Yinka Olatunbosun

It’s a common belief, albeit sometimes erroneous that bespectacled people are bookworms or nerds. If you hang around committed readers, you’d know better than that. Recently, at the soon-to-be rejuvenated Nimbus Library, Ikoyi, a non- bespectacled avid reader, Georg Nakanda was spotted. If his name rings a bell, it’s either owing to his radio show or his affinity for books and Nigerian authors. Just as a good reader never judges a book by its cover, Nakanda can’t really be judged by his looks or his voice on radio. From Frederick Forsythe to John Grisham, Nakanda’s list of read books is very much elastic.

The conversation with Nakanda began with his name, Georg without the usual last letter “e”. If your device auto-corrects the name, you may get in trouble with Nakanda who has a very strong yet hilarious argument for spelling his name without the “e”.

“George means farmer and I’m not a farmer,” he argued. “I failed agriculture in school and my mum said I should take over my grandfather’s farm if I want to go to school again. So I struck out the ‘e’.”

Adjusting in his bamboo-made chair whenever the topic changed, Nakanda seemed very much excited to talk about books. He could have been just another on-air personality, dropping hot singles, reviewing music albums. But he demonstrated that reading is an essential element of being human when he introduced a special 30-minute segment in a two-hour reggae show called, “Reggae One Drop” on Top Radio.

“I started the segment to review Nigerian authors who tell Nigerian stories. As long as you can write and publish something good, you can come on the show,” he disclosed.

In his experience as the host for the show, Nakanda had seen great authors who were poor orators. Some authors can’t read fluently. This OAP thinks there is a very deep connection between the ability to write and ability to sell one’s self through the published works.

“There are authors who just write a little story and when they come on air, they set the whole studio on fire as everyone likes to call in and talk to them. There are authors who have wonderful stories and when they come on air, read they end up killing their stories. I think it is the responsibility of publishing houses to groom the authors for public reading.”

Meanwhile, Nimbus Library, domiciled in Bogobiri, a cultural hub in Ikoyi, will soon begin fantastic book parties – unprecedented and far from boring. It will feature celebrities who will participate in the book reading sessions with light refreshment, music and performances.

“I want something that we can infuse young people into,” Nakanda added. “Authors hardly target young people. But if you say a Wizkid or Davido is going to read, they’ll come because they are not really interested in the books but in seeing the artistes. So when the artistes say that their brand is not just about shaking the ‘bums’, taking alcohol and drugs but also about adding value to yourself, I am sure it will be interesting. We need to push the young generation to a better place not just getting soaked in the lifestyle of get-rich quick.”

The rapper who made this line popular, “Get rich or Die Trying,” 50 Cent is an avid reader and an author with a book reviewed positively by Wall Street Journal. But most music fans hardly pay attention to the intellectual side of their favourite artists. Most recording artists whose lyrics are philosophical have read wide and sometimes tap from their favourite books to write lyrics. The pop diva, Beyonce recently brought excerpts from one of Chimamanda Adichie’s books in one of her music videos to highlight the theme of feminism. The Nimbus book party will draw more artistes to the literary circles, all things equal.
It is often argued that this generation hardly reads. But Nakanda thinks it is because people want incentives to read.

“I don’t think Nigerians don’t read, I think what they read is the problem. People want to read certain materials that won’t do them any good especially on social media. They don’t read articles in newspapers. They just want to read what is viral.”

Another burning topic was the kind of prize money attached to literary contests. It is often a paltry sum especially when compared with the prize money that await reality show winners. Nakanda explained how Nigerian authors can get ahead of this poor value placed on the literary efforts in Nigeria.

“There was a time when little value was placed on Nigerian music but now, foreigners want to collaborate with Nigerian musicians,” he said. “Nigerian authors need to rebrand. Some authors don’t have soft copies of their works handy at book readings. And they don’t target young audience. Some write only one book in ten years. Readers want to go on adventure. Feed your readers with books, don’t let them go. That way, the audience will grow bigger.”
Nakanda also argued that authors and publishing houses don’t advertise newly-released books the way movie producers market their movies. Without the support of corporate bodies, most books are never advertised.
“Authors need cult following and that is what Corporate Nigeria wants. How many times have you seen a billboard advertising a book? I believe that anything can be sold.”

In the meantime, Nimbus Library will soon become readers’ hub and the book parties will be a monthly event at Bogobiri. That way, real readers can meet, talk about books they have read, wine and dine while those pretending to read will be motivated or intimidated. “Everybody will tell you that they like to read, just so they can look prestigious,” Nakanda added. “It is an elitist thing to read for those who don’t like to read. Some will buy the books and keep them at the back of their car so that passers-by can think they read.” By the end of November, the Nimbus book party will bridge the gap between the real and fake readers. And ultimately, the love of books will prevail as more reading audience will be generated in a fun-filled atmosphere of bookworms. Who says reading can’t be fun?