The city of Port Harcourt, here in the heart of the Niger Delta, has just been declared the UNESCO World Book Capital City for 2014… The UNESCO Selection Committee chose Port Harcourt over ten (10) other world cities… We welcome UNESCO’s recognition of our collective efforts to revive the reading culture. I would also like to congratulate The Rainbow Book Club led by Mrs. Koko Kalango, for their vision in moving this now historic bid for a Nigerian city, Port Harcourt, to be the World Capital for books, in the year of our beloved nation’s centenary’.
President Jonathan was speaking at the launch of the Bring Back the Book campaign in his home state of Bayelsa on July 12. He was represented by the Federal Minister for Education (State), Barrister Nyesom Wike. The President kicked off his campaign in December 2010 with a reading for children, in company of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. The campaign trail has since made stops in major cities such as Benin and Abuja. Its latest outing in Yenagoa the Bayelsa State capital, coincides with 2 notable achievements in Nigeria’s literary life: the emerging of our 4th winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Rotimi Babatunde, as well as the emergence of Port Harcourt as UNESCO World Book Capital for 2014.
This bid, put forward by the Rainbow Book Club, emerged the winning proposal for ‘its focus on youth, and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books’ according to the UNESCO Selection Committee. Its success is historical as this is the first city in sub-saharan Africa, and the 2nd city in Africa (after Egypt) to be World Book Capital.
Yearly, since 2001, UNESCO nominates a city as World Book Capital for a period of one year. The winning city is usually chosen in recognition of the quality of programmes proposed to promote books and reading and the dedication of players in the book industry. This title is held from one UN World Book and Copyright Day (April 23) to the next. Previous cities have included Antwerp (Begium) and Montreal (Canada) and Bankock (Thailand).
Port Harcourt beat other prominent cities, including Lyon and Oxford, to clinch the title which it would hold in the year Nigeria turns 100. This should be a crowning glory to the centenary celebration of a nation that has given the world the first person of African descent to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the author of Africa’s most popular novel, Things Fall Apart, Prof. Chinua Achebe and many other twinkling stars in the literary sky.