The Nigerian Presidency, UNESCO, the Rivers State government and literary enthusiasts, have thrown their weight behind the Rainbow Book Club bid for Port Harcourt to be the UNESCO World Book Capital City in 2014; Nigeria’s centenary year. Koko Kalango, chairperson of the Port Harcourt World Book Capital City preparation committee and Founder of the Rainbow Book Club formally launched the city’s candidature in a press conference held at the Secretariat of the Ministry of Education, Port Harcourt on Friday 15 June 2012. Mrs. Kalango posited that winning the contest portends a ‘… window to a world of opportunities’, which is incidentally the theme of the bid. Port Harcourt is vying alongside 10 other countries.
In her welcome note, the honorable Commissioner for Education, Dame Lawrence-Nemi, remarked that Governor Amaechi, in his effort to promote a reading culture in the state has made education free and compulsory , she also spoke of the partnership between the state and the Rainbow Book Club to organize the annual Garden City Literary Festival.
Renowned author, poet and 1979 winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Poetry, Pa. Gabriel Okara, in an emotional appeal called on the UNESCO Director and Country Representative, to insist that Port Harcourt wins the bid as this will result in the harvest of more writers.
UNESCO Director and Country Representative, Dr. Joseph Ngu also commended the exercise; “the commitment on the part of the founder to bring back the book to our own door steps through such laudable projects as this bid is very encouraging”. He reiterated that the essence of the contest is the overall benefit of building a lively book culture.
Mr. President’s Bring Back the Book campaign was represented by Ms. Molara Wood, who read a letter of support from, Mr Oronto Douglas, Assistant to the President on Strategy, in which he pointed out ‘ ..the many laudable activities of the Rainbow Book Club key in very strongly into the citizen driven nature..’ of the President’s Bring Back the Book campaign.
Secretary General of PEN Nigeria, Oluwafiropo Ewenla captured the general mood of those present when in response to a question asked by a journalist, he asked ‘Why not Port Harcourt? Books have a present, past and future, this (Port Harcourt) is the future of books!’ Koko kalango in her closure reiterated that winning the bid will have a ripple effect not just in the Niger Delta and Nigeria but on the African continent as a whole.