The Federal Republic of Nigeria


Africa’s most populous nation with some 140,003,542 persons (2007) embraces 250 ethnic groups. These peoples have a rich cultural heritage spanning 2,000 years. The British ruled from the 1860s to 1960. After independence ethnic tensions increased, deepened by the rift between the poor (predominantly Muslim) north and the more prosperous (predominantly Christian and/or traditional faiths) south. Civil war raged from 1967 to 1970, when the Ibo fought unsuccessfully for autonomy as the Republic of Biafra. The establishment of separate states-30 by 1992-has helped accommodate diverse peoples. But in the mid-1980s overreliance on oil had brought Nigeria close to bankruptcy.

A military regime came to power, supposedly intent on liberalizing the economy and eliminating corruption. President Ibrahim Babangida promised a return to civilian rule, but the 1993 elections were annulled and he was forced to resign. Finally, after nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed under President Obasanjo who was reelected in April 2003.

General elections in April 2007 were considered significantly flawed by Nigerian and international observers but they marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country’s history. President Umaru Musa YAR’ADUA took office on 29 May 2007 (CIA World Factbook).

GLP & The Reading Association of Nigeria

The “Culture of Reading” Campaign

The Origins of a Book Scarcity Culture in Nigeria

In 1966, the Nigerian military took over the governance of the country. This eventually led to the collapse of the Nigerian economy. By late 1980s the Nigerian school system was in serious decline and by 1991, it was a mere shadow of what it used to be. The acute and endemic culture of scarcity of basic goods and services that came to characterize the the Nigerian economy reverberated extensively in the book industry. Indigenous publishing houses collapsed. Many foreign publishing houses in Nigeria folded up and left. Soon books became one of the most expensive commodities to own. School and community libraries collapsed becoming simply rooms with empty book shelves. Mobile libraries funded by state governments ceased to exist. Of course the idea of classroom libraries died with this collapse. They devaluing of the Nigerian currency was the last straw–it led to the total absence of books in Nigerian schools and colleges. It was also absolutely impossible to import books from outside Nigeria. Learning in Nigerian schools became sham and mimicry for there was no way formal education could be meaningful without books.

The Reading Association of Nigeria Books Without Borders Campaign

In 2001 the Reading Association of Nigeria (RAN) hosted the Second Pan African Reading for All conference in Abuja. Conferees who visited Nigerian primary schools in Abuja were stunned and shocked to see teachers and children striving to operate in schools without books. In order to make books available to the Nigerian schools one of the conferees, Fiona Lovatt from New Zealand, suggested the need to set up a “Books Without Borders” campaign website that would share information on the dearth of books in Nigerian schools and colleges with sympathetic individuals and groups from all over the world and would solicit for books for Nigerian school children.

Fiona Lovatt would eventually also send in a 40 foot container of books from New Zealand. This set of books targeted the general reading needs of primary and secondary school pupils and their teachers.

The Global Literacy Project-Reading Association of Nigeria Partnership

The Global Literacy Project was the first to respond to the campaign website. GLP not only got in touch with RAN but in 2002 also invited its president, Dr. C. E. Onukaogu to visit our base in New Brunswick, New Jesey (USA). Dr Onukaogu reported favorably about GLP to the RAN executive board. Subsequently, RAN and GLP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU has been an enabling instrument for the GLP/RAN venture to give Nigerian school children access to books.

In order to make good its promise, GLP has already sent in a 40 foot container of books to RAN. Some 80% of the books were delivered to the shipment’s primary sponsor, Joseph Ayo Babalola University (JABU) at Ikeji Arakeji in Osun state while the remainder (20%) were for RAN’s direct use for primary and secondary school libraries.

  • The GLP book gift to JABU literally created the core of JABU’s University Library, providing the first set of books available to its two hundred and forty pioneer students. Without the GLP book gift, under the regulations of Nigeria’s tertiary sector, the new university would have tragically been unable to open for its first students!
  • The other 20% of the GLP books was a comprehensive, integrated reading system especially selected to create a systematic reading program for selected primary and secondary school students in 20 Nigerian schools.

The book gifts from GLP and Fiona Lovatt’s “Books without Borders” now form the core of the Reading Association of Nigeria’s “Culture of Reading ” campaign.