A literary club, Uyo Book Club, in Akwa Ibom State, has thrown up a challenge to its members – read 100 books in a year and win N100,000 cash.
The reading challenge, which began in January, is meant to encourage reading culture in the city.
Udeme Nana, the club founder, revealed this to guests who participated in the club’s book reading on August 29.
“Someone has put the prize money in the purse,” Mr Nana, a journalism teacher, said. “We are just waiting for the end of the year.”
The literary event which took place at Watbridge Hotel, Uyo, was attended by the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, Moses Ekpo, who was represented by his media aide, Ekikere Umoh.
Joe Ushie, a lecturer at the University of Uyo, took the gathering through the life and works of William Shakespeare, the legendary English playwright, poet, and actor.
“Shakespeare was almost unnoticed in the society he lived, even the birthdate was not known. But today he is in every village, courtesy of reading and writing,” said Mr Ushie, a poet and a professor of General Stylistics and Literary criticism.
“There is nothing greater than things that have to do with the brain… When you associate with intellect, you have associated with immortality.”
Mr Ushie said Nigeria could be a better place if only there was a “connection” between “intellectual inputs” and governance.
“Yes, I need money to buy a good car, a good house, and other good things of life. If the society cannot let me buy them I will endure. But if the society stops me from reading books, I can commit suicide,” he added.
Imabong Akpan, a radio personality who is a member of the club, asked Mr Ushie if William Shakespeare would have excelled the way he did if he were to be a Nigerian “at a time like this”.
“So large and very intelligent question,” Mr Ushie said.
The answer, he said, was “yes and no”.
“The system that we have found ourselves have killed so many talents,” he said.
“However, there are people who are still writing. The majority of them are the ones that are unnoticed… Wole Soyinka is there even though he did most of his work when the society was sane.”
Mr Ushie said after the likes of Wole Soyinka, Odia Ofeimun, Niyi Osundare, new writers have emerged in the Nigerian literary scene.
“When everybody is running away towards survival, we should stay in one little corner and keep the records of all the noise, all the hunger, all the injustice, all the deprivation. When all is over, the manuscript will be found and the world would be informed of what happened,” he said.
Ekong Sampson, a lawyer, author, and former commissioner for the environment in Akwa Ibom, is the patron of the Uyo Book Club and the owner of the hotel where the club’s meetings are held, free of charges, every month in a room that is interestingly named ‘Shakespeare Room’.
Mr Sampson condemned the military take-over of power in Mali and called on writers in Africa to rise in defence of democracy in the continent. “We must use literature to engender nation-building,” he said.
The Akwa Ibom deputy governor, Mr Ekpo, while commending the leaders and members of the Uyo Book Club, advised them to take their literary activities to schools around the state.
“The fact that we don’t read anymore means that we are losing fortunes,” Mr Ekpo said through his media aide, Mr Umoh.
The deputy governor announced a donation of N200,000 to the club, while copies of Ekǫñ Ñke – Our Stories, a book on Ibibio folktales, were presented to him by the club patron, Mr Sampson.
Ini Ubong, the author of Ekǫñ Ñke – Our Stories, and Inyang Jameson, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Information, Akwa Ibom State, were among the dignitaries at the event.
The book club, which started in 2015 at the verandah of Mr Nana’s home in Uyo, has grown in size and strength and has hosted notable writers, including Martin Akpan, a medical doctor, author, and the founder of the International Society of Doctors in Literature, and Jude Idada, a writer, filmmaker and the winner of the 2019 NLNG Prize in literature.
“The book club has helped me in broadening my horizon, the books and magazines in the club have been very insightful,” a member of the club, Iniobong Leroi, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“I have learned a lot about writing and have been encouraged to write more from my interactions with literary minds at the club.”