Friday, 21 February 2014

Epic film, Invasion 1897 to lift tourism potentials of 198-year Enogie Obazagbon’s palace

By Anote Ajeluorou

Most of the ancient architecture in sub-Sahara Africa usually made of mud, easily falls prey to the elements and begins to crumble after a few years. As such there are not many buildings that stand as legacy to a glorious African past. But the Binis of Edo State, especially the royal and priestly stock, stand as a contrast to this. The architecture of the ancient Binis stands as a testament to time, with their sturdy walls that defy the elements in their monumental but simple grandeur.
  So that when filmmaker, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, decided to shoot a film on a proud African monarch, unarguably the last independent African king, Oba Ovoranmwen Nogbaisi, who resisted the British incursion into African affairs, titled Invasion 1897, he was raking up history. When he chose to use Enogie Eki Iyawe’s palace in Obazagbon in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area on the outskirts of Benin City , as setting for the embattled Ovoranmwen, Imasuen was merely re-enacting the history of a displaced monarch in a palace he probably visited and which was left untouched by the invading British in their punitive expenditure of 1897.
  At the Enogie of Obazabgon’s palace is this enduring architecture that stands visible and lonesome in its shinny red mud earth and low-hanging zinc rooftop in gazebo-like fashion. With modern brick houses springing up all around, Enogie Eki Iyawe’s palace is something of a picturesque delight. Slightly modeled after the sprawling Oba’s palace a few hundred metres from where it took root, Obazagbon’s palace is like a magician’s conjuration from the distant past. Within its walls, too, is part of ancient Benin history traceable to Oba’s royal palace just as it predates Oba Ovoranmwen Nogbaisi, who was infamously deposed in 1897 by the invading British imperialists.
  It was Oba Osemwende, who in 1816 revoked the tradition prevalent at the time to execute his younger brother, Iyawe, who might nurse the idea of plotting to overthrow him. Oba Osemwende was said to have asked his chiefs if they would have their brothers killed for being made chiefs. A stalemate ensued. The reigning oba then wisely sent his younger brother away as Duke or Enogie to Obazagbon. That was how Enogie Iyawe built the current palace that will be 200 years old in 2016, and modeled after the royal palace from where he was sent to preside as Duke over the affairs of Obazagbon.
  Enogie Eki Iyawe is the sixth Enogie in office in Obazagbon after five of his illustrious forebears had taken their turns. The first Enogie, Iyawe has his nephew, Adolo, succeeding his brother, Osemwende, who spared his life and gave him a dukedom to preside over; and it was from Adolo that Ovoranmwen succeeded as Oba in 1888, and which reign was brutally terminated in 1897. After a period 17 years’ interregnum, Oba Eweka II was allowed to mount the throne by the British in 1914 and reigned till 1933 when he was succeeded by Oba Akenzua II and from whom the current Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokplo, Oba Erediauwa I ascended the throne in 1979.

