By Anote Ajeluorou
TODAY in Icheon , South Korea, after one year of successful programming designed to stimulate interest in books and reading in and around Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Nigeria generally, the city of Icheon will take over as UNESCO World Book Capital 2015.
The day also coincides with UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day, with attention drawn to respect and protect intellectual property rights across the world.
While handing over from Port Harcourt to Icheon, Director of Rainbow Book Club and Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014, Mrs. Koko Kalango highlighted the many virtues of the book and why it continues to be a sort-after commodity in spite of the socio-economic problems that often militate against it.
She said, “In spite of these terrible occurrences, and the many challenges of the world in which we live, the book continues to stand out, the repository of the written word, enabling mankind pass on information, and therefore knowledge, from generation to generation. Today the book has brought us together as a family, united by a shared thirst for knowledge, linked by the common desire to advance the written word for benefit of the individual, the society and our world”.
Kalango drew attention to the common tragedy that engulfed Nigeria and South Korea when Port Harcourt received the baton last year from Bankok, then current book capital when over 200 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram and a boat sank off the coast of South Korea, with the loss of 302 students.
According to her, “Nigeria became the World Book Capital amidst mixed feelings of joy and grief. Nine days before this historic occasion, over 200 girls were abducted from a high school in Chibok by Boko Haram, an islamist extremist group that believes western education is evil. It seemed ironical that the book was being brought to focus, against the backdrop of a retrogressive and dangerous movement directly opposed to the ideals of the World Book Capital initiative. Such tragedy, if anything, should challenge us to continue to work to rescue our society from the grip of those who stand against the progress and liberty education brings.
“Two days after the Chibok girls were kidnapped, 304 people, mostly students from the Danwon High School, here in South Korea lost their lives in a boat mishap when the MV Sewol sank just off your coastline”.
Kalango emphasized the changes that had taken place since the prestigious World Book Capital, adding, “The support of our local, national and international partners was critical in enabling us actualise our objectives. Indeed today, we can see change taking place – ‘Rivers of possibilities, rippling from the city of Port Harcourt, through the country Nigeria, to the continent of Africa.’
“I welcome you to the World Book Capital experience. I encourage Incheon in its vision of BOOKS FOR ALL by which you seek ‘to form an environment where all citizens may read books without difficulty and access the source of wisdom and information at any time’. Today, Port Harcourt hands over to Incheon as UNESCO World Book Capital City. On behalf of the good people of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, I bring best wishes for a wonderful year ahead to the good people of Inchoen”.