It was a test of juvenile wits recently at the Simeon Adebayo Library, Abeokuta, as students from Ogun State debated on the implications of social media on reading habits of students. Held by the Ogun State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), in pursuance of the 2019 ANA/Yusuf Ali Reading Campaign, the programme drew participants from fifteen private and public schools in the state.
From the fifteen schools that sent in entries on the theme of the reading campaign –”Social Media Have Been Catalyst to Positive Reading Culture”–the Vice Chairman of ANA Ogun State, Dotun Adekoya, informed the house that two students each from four schools were chosen to speak for and against the motion.
It was a keenly contested debating competition that tested the composure and delivery of the students and how they marshalled out their points. At the end of the day, Jenti Alesepeloluwa of Nawarudeen Grammar School, Solu, Ifo, came first, while Adichie Victoria of Mayflower College, Ikene, came second. The third position went to Udoh Precious of Comprehensive High School, Mowe.
Witnessed by Mrs Kemi Adesina, Zonal Education Officer, Abeokuta South LGA, who represented the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, the event began with Mrs M.A.C. Okolo, a teacher, inviting teachers to make submissions on the theme of the programme, of which three teachers contributed, all emphasising the need for children to imbibe reading culture early in life through books kept at home by parents.
Popular grassroots journalist and writer, Dada Olanipekun, who chairs the state chapter of the association, informed that it was the second time the readability project was happening under his watch. He said, “It looks as if we are the luckiest state chapter in the country today, because, most of the time when we attend the national meeting of ANA, they praise us because of the inputs of writers.
“In the course of our business, we have read to Obasanjo; we have read to Soyinka. The last time we read to Soyinka was when he was marking his 85th birthday. We were invited by Soyinka himself.”
He proudly announced that Ogun State was blessed with prominent writers in Wole Soyinka and Olusegun Obasanjo. “Soyinkas and Obasanjos, no matter their level of disagreement, are writers, and they are in this state. They are our emeritus. We are lucky in this state. If we could have Soyinka as a writer in this state; if we could have Obasanjo in this state, it shows the level of creativity in the state,” he remarked.
Part of the readability concept, he said, was to tap students and teachers to be members of the association. He revealed that the association, during its poetry festivals in the past, had visited secondary schools in the state to read to them, resulting in new members joining the writers’ tribe. “Part of why we are here is that we want to tap those of you who are students. We want to bring the writer in you out,” he remarked.
He recalled that the famous Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, was a student at Makerere University, Uganda, when he encountered the visiting Nigerian genius, Chinua Achebe. Before then, the former’s classic, Weep Not Child, was in manuscript form.
But after that encounter with the Nigerian in the university, who read his manuscript, Achebe was stunned by his brilliance, and was shocked to learn Ngugi actually wrote that before entering the university. Achebe subsequently published it in the famous Heinemann African Writers Series
Olanipekun announced that ANA runs a publishing company and, to encourage these young writers, it would gladly publish their works. He noted that ANA Ogun was part of the thirteen state chapters out of the thirty chapters of the association in the country encouraged by the Yusuf Ali funds to prosecute the campaign this year.
He also thanked the Ogun State Government for supporting the event, which created a mixture of public and private schools that participated in the programme. Besides, he appreciated the support of the state Ministry of Education for including books of ANA members in the syllabus for 2019, 2020 and 2021. He, as well, urged the Ogun State Government to include the books of ANA members from the state in the books promised to be donated by it across the state.
Olanipekun, Adekya and a group, Campus Players, from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, who performed a poem entitled “Social Media: A Double Edged Sword”, were among those who thrilled the audience with readings.