BUT these are not the best of times for Enogie Eki Iyawe and his ancient palace, which was officially approved a National Monument in 2011. With this significant move by the National Commission for Monuments and Museums (NCMM), the ancient edifice ought to be receiving a subvention for its upkeep and further expansion so as to attract tourists.
  Being one of the few old palaces that the British invaders in 1897 did not raze down, the Enogie’s palace at Obazagbon still possesses rare and ancient Bini artworks that are hidden from public eye. At the head of the enclosed courtyard of the palace where the Enogie still holds court is the Enogie’s shrine partly hidden from view with raffia palm fronds but from which bronze heads and other great artifacts can still be spied. Enogie Eki Iyawe said those are just a few of the huge stock of ancient art works his ancestors gathered that are locked inside from public view. The others, he said, are publicly displayed during Obazagbon festival once a year.
  The young Enogie is worried at government’s neglect of the 198 years monument his forefathers left in his care. The outside walls and huge pillars have begun to crack in places close to the foundation level from wear and tear from the elements, which isn’t good for further longevity of this National Monument. There’s a need to strengthen and further protect the walls from the whether. Already Enobie Iyawe is looking to 2016 when his ancestral homestead would be 200 years old to really roll out the drums and celebrate.
  But before then the Duke of Obazagbon is making a passionate appeal to the authorities that the status of National Monument conferred on his palace be made real rather than the mere paper work it is at the moment. But since government is slow in doing its part, he intends to transform the monument from its current form to an attractive place for tourism. He is working hard to build the surrounding landmass, essentially a forest, into a resort that would give accommodation and other variety of entertainment to guests.
  Already, tourists, particularly foreign guests that visit the main Benin Museum at King’s Square, also visit his palace. Enogie Iyawe hopes that these early converts would form the first set of tourists to taste from the haven he has conceptualized. The chalets, according to Enogie Iyawe, would dovetail into the natural trees and vegetation to give it idyllic ambience, with the monkeys and other animals often frolicking among the trees in their natural habitat. He would also erect a Bush Bar that would serve local Edo cuisines and local brew to give it a truly African flavor.
  For using his ancient palace as setting for one of the illustrious Obas of Bini, Oba Ovoranmwen Nogbaisi, titled Invasion 1897, Enogie Iyawe said Imasuen’s efforts are commendable and a good development. This is moreso as it dovetails into his plans to expose the tourism potentials of the structure to the world. It was also precisely why Imasuen chose to shoot his film at Enogie Obazagbon’s palace, a palace the deposed oba probably visited while he reigned over the vast kingdom.
  Also a Bini man, it’s Imasuen’s belief that the Edo culture is yet to receive the global acclaim it rightly deserves. He attributes the low patronage of Edo culture to poor management of a rich cultural patrimony by government and those saddled with such responsibility. As the last independent king in sub-Sahara Africa, the fall of Oba Ovoranmwen was the bridge to present-day Nigeria. Had the Binis defeated the British, it invariably meant there would have been no Nigeria.
  It’s in this light that Imasuen wants his film viewed, as it spotlights a great patrimony that is at the core of Nigeria’s existence. When the film opens in worldwide cinemas in October, Imasuen hopes that Invasion 1897 would help restore the glory of the Edo people and the antiquity value of such structures as the Enogie of Obazagbon’s palace. As a site that has survived for almost 200 years and now captured in an epic film of Invasion 1897 stature, the Enogie’s palace would naturally generate interest from the public with a view to experiencing and appreciating it as a historical marvel that it is and also for its artistic significance as encapsulated in the film.
  In this light, Invasion 1897 is history couched in high art, and the 198-year old Enogie Obazagbon’s palace is a fitting place for history and art to collide for the re-enactment of a once flourishing, glorious and proud kingdom!

