Wole Adedoyin, the president of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW), in this interview with
ADEWALE OSHODI, speaks on the organisation’s Read Across Nigeria (RAN)
project, while explaining the challenges he is facing in his efforts towards
promoting the reading
culture in the country.
W HAT is Read Across Nigeria (RAN) all about?
Read Across Nigeria (RAN) is an annual chain of events administered by the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW). We usually have a day devoted for readers and lovers of books across Nigeria to read any selected book.
It is also an avenue for promoting the reading culture in the country. Read Across Nigeria is held in schools, offices, markets, etc. Organisers can coordinate reading seminars, workshops, fora, symposia and conferences to celebrate the day.
We welcome events of any size and extend invitation to many societies and associations involved in book reading, as long as they agree to follow our guidelines with serious sense of purpose.
The main mission of this project, therefore, is to promote book reading through events like spelling bee, quiz contests and other mediums across the country. We welcome any individual, association, society or institution that is interested in the literary sector, and who wishes to join the cause and agree to follow our guidelines.
Our goal is to promote the book culture through reading activities and exercises. Coordination of this programme is open to both men and women to organise but one is free to design his event, as long as it reflects the common goal.
This year’s edition will be in honour and commemoration of Dr. Wale Okediran’s 61st birthday, which is coming up on April 14, 2016.
Dr. Wale Okediran is a former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and the Founder/Director of Ebedi International Writers Residency, Iseyin.
Who is the brain behind this project?
Read Across Nigeria is an initiative of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, and it is aimed at promoting the reading culture in the country through the works of Nigerian authors.
Read Across Nigeria is such a huge project, but what challenges have you been facing since you started?
There are lots of problems that we are encountering during the execution of the project. Problems like finance, mobilisation and discouragement from schools we’ve selected for the project. For example, in some schools in Oyo State, some do not have literary texts. They don’t have enough literary and educational books in their libraries. We all know that public school students don’t buy books. We had to provide some for them. Apart from this, the majority of the students don’t read. You can imagine secondary school Literature students who did not know that Things Fall Apart was written by Chinua Achebe. Not only that, the majority of them do not know authors like Amos Tutuola, T.M Aluko, Cyprian Ekwensi, Elechi Amadi, Mabel Segun etc. Some students don’t even know that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a great writer until I mentioned three of his books to them. So these are some of the challenges we are facing.
How have you been coping with all these challenges?
Dr. Okediran, as we all know, is a great literary figure in the country, who always supports every literary initiative that comes his way. He has been of tremendous help to this initiative. He is, indeed, a literary giant. Through him, we have been able to spread our tentacles across all the states of the federation. His personality really works for us. We have also made literature simple to secondary school students by coming up with graphical posters showing world authors and their books, as well as titles of best seller books. Students of schools we have been to can now identify our great literary giants and their works through the posters. Media houses, particularly the Nigerian Tribune, have also been of tremendous help to us in terms of publicity. For many years, they have been our backbone and have encouraged us in promoting reading and writing culture in Oyo State and Nigeria as a country. I also want to encourage the Federal Ministry of Education to make the works of famous people like Chief Awolowo available to schools.
Now, how far have you gone with the project?
Presently, we have covered almost 20 states of the federation, where friends, colleagues and associates of Dr Okediran reside. For example, in Oyo State, five groups are organising reading events in his honour, excluding the 31 secondary schools that are now holding their reading sessions in their different schools. We have them in Iseyin, Ogbomoso and Ibadan. So far, we have gotten various interest of participation from states like Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Anambra, Sokoto, Jos, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Niger, Kwara, Kano, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Borno, Bayelsa, Delta, to mention but a few. Like I said earlier, the personality of Dr. Okediran has been of tremendous help to this project. Friends of Dr. Okediran like Chineye Obi Obasi, Denja Abdulahi (present National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors), Dr. Tope Olaifa, Mr. Kofi Sackey, Prof. Abebe Kabir, Dr. Ngozi Chuma Udeh, among others, have really tried for the project.