By Mary Jonas

The city of Uyo, through the UYO BOOK CLUB initiative in Akwa Ibom state, ably pioneered by Dr Udeme Nana played host to the literary community in Nigeria as they trooped into the city from across the country for their 2022 national conference, with the theme, NIGERIA AND AFRICAN STORIES: HOW THEY FARE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE.

It was a movement, a bibliophilic movement. It was a feast for intellectuals and those who cared to join them.

The first on the agenda on the opening day – a training for Librarians set the tone for the conference, with the title; TRENDS AND RESOURCES ORGANIZATION FOR EASY RETRIEVAL IN LIBRARIES, with professor Felicia Etim moderating. She was ably assisted by Dr Mercy Ukpanah and Dr Enang. That technical session , which started at 9 in the morning was a creative way of filling the gap in the build-up to the formal opening ceremony. This ensured that the Mandela Hall was busy and dignitaries who came early for the opening ceremony were not disappointed because they witnessed and even participated in that session. Interactions, meet-ups, ideas and the way forward followed.

The table was set, and the feasting had begun.

The people; Professors, Doctors, both of medicine and philosophy, Lawyers, Entrepreneurs, bankers, teachers, students, traditional institutions, all and sundry, who had one thing in common, their love for books, converged. The venue became a hall filled with eager and excited readers.

This convergence had depth!
The keynote, the speeches, the spoken words, the cultural displays, the books displayed, the memorandum of understanding signed, the panel sessions which attracted participants from across the global community, the passion, the enthusiasm, the love displayed and the food.
The sightseeing was mind-blowing.

The visit to the ABAK BOOK CLUB was dearest to my heart, as we were privileged to host the national delegates in the Abak library, our reading space. This initiative has revived the Library at Abak and a once abandoned facility now beckons to readers to embrace its existence. That, on its own, is an achievement. A son of the soil, Dr Uwemedimo Umanah came around to give his support.

The movement proceeded to Topfaith Schools, Mkpatak. What a mental stimulation that afforded us on the tour.
The library, the zoo, the entire ambience!
One man’s creativity! One man’s vision. I saw joy and satisfaction written through the Chairman of Topfaith Schools and University, Dr. Emmanuel Abraham as he took his visitors around the landmarks – the 10,000 capacity Hall, the intentional seating arrangement in the hall, which also applied to the hostels, the Library and the zoo! Why won’t students who pass through Topfaith lead the pack in examinations like WAEC, SSCE , UTME and other examinations?

At the University, we drove through the well paved, well-organized macadamized streets within the Campus, the well-appointed Staff Quarters, The Hub, a one-stop Cafeteria for students, the faculty buildings, the farm ; good thinking, planning and execution of well-thought-out plans came through. U begin to wonder why it is such a challenge for public institutions with arguably much more resources to put down facilities and maintain them as seen in Topfaith Schools and University.
Then Ikot Ekpene beckoned and received us into the reading feast in the Raffia city Book Club.

That intellectual feasting was rounded off with sumptuous plantain and rich tomato source, garnished with very healthy proteins. Local palm wine, groundnuts and nyah(garden eggs), a typical Annang delicacy. A vital takeaway from Raffia City was the presence of big wigs from the Community who were inducted as Patrons of Raffia City Book Club by the Progenitor of the Book Club movement in the State, Dr.Udeme Nana. The new Patrons included Dr. Emmanuel Abraham, Dr Iko Ibanga, Senator Engineer Emmanuel Ibokessien, Professor Felicia Etim and Professor (Bishop) Ahaziah Umanah. Mr Nsikak Essien, former Editor of National Concord Newspaper and Dr Cornelius Edet, a book enthusiast and others showed up for Raffia City Book Club. And the review by two young talents which gave a glimpse of the future.

The 2022 conference has left a very strong impression on my heart and I am encouraged to see that, THE BOOK CLUB INITIATIVE has caught on and is on the march to re-awaken the culture of reading among our people.
Thank you NBRP!
Thank you UYO BOOK CLUB!
Thank you Dr Udeme Nana for championing this Noble cause.
Thank you to everyone who made this movement possible.

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