I have always had a natural fascination for literary arts and, particulary, literature.As a teenager in St Patrick’s College, Calabar, I used to write poems which I handed over to our Literature in English Teacher then, Mr. Aglais Joseph – an Indian to review for me. Along the line, I compiled them into a collection and wrote a letter to the Comissioner for Education for publication.
The Commissioner then, Dr. Effanga James Usua requested me to submit my manuscript to him for onward transmission to either Longman or Evans Publishers. Somehow, I lost interest and stopped the process. However, because some prominent people noticed my talent and inclination, I was introduced to Professor Ime Ikiddeh , a leading literary critic then of the Department of English and literary studies, University of Calabar for mentorship. Mr. Ikiddeh, as he was then opened his rich library to me and lent me his books. That is how he motivated me to read almost all the books in the African Writers Series (AWS).
The next phase of my romance with literary arts was during my sojourn as an undergraduate in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I got drawn to one of the leading hotheads in the campus, Olu Oguibe who, though a fine artist, also wrote poems. Olu, now a Professor, became my mentor, critiqued my poems. I also related very closely with Ike Okonta who was a postgraduate student in my department. We were regular guests at “Anthill”, an outpost within the University campus where artists; writers, poets, dramatists, musicians and dancers gathered weekly to express themselves. That was where I realised that there was an “intrinsic value in gathering to read”.
On a certain evening in 2015, as I took a walk around the environment where the residential estate I live is located, I was shocked at the revelry around me. I was inundated by the noise oozing from several drinking spots – bars, sit – outs, eateries and “joints”! The seeming reign of the culture of debauchery and attendant noise got me thinking about something antithetical to that low culture. It also struck me that our people were no longer reading books, except maybe reading religious devotions during family prayers and on Sundays. I was inspired to start a movement to promote a culture of leisure which, at the same time, has a capacity to refine the sensibilities of people. A culture of public reading. Such a high culture, in my estimation, would create a community of like – minds with a view to growing it to become a hub of people who would redefine the standards of general behaviour in our society.