By Chike Ojukwu
of Information and National Orientation, Prof Jerry Gana, Speaker House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as renowned scholars and publishers are expected to storm Abuja book exhibition next week.The fair is being organized by Flomat books, in collaboration with the Christian Booksellers Association Nigeria (CBAN), to promote the reading culture among children and youths.The three-day show, billed for Sharon Ultimate Hotels, Abuja, will begin on Thursday, April 8.Executive Director, Flomat Books, Mr. Anthony Akpokene said ‘this initiative, will be the first time two major organizations will unite to revive the Nigeria’s reading culture.’Hence the theme is aptly tagged: ‘Bringing back the reading culture.’ Akpokene, a petroleum engineer, said ‘all sessions will feature various literary genres, including religious, motivational books, biographies and autobiographies, academic, picture books and resources for children and adults.’This fair, he explained ‘is our attempt to begin to correct this anomaly by bringing together the best book distributors in the country, bringing books to the door steps of our children and parents.’‘Show me a parent, who reads and I will show you a student who is eager to read. This this drive is also targeted at the parents and guardians.’‘In the past children, used to compete amongst themselves on the number of books they have read. But these days the emphasis has shifted to the number of Netflix movies they have watched or the latest digital device they have acquired,’ Akpokene lamented.‘This ugly trend is affecting educational standards as many young people misspell and contract words, even in exams and applications.’‘Poor funding has also exacerbated the decline in the sector. Comparatively, the entertainment industry enjoys more support than the academia, thus many intelligent pupils and indigent students can not actualize their academic dreams because of lack of funds,’ he explained.‘Corporate bodies and individuals fall over themselves to sponsor entertainment programmes, because of the visibility and economic mileage, they will secure.’‘In Nigeria, many brilliant students are unable to obtain higher education, because of lack of adequate number of scholarships. We as a people must change this behavior and give education and scholarship the exalted position it deserves,’ he stressed.‘Nigerians are known all over the world for hard work, dedication, diligence and intelligence, but the country is highly maligned abroad. This is due to corrupt practices, socio-economic crises, as well as the nefarious activities of criminal elements.’‘Therefore we want to revive the reading culture, in order to address some of the ills in society occasioned by exposure to dangerous content available in social media, films and society,’ he stated.According to him, the book expo, will showcase interesting and attractive resources and publications, as ‘part of moves to improve scholarship and learning across society.’‘The event promises to be highly engaging, with the participation of top international publishers, including John Wiley and sons, Random Penguin, Mcgrawhill, Tyndale publishers,’ he said. Other notable players in the industry, namely Simon & Schuster, Oxford University press, Cambridge University press and Taylor & Francis, Zondervan are billed for the show. Prof Gana will have interactive sessions with booksellers and the students to encourage them to read and highlight the importance of education and scholarship.Special activities in honour of some prominent personalities, have also been lined-up.Prof. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, late Prof Dora Akinyuli and Chinua Achebe will be honoured on the first day. Prof Wole Soyinka is slated for the second day, while Archbishop Benson Idahosa is billed for the third day.An assemblage of accomplished experts will deliver lectures on entrepreneurship, health and publishing, such as Prof Macdonald Idu of Phytomedicine, University of Benin and former Vice Chancellor Benson Idahosa University (BIU).Others were listed as, Peter Osalor, a famous entrepreneur and chartered accountant, Dr. Adesuwa Agbontaen of Alphazone Eye clinic, Abuja and Pastor Godwin Okafor, a human resource professional, as well as a publication by Dr. Priscilia Imade of Modern Eye clinic, Omole, Lagos.The session on management of special needs children with Dr. Badewa T. Adejugbe, will be highly enlightening.An ‘authors pavilion’ has specially provided for writers to share their books and oncoming books with participants especially primary and secondary school children.’Erudite university dons, top librarians, academic institutions, students, corporate bodies and media representatives will be in attendance.