Luca’s The Split Image in print

By Anote Ajeluorou

When a young man finds himself in a foreign land, as most Nigerians in the 1950s, 60 and 70s did when they’d had to study in England, a little indiscretion on the side could change the direction of his life either for good or bad. As was most often the case, some of these young men came with foreign, white (oyinbo) wives while some simply had children sired by these women. This is the story of Prof. Bode Lucas’ The Split Image (Stirling-Horden Publishers Ltd, Ibadan; 2014).
  The life of Sunday Dojo Ajiteni, a citizen of Songa, wasn’t any different. A brilliant young lad from Oke-Odo, who joins the civil service after secondary school at Doma, as printer, goes for further training in England and gets into a love tangle with Angela also from Songa. Dojo is already married to Jade; they have three girls. Brief though it was, his liaison with Angela results in a son, but Dojo is ignorant of it, having returned soon after. Angela’s marriage collapses when she is unable to get pregnant for her husband who soon realises that his wife, Angela, has played a fast on him. He resorts to physically assaulting her; she eventually sues for divorce.
  After completing her secretarial studies, Angela returns to Songa to get a new start. But some 12 years have elapsed. She traces Dojo to Doma and tells him about the fruit of their illicit act, Joe. On the evening when Angela arrives the bar where Dojo and his friends are drinking, Dojo’s mind is in a tumult when he notes the resemblance between him and the young boy with Angela. He gets home that night and goes to his box to search out a photograph of himself taken when in primary school.
  The following day at his office Angela arrives to tell him about their son, Joe, thus sealing Dojo’s suspicion about the boy being his son. But things get complicated for him; he cannot tell his wife who is yet to have a son for him; yet he cannot deny his son, as a typical African man. He doesn’t want to betray her love yet he has to start acting responsibly towards Joe as father. However, the bubble bursts when Dojo’s wife Jade incidentally finds out about payment receipts for Joe’s school fees. She is heartbroken by Dojo’s deceit and betrayal and forces a temporary separation, as she moves back to her parents’ place.
  Dojo is a frustrated man, but he manages to keep his head. In time this travail blows away and his wife returns. Angela moves to the capital city after securing a job with a multinational company. Joe, like his father, also turns out a brilliant chap; he caps his academic brilliance by securing a scholarship to study at Oxford, where he meets Clara, falls in love and plans to marry her. But a complication arises; Clara and Joe are first cousins and it becomes tabooed love that should lead nowhere.
  Joe’s father, Dojo and Clara’s father, Ojokoto are brothers. This impending abomination is brought to light when Ojokoto visits Dojo to find out how to send his present to his daughter about to marry. Efforts to abort the marriage fail, as the two lovebirds, particularly Joe is adamant. But the marriage records initial failure, as Clara has one miscarriage after another until Ojokoto performs necessary sacrifices to appease the offended gods and ancestors.
  A twist of fortune follows. Joe, as United Nation’s staff, is appointed a minister by the new military junta. This lifts Dojo’s profile in Doma and Oke-Odo. It also spells doom a few years later when Joe is implicated in a coup against the military ruler. Joe is away and so his father Dojo is made to suffer for his son’s sins. Dojo is imprisoned for three months in place of his son…
  Lucas’ The Split Image is a straight-forward, simple narrative of Dojo’s personal journey in a country also in transition. Metaphorically, Songa, as a country has a split image, as its innate capabilities lie buried by its leaders while its ugly side is exposed. Lucas’ Songa country is Nigeria, with its checkered history. The Split Image is an easy read and is written in colloquial tang. Although a commendable first novella, it should have been more tightly edited.

‘We need entrepreneurial, ambitious people in book publishing’

