By Gilbert Ekezie
Members of Book Sellers Association Ajegunle, Lagos State (BAALAS), controller of the largest educational books market in Africa, have frowned at the taking over of their business by the publishers, lamenting that the activities of some mushroom or private publishers who market their products directly to schools have resulted in low sales and are almost ruining their business.
They stated this recently during their election held at Ajegunle Lagos State. The newly elected chairman of the association, Mr Valentine Uche Asiemeonwu, who, in his address, expressed gratitude on the confidence members of the association have in him by re-electing him to serve for another three years, regretted that, instead of supplying books to the booksellers, many publishers now supply to schools directly.
In the past, he said BAALAS relationship with publishers was not cordial, as some publishers were scared of coming to Ajegunle to make supplies due to piracy. “But today, the story has changed, because I drew them closer through seminars to identify other problems and what can be done to bring piracy to a barest minimum. Today, we have good business relationship with them,” he said.
Asiemeonwu emphasised that booksellers were vendors who should serve the final consumers with varieties of books and the publishers. “Initially, proprietors come to us and read the contents of our books and make choice, then recommend to their schools to buy from us; but that is no more happening due to publishers’ interference,” he complained.
He, therefore, vowed that the present leadership of BAALAS will ensure that supply of educational books would be from the author–publishers–booksellers–schools, then to the end users, even as he appealed to publishers to reduce their prices. “The books should also be available for us because in some cases, the publishers do not meet our demands,” he said.
According to him, in the life of every human being, there are always hurdles, but after all challenges, the election turned out be peaceful and the best in the history of booksellers. “We did not have enough members, but, with me, there are more members in the association. Ajegunle ranks highest in the sale of educational books in Africa, and I have been supporting the association,” he said.
The BAALAS Chairman, who was sworn in immediately with other elected officers, explained that it was during his first tenure the association got a secretariat and promised to secure a permanent site before the end of his second tenure, “I promise to ensure that BAALAS has her own building in future, because, once one is growing, you need a permanent place.
He also promised to continue organising business, education and health seminars for their members in order to be abreast with the recent happening in both business and social sectors.
Mr Felix Uneke Chukwu and Ihechukwu Ifeanyi emerged as Vice Chairman and General Secretary, respectively, after the election. Chairman of the electoral committee, Engr. Ibe Uzochukwu Benjamin, expressed happiness that the election was conducted in a peaceful manner, having called on the winners to exhibit leadership qualities that would give all members sense of belonging.
Ibe also charged the newly elected officers to live above board by making the bookselling business more attractive, advising them to move the association forward. “The newly elected officers should start from the grassroots to educate members because we lack education here. We sell books, but do not read them. So, with education, the association will move further,” he said.