good books that must be made accessible to students if it is to attain global standard in quality education

What are the objectives of the club?

The Oxford and Cambridge Club of Nigeria is a non-profit and non-political organisation. The objectives are to provide a forum for individuals who are alumi of the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, UK, to interact and to promote social unity among alumni of these two institutions residing in Nigeria. We also sponsor lectures, talks or seminars and organise other projects consistent with the objects or otherwise calculated to assist or enhance the education of any person in or from Nigeria. The club also arranges for the holding of an Oxford and Cambridge celebration in the form of a May Ball and other social gatherings on such other occasions as the executive committee shall deem desirable; and provide facilities whereby members may co-operate in professional, intellectual or cultural activities. We do promote community-based activities for the development of Nigerians and Nigeria.

How has the club impacted members over the years?

The club has impacted members positively over the years through its May Ball (always held in June), business forums, Oxford debates and the spring lectures. The spring lecture, which is the flagship event for intellectual thought leadership, attracting leaders from the business, political and academic cadres to its events, has featured Nigerian leaders, globally-renowned speakers including British politicians, Lord Owen and Baroness Amos, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

The 2016 Spring lecture is scheduled to hold on May 30, 2016 at NIIA, Victoria Island and the guest speaker is Ms. Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (UK). Ms. Abbott is the first black female politician in the UK and is one of the most recognisable and respected politicians in Britain.

She will bring to bear her wealth of experience in education, policy and governance to lecture on: ‘Education: Reach for the Stars, Ensuring Access for All’. We believe that having the calibre of Ms. Abbot will enhance the developmental values that the club is trying to introduce to Nigeria. Till date, we have been promoting good education values of both universities. We are also involved in community projects and this year, we are supporting the campaign to bring awareness to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
How far have you been able to achieve the objectives of the club in Nigeria?

I think we have been able to achieve the club’s objectives in Nigeria. We have a healthy membership comprising almost 300 active members (which is growing), we are staging world class events particularly our spring lecture series and non-Nigerians travelling to reside in Nigeria use the club as a first point of call. We are also connected to the global alumni association networks of both universities.

We are much in touch with the global network of oxford and universities. If you go to the websites for instance, and you wanted to visit Nigeria as an alumnus, you will easily be directed to our club if you are there. So we are well connected. You will get invited to Oxford and Cambridge to participate in global alumni meetings, which normally hold in September of every year.

Cambridge University recently re-launched its press in Nigeria, what impact will it have on the Nigerian market and quality of education in the country?

To achieve global standard in quality education, we must have the tools and if we have the best that can produce the books, we can make it accessible to students to learn. I am delighted that Cambridge University Press has seen it fit to re-enter the Nigerian market, it is not just economic interest, but huge developmental interest.

Interestingly when the press was trying to enter the Nigerian market, they contacted our club so we also had some inputs they were to make to enter into the Nigerian market. Children will have access to books and materials, they will be encouraged to read and that will lead to better quality education generally and of course the press will also be working with bodies that develop curriculum to make sure that there is relevance in the books being introduced into the market.

What is the way forward for the club in Nigeria?

The way forward for the club is to continue to build a reputation for intellectual thought leadership, attracting leaders from the business, diplomatic and academic cadres to its events.