The Consequence of Good Noise
Nigerian youth are said to constitute over seventy percent of the country’s population and one thing lies at the mind base of this human swarm. It has to glitter like Facebook and Blackberry and twist like Azonto. This is a major driving force of the psyche of this vital group that constitutes the bulk of the nation’s intelligence. But when this dazzle and glitter flashes from a totally different direction, books, the story assumes a different dimension. Literary achievement leaves a distinct variety of clatter.
The naming of the city of Port Harcourt as UNESCO World Book Capital for the year 2014 - the first Sub-Saharan African city ever to hold this title - has turned the good eyes of the world on Nigeria. This is an achievement set to reposition and usher in the Niger delta (known for youth militancy and kidnappings in the recent past) and Nigeria as a whole to an advantaged position that cuts across psychological, economic, political and intellectual revitalization.
The seeds for this potent outcome are contained in the projected marathon of events to underscore the 2014 World Book Capital year. Spearheaded by the Rainbow Book Club (organizers of the Garden City Literary Festival), these events are tied with the strings of one theme - Books: Window to Our World of Possibilities. Potent and prophetic.
Let’s begin with economic possibilities. Having magnetized the lens of the international community for a good cause (Port Harcourt edged out cities like Oxford, Krakow, Lyon and Moscow), international bias and preconceptions are certain to drop some notches. The Garden City Literary Festival was also able to achieve this to a degree by providing a platform that saw the coming together of celebrated achievers like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Jesse Jackson and Ngugi wa Thiong’o within the span of four years. However, with Port Harcourt named the World Book Capital, possibilities have been hiked to the skies. The doors to a tradition of literary tourism have swung open with hundreds of literary enthusiasts and writers from all over the world flocking to the central city of Nigeria’s oil industry, and pausing (in their literary expedition), to take in other elements of Nigerian culture and tradition: from cuisine to cultural festivals to textile and art collections. Nigeria’s cultural splendor is sure to gain followers, with or without Twitter accounts.
Politically, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, a devoted supporter of the Garden City Literary Festival and the Port Harcourt World Book Capital bid, has flashed a beam of revolutionary light in the direction of his gubernatorial colleagues. In drawing their attention to this elevated status of his state capital, the message of education and intellectual refurbishment for our youth and children has been passed across. What lies at the base of the inspiration for this accomplishment will remain an erected defender in his favour for the expansion of knowledge. A healthy measure of competition is expected as an outgrowth of this feat by the governor and who am I to predict which Nigerian state will host the world once more?
The UNESCO Selection Committee noted the quality of Port Harcourt’s proposed programme for 2014, which was focused particularly on youth and on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing. The building of a Garden City Library Complex, the inauguration of a writer’s residency, national symposium, essay contest and other educational initiatives are all-embracing and comprehensive at driving the roots of intellectual intensification deep into the ground of the collective consciousness. The reason for this is simple: Recognition Inspires. It creates a renewed sense of self worth to realize that you can be recognized not only for corruption and power cuts, but for respectable and noble ambitions.
Recognition Inspires. And an inspired people are a repositioning people, seventy percent of which are the youth to whom the baton of national growth must be handed. The steam wheels of inspiration are set in motion, firing and rolling down the hill towards ideas and initiatives to Nigeria’s burning developmental problems. The rest can only be imagined.
As Nigeria turns hundred in 2014, that is, a hundred years since the amalgamation of the protectorates by the colonialists, this boiling cesspool of everything African - from language to ethnic pluralism, needs the ultimate “coat of rebranding” to point the way not just for her people, but for Africa as a continent. This paint brush cannot lose its bristles yet. The grip must remain firm, borne by a vibrant yet strenuous creativity of mind and body of the people of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa as one sinewy entity.
Books point the way. They are the catalysts to the solved answers lying calmly at the end of life’s algebraic equations. For Africa, the equations are intertwined: the equation of a non-functioning inherited educational system, the equation of black women who abhor their own hair, the equation of re-discovery of origin, the equation of mental slavery. The noise of literary clatter calms its way through to insight. Finally, it is noise for the soul.
Onyinye Ihezukwu is a writer and actress. She works as a broadcaster in Lagos, Nigeria.