Where is the Nigerian book of the year 2018?
Illiteracy, let’s get that behind us, is no longer a barrier to the consumption of literary productions.
Yet, this is not to say that illiteracy is not a sign of a country’s underdevelopment and backwardness.
Given the fact that allocation to education in the budget is less and less every year to teach us a less-on, illiteracy is going to remain with us for quite some time.
Don’t be like Alaba, Child Wiser Than Parent who said, when asked this question, without thinking,
“The Bible is Nigeria’s book of the year 2018.”
Be that as it may. What we are looking for is that book of fiction or history or political or social science, chronicling the concerns of Nigerians to the contemplation of Nigerians. Where is such a book?
Open a newspaper from anywhere across the world – South America, North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Near East, Far East (far for whom?) South Asia, North Asia, Japan, China and Australia and New Zealand – there is their book or books of the year. And on-line newspapers and magazines have also taken on the tradition of listing the important books of the year.
Many books were printed in Nigeria this year. Or perhaps better to say many books were printed by Nigerians this year and shipped into Nigeria.
Thereafter, there would be a book presentation – a group of men and women lined up as if on a firing line, holding the book to their stomach as if they were target indicators for those getting ready to shoot them.
Those holding the books in the newspaper photograph and others who missed the photo-opportunity would have launched the book by thousands if not millions of naira.
Sometimes, these days of show-off existence of I-better-pass-my-neighbour, pounds sterling and dollars – of the US of A, not of Zimbabwe – are also sprayed on books at book presentations.
After printing and presentation, the book is taken home and abandoned on some raggedy shelf.
Which tells anybody looking to see the book ever again that the structures do not exist for the existence of a book industry in Nigeria.
There are no publishing companies taking risks on new talents, publishing the works of new writers just coming out.
Bookshops stock various forms of the Bible, some with red ink, others with green ink and someone has even threatened to publish one with white ink on black paper.
Bible for daily readings, Bible for family records, Bible for weddings and marriages and even Bibles to take with you on that inter planetary journey to the moon.
Where do we get the books that teach us how to navigate the floods and rocky ways of this world of ours?
Does the book really matter in Nigeria? Someone writes a three-volume autobiography. Somewhere in one of those tomes, he affirms that God will not forgive him if he does one thing.
As they say sometimes, also in Nigeria, “Book no dey lie!” Those who read the book believed that yes, as we all look for the forgiveness of God, the author will never do what he claims God would not forgive him, if he does it.
A few years later in the tradition of Nollywood, our author does what God will not forgive for doing. Being merely humans we cannot claim what his God would do to the author. We would not be there.
After all the same author had claimed that if he had wanted a third term his God would have given him.
This against a plethora of evidence of his working assiduously for a third term and being stopped by the National Assembly.
So, there. But what about the importance of the book, the dependability of what is written? Is the book important in Nigeria?
As said above, many books were written, printed and presented in Nigeria this year. Let’s talk of two of them. MY TRANSITION HOURS is by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The other book is TRIUMPH OF DESTINY by Akinola, Oyedokun and Ajayi.
My Transition Hours has been described as being elementary and containing fiction.
Dr. Jonathan suggests an elaborate conspiracy that includes Barak Obama and the INEC that ensured that he lost the presidential election that brought Muhammadu Buhari to Aso Rock.
The author complained that there was already an on-line edition of his book edited to the particular malicious agenda of the thieves who stole his text.
“We advise the general public to ignore such publication as the chapters and contents are not the same as the book publicly presented two days ago in Abuja.”
In spite of the claim that this book is available in a bookshop near me, I have not found a copy in any bookshop near me.
Triumph of Destiny is about the life, times and comedy work of Moses Olaiya Adejumo on stage, on tv and in films.
For now it is good that it exists but at 118 pages or so, it is totally inadequate. Maybe one day someone will write a thousand page book on Baba Sala.
What we have right now is divided into ten chapters titled as follows: The Village, Lagos, Ibadan, Family Life, Ọrun Mooru, The Call, Oeuvres, On the Sands of Time, Recognition and Awards and I know Moses-Tributes.
This book is not available in the bookshops nearest to me. And unlike former President Jonathan’s book, it is not available on Google. All information received have been taken from cell phone calls.
It is impossible to choose either of these two books as the Nigerian book of the year 2018. One is an unproven conspiracy theory while the other is an inadequate coverage of a more deserving comic genius.
So, in the best tradition of the Nigerian military, the Nigerian book of the year 2018 is The Unknown Book! The unknown book slaps sense into its reader, wrestles it’s reader to rationality and leaves its reader more humble and willing to learn more than ever before that restructuring commences with self-reconstruction away from the ways of thieves and highway robbers.
It could be about abandoned projects. I don’t know. Nobody knows. It is the unknown book.
• Kole Omotoso, email@example.com