By Anote Ajeluorou

EASILY the most humorous short fiction writer in the country, Chuma Nwokolo, who trained as a lawyer, brings a certain performative breeziness into his reading events that endear him indelibly to his audience. And he was his usual theatrical self last Saturday at Quintessence book and art shop at Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, when he read from his latest collection of 100 short stories, How to Spell Naija.
  Although a well-known bookshop that only recently relocated from Awolowo Way, Ikoyi to its precent location, Quintessence, according to Nwokolo, had lost its former bookshop vitality, as there were far more other articles on sale other than books fro which it derives its fame.
  But Nwokolo wasn’t too surprised at the new turn of affairs at Quintessence and other such outfits, as the country’s book culture continues to receive sundry economic and philistine assaults. For there to be a change, the short fiction author, who started out his writing career in London, said the book sector, especially publishing, needed entrepreneurial, business people to drive it to achieve the success it lacks at the moment.
  Nwokolo recalled the glorious 1980s, when Nigeria’s book culture was at its peak and such series as Longman’s ‘Drumbeat’, Macmillan’s ‘Pacesetters’, Heinemann’s ‘African Writers Series’ and a few other smaller series dominated the literary scene with titles that nurtured a generation of young and adult readers. These series eventually disappeared in the heat of Structural Adjustment Programe (SAP). But Nwokolo singled out Macmillan’s ‘Pacesetters’, as the commanding series at the time for young readers, a series he also contributed a few titles. He said ‘Pacesetters’ impact was phenomenal, as writers from across Africa contributed to it and it gave that generation of readers a cross-cultural taste of continental writing that was lacking at the moment.
  However, the author of Diary of a Dead African, The Ghost of Sanni Abacha and Other Stories and other titles stated that although the ‘Pacesetters’ novellas were apt at the time for their audience, they were no longer so today, as such modern gadgets such as mobile phones, computers, iPhones and iPads were not in vogue back then as now and so young people might not relate to the limited socio-cultural setting well enough.
  But he was full of praises for the titles back then, particularly as Macmillan deployed an effective marketing strategy to get the books to every nook and crannies of the country. In this wise, Nwokolo charged that it would take people with business ingenuity to achieve what Macmillan achieved back then, noting, “We need ambitious publishers to do what Macmillan was doing for the ‘Pacesetters’ series. We need to have the right books for the right audience. We need entrepreneurial, business people into publishing”.
  Nwokolo was responding to what makes a writer a truly fulfilled person since there was no money, so to say, in writing, and how he combines writing with law practice. He stated simply, “You have to be a man of modest desires. Many writers have their heads in the clouds, and don’t have entrepreneurial skills. You have to be a missionary writer and not a purist depending only on writing but you take on other functions as well to survive”. It’s for which reasons, he argued, that there was need for ambitious publishers to give writers a measure of financial sucour for their writing.
  All his short fiction collections are self-published efforts.
  Nwokolo, who read from a couple of stories in How to Spell Naija and an excerpt from Diary of a Dead African, said the short story rather than the full length novel works for him, as explanation on why he has produced more short stories as against the novel. He also stated that his stories derived from emotional truth, noting, “There’s emotional truth in my fiction. When you read it you feel it. Usually, true life is not as interesting because it’s still unfolding. But in fiction, you try to end it and get some sort of closure for it. Only emotional truth is what I give my fiction. True life doesn’t end. The short story works for me because of its intensity. I write it seamlessly in one stretch. I persuade my inspiration to fit a short story. Periods of estrangement come to me in longer fiction (novel), where I lose trend of what had gone before”.
  Family life and all the drama that go with it feature recurrently in Nwokolo’s stories, which he attributed to the value he places on the family unit, as having a strong place in society, pointing out, “Human relationships are very important to us in every sense”.
  Humour is Nwokolo’s strong forte, and he said, “My life is not funny, so I try to make my stories funny to amuse myself. If you crack the same joke many times you try to make it funny. I try to look at the world from a funny perspective; I don’t want to die young. I hope to write stories that are redemptive. I can’t do stand up comedy, but I only write humourously in my room. I’m not a comedian but a humourist”.

Opportunities, challenges of book publishing as e-books take root

By Anote Ajeluorou

Nigeria has had a fairly robust book publishing history starting from the establishment of University College, Ibadan (UCI) in 1948. With a promising academia and scholarship, which such milestone institution was bound to generate, some of the leading publishers from the United Kingdom such as Longman, Heinemann, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, etc, took steps to be part of the new beginning that UCI represented.
  Ibadan also naturally became the pioneering city of publishing in the country, as these publishers for the city congenial to set up shop. Expectedly, Ibadan lived up to expectations, as the young institution soon began to produce prodigious talent in all spheres of scholarship. From school texts to literary works to leisure reading materials, the arena became vibrant both for the publishers and writers. Publishing became big business, especially as the need to fill the literacy level became high and school enrolment also rose phenomenally.
  The trend was raised a notch higher at independence and beyond with Nigeria poised for the path of greatness it heralded with its abundant resources both human and material. But there was a temporary halt with the outbreak of the fratricidal civil war. When the war ended in 1970, the book industry picked up pace once again. It wasn’t just the old, foreign publishers any more doing business; local publishers saw the need to be part of the ever-expanding book terrain occasioned by rapid expansion of schools, universities and allied institutions. The trend continued till the mid 1980s when the bubble burst with the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the Ibrahim Babangida administration in 1986.
  The devastating effect of that economic policy hit all sectors of the economy. But it appeared the book publishing industry and the education sector were worse hit. The foreign publishing houses could not repatriate their invested funds; local purchasing power became drastically low such that purchase of books dropped radically. It gave way to the era of handouts in universities as books became scarce. Also, the three paper mills at Iwopin, Jebba and Oku Iboku gradually grinded to a halt, as paper import became the norm and still remains so till date with its attendant economic haemorhage for the country.
  The foreign publishers soon pulled out of Nigeria thus leaving their local inheritors who were now faced with how to save an endangered business. It wasn’t just books that were hard hit. Education also began to suffer acute neglect from government, as it could find resources to fund it properly. A brief period of mixed military-democratic government saw many states introducing free education in primary and secondary schools. It came with free books being freely distributed to schools for pupils and students. Rather than strengthening the book chain, it further caused chaos in the sector.
  Some of the books did not only fit, they were grossly mismanaged. Some found their ways into the open market and were sold by unscrupulous persons even when ‘Not for Sale’ was clearly marked on them. After this, things went from bad to worse, with education getting smaller and smaller budgetary provisions far less than the 26 per cent stipulated by UNESCO.
  This situation made linguist and African languages expert, Prof. Emmanuel Nnolue Emenanjo to proclaim in a recent lecture, “Nigeria is a chronically bookless country and most Nigerians are neither great lovers, great buyers, avid readers, nor fanatical users of books!”
  He continued, “Nigeria produces less than one percent of her actual book needs, which should now stand at some 199.76 million books per year. This calculation is based on a modest estimate of four – six books per child in primary school, for 20.4 million pupils; eight books per student in the secondary school, for 6.4 million students; and eight books per student for close to one million students in tertiary education…
  “Nigerians have the lowest rate of paper consumption in the world with only 3 kilos of printed materials per person, per year as against South Africa, with 100 kilos, Europeans with 250 kilos, Americans with 270 kilos and Japanese with 300 kilos”.
  This is a grim prospect for the country’s educational and book industry. But government and policy makers don’t seem to have a clue how to stem the tide. Supposed beneficiaries, Nigerian students, are therefore worse hit by such bookless prospect dodging their heels.

