Despite the challenges facing publishing in the country, foremost Nigerian publisher, University Press Plc, last Wednesday, celebrated her 70th anniversary, amid pomp fare at Kakanfo Conference Centre, 1 Nihinlola Street, off Joyce B Road, Ring Road, Ibadan, with prominent writers published by the company present.
Dr Lalekan Are, Chairman of University Press, in his address of welcome, said the company was deeply convinced that an occasion like that would not only give it the opportunity to thank their writers for keeping faith with it through these years, but it also offered an opportunity for the company to reflect on the state Nigeria “with a view to making our own contributions to its development through interactions here today.”
He recalled that the company started business as the Nigerian branch of Oxford University Press (OUP), United Kingdom, in 1949, with the name, Oxford University Press (OUP), Nigeria, with the aim of selling OUP Publications in Nigeria. Later, it began to publish books locally for Nigerian market. The titles published then, he said, were literary and curriculum-based books targeted at educational institutions and the general public.
Tracing the trajectory of the company, he said, from indigenising its titles in 1963 with the publication of Oladiipo Yemtan’s Ijala Ara Ode, he said, following the Indigenisation Decree of 1978, it University Press Limited, and was listed on the Nigerian Stock Market the same year. Today, it has depot showrooms in 22 states of Nigeria.
Addressing the stakeholders of the company, he said, “We recognise the fact that our relationships with some of you dates back to the years of Oxford University Press. We appreciate your loyalty and confidence in us.”
Continuing, he said, “Through the publication of books on culture and traditions of our people, University Press has contributed its own quota to this noble and invaluable service of the publishing industry to the preservation of the culture of our people. Examples of such books include How our Forefathers Lived, Egba and their Neigbours, Anu Ebu Nwa, Omalinze, Oju Osupa, Gandum Dabbobi, Asa ati Ise Yoruba, asa Ibile Yoruba, among others.”
The chairman enjoined the Federal Government of Nigeria and government at other tiers to make concrete efforts towards supporting the publishing industry in Nigeria through appropriate legal framework especially in the area of copyright protection. If the menace of piracy and copyright infringements is not addressed, the publishing industry will continue to face a herculean battle for the survival and the flow of intellectual contributions to the development of the country will be affected as intellectual minds are deprived of the rewards of their efforts.
Niyi Osundare, a renowned poet and professor of English at the University of New Orleans, USA, presented the anniversary lecture entitled “African Diaspora, Brain Flight and our Republic of Letters.”
On his part, Professor Chukwuemeka Ike enjoined Nigerian writers to face their challenges locally instead going abroad to publish their works. “Even those of us who have the opportunity of being published by foreign publishers have suffered a lot from what we received from them,” he said.
Lending her voice, Prof Akachi Ezeigbo commended the growth of the University Press, Ibadan. “70 years of excellence in publishing in the country is not a mean feat. When it comes to publishing, there are certain words that we used to describe them. They are: dependable, competent, reliable, loyal, etcetera, to their authors.
“This is the only publishing company that gives royalties every year. No matter how small it is, you get your royalty at the end of the year. Also, despite the poor economy, the company has always paid dividends to her shareholders and we pray that the company will continue to grow from strength to strength and their best is yet to come.”
Managing Director, Samuel Kolawole, in his vote of thanks, commended Dr Lekan Are for his contribution to the growth and success of UP PLC, because, without that leadership over the years, the company wouldn’t stand the test of time. “Our authors and customers, printers and all other partners in the business of publishing, we appreciate you for supporting the company all these years,” he said.