By Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
When former footballer and master dribbler, JayJay Okocha, was asked to memorise the script for a TV commercial, he said, “What will I do with this? My gift is not in talking but in using my feet,” and off he went running with an imaginary ball. The TV advert came out fine. Motivational speakers have consistently said that people should seek to discover the area of their gifting, develop such and apply diligence, dedication and integrity in utilising it. They further assure that success ultimately follows as the person uses the gift to create value, touch lives and make impact. Kelechi Anyalechi is a social entrepreneur and one of a select group of individuals helping Nigeria stake out a place on the global new economy through what is now described as social enterprise organisations. Like his father who is a retired chartered accountant and prolific writer, Anyalechi is an author of several books. He is a life coach and much sought after public speaker, who is also the Founder of REVAMP Africa as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Young High Flyers Coaching Academy and Kelechi Anyalechi Coaching Academy. Recently, he featured in a programme held by the United States Embassy for young leaders. In this interview, he bares his mind on how to encourage reading culture among young people.
Someone once said that if you want to hide something from a Black man you put it in a book because Blacks don’t read. What’s your view on this?
I grew up with this mindset, but I have come to see that it’s not an issue of race. In my personal and professional interaction with people from different races and backgrounds, I realise that it is more of a global problem. My books have reached over 100,000 people around the world. I have received feedback from many of them including children, teenagers, and their parents. If people do not read, they would not buy books.
What was the reading culture during your primary and secondary school days?
I will say that the reading culture then was much better. We were taught how to read right from primary school days. I do not see much of that happening now. Technology has also affected this in some way because people find it easier to find answers to their questions through platforms like Google Search, YouTube, etc. People read now, but the focus is different. All thanks to social media.
What was it like growing up around a father who was a prolific writer despite being a chartered accountant?
It was a beautiful experience for me. The fact that my dad (a chartered accountant) could write books and other articles made it easier for me to hone my skills, despite my career background. I watched my dad put together many articles. You would see him holding up papers and pen from time to time. His manuscripts then were handwritten. They looked rough, but the output was always beautiful. He played a major role in my aspiration to become a writer and author. He is proud of what I have achieved in my capacity as a writer and author.
At what point did you begin to feel the tug to start write?
I have been writing from my secondary school days. I used to write poems, love notes and other articles. I love to write about different things. I will just write and keep them for personal use. I was dealing with inferiority complex at that time, and it made me shy away from joining my school’s editorial board. I made just few contributions to our school magazines. When I graduated from the university, I felt a stronger urge to solve some critical Nigerian issues. I started writing an article called, ‘The New Nigeria of Our Dreams.’ I did not quite get to publish that book, but I wrote extensively on it. In 2011, I had a major career shift towards human capacity development. I was convinced that I had a message for my world. I decided to publish my first book, so that my words could go beyond my physical presence. By 2012, I published my first book, ‘A More Excellent Way to Achieve Your Goals.’ By God’s grace, I have published about 15 books now and many more as a ghost writer.
Many in the 40-years age bracket and upwards grew up reading titles in the African Literary Series, Ladybird Books, Mills and Boons, James Hadley Chase, etc, Clearly the reading culture in Nigeria is gasping for breath. What can be done to revive reading culture among young people?
It begins from the home. Parents can develop the culture in their children. There are times my son is given assignment and he is told in school to use Google Search at home for answers. When he returns home, I ensure he uses a dictionary or the appropriate textbook to find his answers. He is almost seven years old, and I want him to grow up with such mindset. Technology is good and has come to stay. However, balance is key. Parents can encourage children to read both physical copies and eBooks. A more informed child would grow up to be more resourceful. We need to create opportunities in the home front, schools and through other creative platforms to revive the reading culture. I founded an initiative, REVAMP Africa. One of our main goals is to improve the reading culture in Nigeria. We have been at it since 2016 and the results have been remarkable.
Leaders are supposed to be readers. How can Corporate Nigeria help in reviving the reading culture since today’s young people will be tomorrow’s CEOs, governors, technocrats and professionals?
There are many young people who want to read, but their parents cannot afford the usual textbooks, not to talk of self-help books that would shape their lives positively. I would like to commend Access Bank Plc for a remarkable work they have been doing in this regard. Since 2018, they have partnered with us in driving the reading culture in secondary schools. They donate books to the students. Some of their members of staff spend quality time in reading and learning sessions with the students in their classes. Their partnership with us has impacted over 90,000 students across the country. Nestle Nigeria Plc. has done a great work with us as well. At present, we are working together to reach 10,000 students across the country through the same initiative. More organisations can come on board and do more to assist this critical need. On some occasions, we had an Executive Director from Access Bank read with the students in some classes. Imagine the impact it had on the children. More professionals and technocrats can do this. They can support similar initiatives. Beyond financial support, their physical presence can drive the lessons deeper. When they share the positive impact of reading with the children on their career growth, the impact will be felt more.
Children love toys, especially in this digital age. Why are we not seeing more incorporation of reading apps into affordable tablets for young people, to encourage them to interact with eBooks?
Having such eBooks in tablets is an amazing idea. I think that the challenge is making some of those eBooks more interactive and interesting to read. It is an opportunity that many people can take advantage of. I would not want to let out so much on this (smiles).
I read on your Facebook wall that you participated in a recent programme at the United States Embassy. What benefits did you gain from the programme? How did you get involved in it?
The event was organised by the United States Consulate for select Young African Leaders. I am a YALI alumnus, having undergone an emerging leaders training programme organised for social entrepreneurs across Africa. The event was organised to strengthen our relationship with the US Consulate and seek ways to improve our impact around the country.
Where do you want to see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself making more global impact than I am currently. I am multi-gifted, and I operate optimally in all of them. In five years, I want to have impacted millions of people around the world through the expressions of my gifts and profession as a Christian, executive coach, author, corporate coach, and youth development expert. In five years, I would have published 10 more books and have the ones I have published previously translated into multiple languages.