SINCE the collapse of Heinemann’s African Writers Series (AWS), which late legendary literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe pioneered as editorial adviser, with the publication of his iconic novel, Things Fall Apart in 1958, publishing of literary works in the country and Africa plummeted. This led to the era of self-publishing and the rise of a few small scale publishing houses that specialize in fiction or literary publishing. A few example in Nigeria in recent years include Ibadan-based Kraftbooks Ltd and Bookcraft; Lagos-based Farafina (publisher of Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta and Eghosa Imasuen); Abuja-based Cassava Republic Press (publisher of Lola Shoneyin and Toni Kan); Jalaa Writers Collective (publisher of Akachi Ezeigbo, Jube Dibia), Parresia Publishers (Molara Wood, Abubakar Ibrahim).
  Some of the old publishers, seeing the apparent boom in literary publishing by efforts of self-publishers and smaller ones, have tried to come into the fray, but with a measure of half-heartedness that hasn’t delivered. Macmillan Publishers used to have a literary series called ‘Pacesetters’ back in the 1980s. It died years ago from SAP-induced problems. Its new imprint, ‘Night & Day’ is floundering; its authors are not promoted and so unknown and unread.
  Ibadan-based University Press Plc tried to introduce ‘New Horizon’ but it’s yet another failure, as no meaningful book has come out of that effort. Longman Plc also tried to revive its previously famous ‘Drumbeat’ series that nurtured a generation of young and adult readers in the 1980s and 1990s. But lack of promotion of its new titles made the effort fall flat on its face. Nelson Publishers, one of the old generation publishers, has made a fairly successful effort of literary publishing of late. Dr. Wale Okediran’s Tenants in the House, a work depicting intrigues in the Federal House of Representatives, has been signal a near comeback for the company into fiction terrain. A lull ensued that was only broken last year when it came out with a short story collection titled, Dream Chasers, in its new series.

