A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Ali, has called on Nigerians to imbibe the habit of reading books consistently and to see the book as an instrument for national integration.
Ali made the call while delivering the keynote lecture at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Publishers Association recently held at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
Ali’s lecture, themed, The Book: An instrument for national integration, focused on the history of the book, its importance and how it can help to tackle the challenges of nationhood and to promote national integration in Nigeria.
Stressing the importance of books in the modern society, he said, “Books play a significant role in our lives. They say that “when you open a book, you open a new world”. I believe that everyone would agree with this statement as books have become inevitable to mankind. For the majority of people, books are part of their everyday life.
“A book is like a best friend who will never walk away from you. A book communicates knowledge, and not only knowledge but wisdom of all kinds. They say that the more you read, the more well-read you are. In simple terms what this means is that the more you read, the more exposed you are, your attitudes, your ideas and your imagination changes.
“I believe that peoples’ personality, behaviour, ideas and knowledge are all built on the books they have read. Nothing can add to our intellect more than reading a book. A man of extensive reading is a man of culture. Readers, in other words, are active, while non-readers-more than half the population-have settled into apathy.”
Ali also urged Nigerian authors to play an important role in national integration by publishing literature that questions the injustice, imbalances and other issues that have been affecting national integration in the country.
Listing the various ways by which books could be used to foster national integration, he said, “Books may be used to create awareness and understanding of our evolving social and physical environment, its natural, man-made, cultural and spiritual resources, together with the national use and conservation of these resources for national development.
“Books aid the citizenry to develop a capacity to learn and acquire certain basic skills including not only those of listening, speaking, reading and writing, but also the skills of observation, analysis and inference, which are essential to the forming of a sound social, economic and political judgment.
“Books help to ensure that the masses acquire the relevant body of facts and information which is an essential prerequisite to personal knowledge. They may be employed to assist the citizens to develop a sympathetic appreciation of the diversity and interdependence of all members of the local community and the wider national and international community.
“Books help in the development of a positive attitude of togetherness, comradeship and cooperation towards a healthy nation, as well as the inculcation of appropriate values of honesty, integrity, hard work, fairness and justice as one’s contribution to the development of the national goals.”
Arguing that certain challenges affecting national integration, such as ethno-religious crises and the ongoing insurgency in the North-East, would easily be tackled if Nigerians imbibed a healthy habit for reading books, the keynote speaker added, “Through reading, the knowledge that is essential for worthwhile living in the society is gained from the writers’ perspective. This makes the readers have a better understanding of their environment and consequently, function in the environment more effectively.
“With the knowledge disseminated through books, most Nigerians, as expected, would realise the importance of all the ethnic groups uniting together and living together to promote national integration.
“Also, reading aids the development of thinking and decision-making abilities, critical thinking and the ability to analyse and solve problems. With the skills learnt by the Nigerians, they will be able to take major decisions that would solve the challenges of national integration in the country.
“Again, a good writer strives to produce functional and effective books that could help to improve the society better than he met it. This is done through finding solutions to the daily problems in the society.
“It is, therefore, assumed that with the skills being put into the literary work, Nigerians would be able to realise that uniting together and seeing themselves as one and all the members of the various ethnic groups speaking with one voice would promote peace, unity and stability in the country. Consequently, national integration would be enhanced.”
Ali called on the government at all levels and other stakeholders to encourage the publication of books, encourage authors, protect intellectual property and to build more libraries, especially in the rural areas, so as to sustain the reading culture in the country.
“Given the heterogeneous nature of our country, books that promote unity in diversity, nationalism, patriotism and other positive values, which also tells a lot about the different peoples and culture and the similarities, should be written,” he said.