About a fortnight ago, I mounted the podium to make preliminary remarks as my book, SCENTS OF POWER, was being presented to the public. But, overwhelmed by the galaxy of personalities before me, I chose instead to pay my respects to them for their love for me and interest in the intellectual work. I promised to make more remarks in the course of the event that day, especially as it concerned THE AMANZE OBI LITERACY FOUNDATION. However, I could not, owing to certain exigencies, return to the podium to conclude my remarks. I have, therefore, chosen to present it here to the public for the benefit of posterity.
But before I do that, l would like to recognize and acknowledge the fact that l am still far from covering enough ground in the area of acknowledging those who, in their quiet ways, played very supportive roles in the book project.
I have always had reason to speak nicely about Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the governor of Enugu State. Ugwuanyi is not just a man of peace, he is humble and kind. I connect with him with effortless ease. He was one of the two or three personalities that I discussed the book project with long before it became a reality. He encouraged me and promised to contribute to the success of the project. The governor did not disappoint. His early support effectively oiled the wheels of our preparations for the public presentation. I admire his good soul.
Peter Odili, the former governor of Rivers State, welcomed me with open arms at his Port Harcourt residence when I went to intimate him about the book project. He encouraged and supported the effort that went into the book. Some 14 years after leaving office, Odili has continued to donate and contribute to good causes. He deserves respect and commendation.
I must recognize and acknowledge the former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, in all this. Fashola, the affable and clear-headed man whose footprints as the governor of Lagos State are still etched in people’s memories, was represented at the event by my friend and professional colleague, Hakeem Bello. Hakeem was not quite happy with me over certain slips concerning the event. But I assured him that no harm was intended. It was all about human error. My apologies once again to Hakeem. Your principal is still the poster boy of Lagos politics. I appreciate his interest in and support for my book project.
Mr. Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, has always identified with me. When I was to present my second book eight years ago, Obi was one of the personalities that gave me early support. When we wanted to throw open the gates of a hotel in Owerri six years ago, he was on hand to commission the project. He could not personally grace the occasion this time, but he sent a first class brain and first female professor of Mass Communication in Africa, Chinyere Okunna, to represent him. Obi’s presence loomed large even in his absence on that day.
I have reason to thank a lot more people. We shall return to that in due course.
Meanwhile, here is the presentation that I failed to make on October 12, 2021 . It reads:
“I am concerned today about the death of the reading culture in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it has become axiomatic that majority of Nigerians do not read. This worrisome state of affairs reminds me of the age-old postulation of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Bacon, an English philosopher and statesman, once said that reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. By full men, Bacon means that extensive reading fills the mind with information and ideas, which inspire and provide for further thought and lead to new ideas.
“But I am not, in this gathering, searching for a ready man or an exact man in the context of Bacon’s theory. To seek to do so will be a tall order. I only seek to find and cultivate full men who, through reading, will help in our quest to enthrone a knowledge-driven society.
“In the course of writing this book, and in preparing for today’s event, I have had to say that l have spent the last 30 years of my life juggling between academics, journalism and public service. I have devoted enormous energy and attention to the first two. My involvement, so far, in the third leg of my triple engagements can at best be described as tenuous. I plan to improve on it, if circumstances permit.
“While we wait for circumstance to take its course, I must say that my greatest pull at moment revolves around writing and publishing. I plan to take my academic engagements a notch higher. This has informed the setting up of the AMANZE OBI LITERACY FOUNDATION, which will get a mention in the course of our engagement today.
“Since I cannot review my own book, I will restrain myself from delving into the finer details of the book we are unveiling today. Suffice it to say that I am using this publication as a launch pad. The book is already an international export. Soon, Amazon, Waterstones, libraries and online (Android and iOS) platforms will have so much to harvest from the sale of the book.
“However, I am aware of the fact no author can find fulfillment if his book is not read. Unfortunately, the reading culture in Nigeria, as we already noted, has practically collapsed. This ugly situation has consigned reading to the ash heaps of irrelevance.
“My mission in the years ahead is to tackle this cankerworm. This informed the setting up of the literacy foundation that I alluded to earlier. We plan to go far with our campaigns and advocacy. We also plan to set up a state-of-the-art library that will serve the reading public. Therefore, while I invite you to join me in making the public presentation of my new book a resounding success, I equally invite you to identify with us as we strive, selflessly and patriotically, to stamp out the dying reading culture in Nigeria. Indeed, I am searching, not for the ready man or the exact man in the way Bacon packaged them. Rather, I am searching for full men. I do hope that our engagement here today will win some converts in this direction.”
This was to be my message on that day. It is still my message today.
The story of a presentation to end all presentations continues.