HOWEVER, while literary writers (authors of fiction – drama, novels, short story, poetry, etc) are having a hard time getting the attention of the big publishers, authors of academic works or school texts have continued to be the brides to be wooed. This is so because with the economic hardship publishers encounter, it has engendered in them instinct for survival. And survival means that they cut down on what they presumably regard as luxury publishing, which literary publishing represents, as there is little patronage on account of poor book promotion and low purchasing power of majority of the populace. Textbook publishing has then become the name of the game, as it guarantees return on investment, as school and students are bound to buy recommended textbooks for class work.
  Only the recommended literary texts continue to thrive in the unfriendly book-publishing environment and the big publishers are doing their best to fill it. From reports of profit profiles, they have been making it big. Indeed, this has given impetus to school text authors in tertiary institutions, and secondary and primary schools, as there are ready buyers and readers for their books. This is where literary text authors have lost out except the few whose texts make it to the syllabuses of examination bodies.
  Authors of school texts or texts recommended by examination bodies have a ready market. Most times, the big publishers actually commission authors to write books specifically tailored-made to such objectives, as they also go the extra miles to woo educational officials to have their books in school syllabuses thus creating unhealthy competition among themselves. The big publishers, represented by Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), have often accused Nigerian Educational and Research Development Council (NERDC) of double standards as the body also publishes educational materials and thus encroaches on the turf of NPA.
  Clearly, the allure is with educational publishing for which the risk of incurring loses is slim. All a publisher requires is to be smart enough to have his book in a school syllabus or on the recommended list of an examination body like WAEC, NECO or JAMB and he can be rest assured of breaking even and making a profit. So that in spite of the harsh economic environment, University Press Plc , for instance, declared N2 billion as profit before tax in 2013! Other publishers made their own modest profits as well, which came from textbook publishing, easily the cash-cow of the sector at the moment.

