“My name is Bayode Treasures Olawunmi. I have just finished reading aloud for 120 hours non-stop! I did it for the culture!” With this statement, Lagos boy Bayode announced his entry into the global hall of fame as he breaks the existing record in world reading marathon. Before his record breaking exploit, the existing world record for marathon reading was set by Indian born Deepak Sharma Bajaan who set a record of 113 hours 15 minutes in 2008. Bajaan’s book reading began on September 19 and ended on September 24, 2008.
Bayode’s latest effort of 120 hours has, however, raised the bar in the annals of marathon reading in the world. In setting this record, Bayode who was educated at the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree and Comprehensive High School, Ketu in Lagos, began reading at 1:30pm on Monday, February 26, 2018 and ended it 3:30pm on Saturday, March 3rd . The record breaking accomplishment was enthusiastically and proudly announced on the triumphant boy’s Facebook page with the following words: “Hello everybody, something just happened right now!
Bayode further revealed that he has always loved to read good materials right from when he was in secondary school. He categorically stated that all he was trying to achieve was to point the way forward to the youth whom he believes must see beyond the present gloom around them and follow their passion. He said: “My passion is reading and I have to show the youth that you can accomplish any feat you want to attain in life irrespective of environmental factors and other obvious hurdles. This is what this is all about. It is about showing the youth that nothing can stop a man who dares to dream lofty dreams”. How apt!
Instructively, Bayode’s record breaking attainment coincided with the celebration of World Book Day in Nigeria. World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day is a yearly event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, to promote reading, publishing and copyright. It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.
It is noteworthy to affirm that this year’s edition of World Book Day in Nigeria, indeed, attracted the attention of many people, especially with the innovative inclusion of the Guinness World Record for the Longest Marathon Read Aloud contest. In this regards, kudos must be given to GTBank whose ‘You Read Initiative’, which was held at the Herbert Macaulay Library, Yaba, Lagos, made it possible for Bayode to achieve his record breaking act.
It is equally instructive to state that Bayode made the exploit reading books from Nigerian Authors which include Toni Kan’s ‘The Carnivorous City, Sarah Ladipo’s ‘Manyika’s Independence’, Leye Adenle’s ‘Easy Motion Tourist’, Elnathan John’s ‘Born on a Tuesday’ amongst many others. It is also important to stress that this year’s World Book Day celebration as well as Bayode’s accomplishment were witnessed by students from various schools in Lagos and environ.
It is particularly thrilling to note that the event was used to promote African literature and reading culture in Nigeria. Without a doubt, there is a sharp decline in reading culture in Nigeria while the publishing sector in the country is almost none existing. The reasons for the decline in reading culture in our land are not far- fetched. For one, reading is a tasking exercise that involves full concentration and present day youth are not really willing to embark on such obviously strenuous exercise which they believe wont yield them much money at the end of the day.
This, of course, leads to the second point which is that in our society today; nobody is interested in embarking on any activity that has no corresponding financial gains. Money, money and more money have become the only language everyone in Nigeria seems to understand. Even the nation’s animals have also caught this money bug. Remember the mystery snake that swallowed millions?
Third, the socio-economic environment in the country is not really reading friendly. The daily struggle for economic survival provides little or no time for people, especially those living in the cities, to cultivate a good reading habit. Also, the decline in the standard of education in the country has seriously affected reading culture in our clime. Equally, high cost of books, particularly imported ones, has contributed in small measure to a decline in reading culture in the country.
Therefore, one of the most enduring ways to properly immortalize Bayode’s record breaking achievement is to revive reading culture in the country. More corporate organizations should emulate GTBank and come on board the train in order to ensure that reading culture is resuscitated in our nation. While one isn’t in any way against the several fortunes being spent by various organisations in promoting diverse entertainment ventures, it is, however, important that such must not be done at the deterrent of other mind development enterprises such as reading and education.
A popular maxim says that ‘readers are leaders’ and amongst the things that affect people in life includes the books they read. A good book has a salutary effect on the mind of its reader. It elevates the spirit and thoughts. It augments his store of knowledge. Books help in correcting moral ineptitude, especially in these days of mechanical existence, books remain, perhaps, the best source of acquiring knowledge. Without books, literacy amounts to nothing and numeracy is worthless.
Meanwhile, the efforts of such NGOs like African Center for Reading and Development Port Harcourt, City Profs Academy Lagos etc in providing mobile library services as well as increasing reading awareness in the public schools is admirable. But then, others need to come on board too. Spirited individuals can donate books to schools and public libraries. The media and other critical stakeholders are equally vital to this course. Institutionalization of Scholarship Schemes, building and furnishing of more libraries by all tiers of governments is also vital.
As for the Nigerian youth, Bayode’s feat should be a wake up call to them to change their attitude towards reading and education in general. Late Professor Chinua Achebe and Professor Wole Soyinka were already celebrated authors at age 22. Achebe, in particular, authored the legendary ‘Things Fall Apart’ in his 20s. Till date, the novel remains a massive phenomenon in African and, indeed, global literature. Sadly, today, Nigerian youth who cannot make credit in English Language and Literature-in-English, are visible on the social media posting abusive messages and championing ethnic and religious wars with horrible grammatical expressions that could easily send the Queen to an early grave.
Bayode’s record breaking feat will amount to nothing if all concerned do not make concerted efforts to creatively harness the gains of the young man’s hardwork. This is the time to bring back our books, bring back our libraries and bring back reading culture in the country. God bless Nigeria.
Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja