VP Osinbajo reads for the students with Mrs Kalango watching

Olive Obioma

Since it kicked off the “Get Nigeria Reading Again!” campaign with Chimamanda Adichie in 2005, and continued in 2006 with Wole Soyinka, the Rainbow Book Club has not relented in its bid to pioneer various exciting initiatives to encourage reading in Nigeria with particular attention to children and youths.

This time, the Port Harcourt-based outfit has enlisted participation from no less an organisation than the presidency. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo read to children from a biography of Nigeria’s first President, Nnamdi Azikiwe. The occasion was UN World Book & Copyright Day, on Monday, April 23. Rainbow Book Club founder, Koko Kalango, moderated the event.

April 23 is an important date in Nigeria’s history. It was a day Port Harcourt became the UNESCO World Book Capital four years ago. It was the Rainbow Book Club that took the bold step to make this application on behalf of Nigeria. The book club also managed the year-long project featuring 24 programmes around books and reading. Over the 12 years of existence the book clubs has established and run over 200 book clubs in primary and secondary schools, set up 13 libraries, organised trainings for over 500 book club facilitators, organised over 42 reading and writing exercises to groom upcoming writers and published some of them. It has also promoted established writers.

In addition, the Rainbow Book Club has consistently organised the Port Harcourt Book Festival (formerly the Garden City Literary Festival) since 2008.

The venue for today’s reading was a public primary school, the L.E.A. Primary School, Life Camp, Abuja. Also present at the reading were the Minister for Education Adamu Adamu, the Minister for the FCT Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello and a UNESCO representative Ifeayin Ajaegbo.

VP Osinbajo read to a class of upper primary students and interacted with them for about 90 minutes. From the discussion on the life of Nnamdi Azikiwe the children pointed out important lessons they had learnt on humility, hard work and perseverance. They also recognised the man popularly called “Zik” as a symbol of unity in Nigeria. For though he was Igbo but spoke Hausa and Yoruba. The fact that Zik rose above all odds to become Nigeria’s first president was indeed very significant to the children.

The students also had questions for the Vice President like: How did he spend his day? Did he have time for his family? When he was a child did his mother beat him? Was he bullied as a child? How will he fight corruption in Nigeria?

The Vice President graciously responded to the children who then represented him with a card they had made specially for him. The visit ended with a group photograph with all the children and teachers.

Readers in past events organised by RBC has included Jesse Jackson, Wole Soyinka, Oby Ezekwesili, Emeka Anyaoku, federal ministers, a governor, captains of industries and celebrities.
––Obioma writes from Port Harcourt