WITH the explosion of the internet in recent years, and it’s phenomenal impact on virtually all facets of life, the book has found a comfortable place in it. The advent of the internet has made some pessimists to proclaim or prophesy the death of the ‘traditional paperback book’! Writers of all shades have lashed onto the borderless category or community that the internet represents to sell their ideas and ideologues. The book publishing, which is usually regarded as a conservative sector, did not escape being sucked into the pervasive web, with the e-book or e-learning being the vogue.
  All sorts of devices keep being introduced into the market, and Nigerians have been embracing them as they come. Such devices as Kindle, e-reader, iPads, iPones, e-tablet are already defining the e-book revolution. But what is the fate of publishers in this e-book rat race? How are publishers coping? How involved are they in getting on the web? How would that impact on traditional book publishing? How ready are Nigerian publishers in embracing the new online bug for books?
  Kenyan writer and former director of Chinua Achebe Centre at Brown University, Rhodes Island, U.S., Mr. Binyavanga Wainaina, has also declared death for the paper book, saying, “The book is dead as it is today! So, why not put content on screens for our pupils – mobile phones, laptops, etc. This is the African hurricane, which is Africa fully transformed or slide. We are no longer in a place of choice. We need not fear change”.
  Only last year, Osun State Government introduced a tablet, Opon Imo, to its secondary schools as alternative platforms for books. It was provided by one of the big publishers, Evans Publishers Ltd, as further evidence that some of the local publishers are abreast of developments at the larger world stage. Most of the school texts and recommended texts are uploaded onto the tablets for the students’ use. According to the state’s Deputy Governor, Mrs. Grace Tomori, the tablets “are installed with softwares of lesson notes and textbooks on 17 subjects offered by students of secondary schools as well as past questions and answers on the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), National Examination Council Examination (NECO) and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), which will help facilitate students’ preparedness for these examinations.
  “The launch and distribution of the computer tablets, which also contain other extra-curricular subjects including Sexuality Education, Entrepreneurship, Civic and Computer Education, Yoruba History and Traditional Religion to secondary school students across the various public secondary schools in the state is a further attestation to the resolute pursuit of innovation in the state’s education sector”.
  Implicit in this e-learning tool are serious implications for traditional, paper publishing in the country. Issues that immediately arise include the future of traditional paper books, piracy, legal and administrative framework for this new platform to benefit everyone concerned including publishers, authors and many others.
  The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Mr. Kunle Sogbehin, stated that the fact of e-books already taking roots in Nigeria is not to be contested, but advised local publishers to embrace it for their own good, as it signified the future of publishing.
  According to him, “The trend throughout the world now is that content delivery will no longer be in the form of using paper, as it were. But electronic delivery of books is now something that publishers cannot run away from any more. What we’re doing now is to make sure that publishers know their role basically, as content providers. Now, whether you like it or not, publishers must still provide content that will be loaded into those devices. What publishers are doing is to actually position themselves so as to provide the right content”.
  In other words, publishers will need their authors to write books, which would then be uploaded onto these e-books before they can be delivered to end-users – readers. By so doing, publishers make themselves indispensable to the learning process.
  He further stated, “For instance, the Osun State’s Opon Imo e-book tablet for its senior secondary school students is the brainchild of a major publisher in Nigeria, Evans Publishers Ltd. But the problem is that for now we don’t have enough infrastructure in Nigeria to support it otherwise it will even be convenient for publishers to deliver content in electronic format. The short-term defect is that people may think it will replace the book in paper form. But we’re going to have a mixed ecosystem of paper books and digital books side by side for a long time.
  “The only important thing is for publishers to be well positioned to churn out good content. If you don’t have content, it will be hard to fit into the digital system. But a lot of our publishers are positioning themselves to partner with IT companies, which don’t have content, which publishers have. So, that is what we have; this applies all over the world – IT companies partnering with those who have content to deliver such content to consumers”.
  Unlike Wainaina, Sogbehin has ambivalent view of the situation. He firmly believes in the continued existence of traditional paperback books while keeping a close eye on the new development e-books represent and argues that both formats can and will co-exist to give options to book lovers of all categories.
  According to him, “But for a long time, we’re going to have a mixed ecosystem in the book industry. For instance, only short excerpts of novels and such materials will fit the electronic gadgets, and not the full length. If the e-books can work in the long run, it will actually provide people that can generate content a lot of alternative platforms to deliver materials and it will enable content providers to send their content anywhere in the world without the barriers traditional books pose – long travel and haulage and all its encumbrances in our bad roads and warehousing that are expensive.
  “However, for a long time the digital or e-books are not going to displace the traditional, conventional paper books. Like I said, what we will have is a mixed ecosystem of both books existing side by side for a long time.
  “Like I said, many publishers are actually working to get onto the digital platforms like the Ipon Imo tablet in Osun State, which was provided by a major publisher, Evans Publishers”.
  Although the MD of University Press Plc, Mr. Samuel Kolawole, raised issues of infrastructural problems, piracy associated with e-books, availability of electricity to charge the devices, he said e-books were desirable and that Nigerian publishers were positioning themselves for the challenge ahead. He assured that Nigerian publishers were not far behind in embracing the digital revolution hitting the book industry in spite of the teething problems that may be associated with it. Kolawole, however, said challenges like copyright issues needed to be resolved before such platform could become operational and take firm root.
  A senior official of Longman Ltd, a Lagos-based leading publishing firm, who chose to remain anonymous, said although the advent of e-books was a positive development and not a big deal or threat to publishers, raised the issue of proper evaluation and constant review of the operational framework so that publishers would not be short-changed in the process.
  He noted while e-book publishing had picked up elsewhere, it was just starting in Nigeria, and so care was needed to midwife it. He also raised the issue of infrastructure like epileptic power supply as possible impediment to the platform. Cost of purchasing and maintaining such electronic device, he further argued, might pose a challenge given Nigeria’s poor maintenance culture”.
  On the example of Osun State’s launch of Opon Imo for its secondary schools, he expressed reservations on how far it could go, saying, “How far do they want to go? When will they start with the primary schools, for instance? It’s a positive development but can government afford to buy such device for all? Won’t the cost be higher than traditional books? From publishing perspective, it’s not a big deal; we provide the content, the purveyor of knowledge. They should be able to migrate to these platforms.
  “Digital platforms will reduce a lot of production costs – no leasing of warehouses or going abroad to produce books, as is the case currently. However, publishers have to have agreement with government on proper pricing. For instance, if a publisher sells to Osun State and next year, the state hands them over to the next set of students and so on down the road, how will it benefit publishers? So, there should be a licensing arrangement for its continuity; they have to look at issues of digital rights management so it is not circulated round other would-be users and not be paid for.
  “So, it’s not a negative development, but let’s ensure we have a system in place to work out all the details regarding its usage so everyone benefits”.
  No doubt, the book industry has come a long way. Still stretching ahead of it is the e-book revolution that is just unfolding. Whatever the challenges, it appears both authors, publishers and book lovers are upbeat that the book will continue to deliver knowledge, which ultimately is wealth for all, especially in a knowledge economy world that the internet foreshadows!