Copyright Commission Celebrates Soyinka on World Book Day 

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The Nigerian Copyright Commission says it is dedicating this year’s edition of World Book and Copyright Day to Nobel Laurette, Professor Wole Soyinka for his dedication to the promotion of reading culture and protection of copyright.

Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission  (NCC), Dr. John Asein in his message on the occasion of the 2024  World Book and Copyright Day, said Soyinka, who is also the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador,  and will turn 90 by July 13, is unarguably the tallest living iroko in Nigeria’s rich literary forest and an advocate for books, reading and copyright.

“By this recognition, he becomes our first Copyright Change Champion,” Asein said, adding that as part of this year’s celebration, the Commission is launching its year-long intervention programmes to promote reading for pleasure and build respect for copyright through its ABC Action Plan.

According to him, ‘A’ stands for Adopt measures to make reading more fun for all; ‘B’ stands for Bring books closer to more children; while ‘C’ stands for Choose change champions for books and copyright.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognises April 23rd every year as World Book and Copyright Day, to focus on books, celebrate authors, promote reading, encourage non-discriminatory access to knowledge and raise copyright awareness. The theme for this year is: “Read Your Way”

Asein said this year’s theme underscores the transformative power of reading to shape character, stimulate the mind and empower the individual to realise his or her potentials.

“Through reading, we overcome limitations of time and space, reach for knowledge and gain insight for quality life,” he said. “The book – in whatever form, physical or electronic – remains a veritable vehicle for transporting ideas between generations, cultures, and civilisations. It brings together the interests of authors, publishers, printers, booksellers, librarians, readers, and society.”

He said, “Authors and their books, mirror society and tell our story. But the real joy of a book is in its reading and this year’s theme reaffirms the need to allow people read in the way they choose and wherever they are.

“This means making more books available in accessible formats for persons living with disabilities, especially blind and visually impaired persons. It also points to the need to publish more books in indigenous languages and take advantage of modern technology to reach more readers on digital platforms.”

He called on stakeholders in the book industry to recognise July 13, Soyinka’s birthday,  as Nigeria’s National Reading Day to encourage Nigerians to read for pleasure and draw attention to some of the values that he has advanced in the literary world.

“To bring books closer to children, the Commission will, for a start, make copies of Soyinka’s books and other frontline titles available to 90 public schools and use the opportunity to establish more Copyright and Creativity Clubs in those schools to promote respect for copyright.

“I call on authors, publishers, book clubs and corporate Nigeria to engage in more book related activities as part of their corporate social responsibility. I commend those who are participating in the ongoing Soyinka Reading Challenge and other online activities to highlight the fun in reading. I must also appreciate those that have shown interest in the year-long intervention programmes such as book donations, reading events for children and persons with special needs, school reading competitions and copyright awareness programmes.”

He called on Nigerians to read and show respect for copyright by patronising only original books.

Asein said with the recent interception at Onne Port of three freight containers loaded with pirated books worth about N300 million belonging to Nigerian copyright owners, the enormous threat of piracy to the publishing industry and the wellbeing of the nation’s creative economy is clear.

“The Commission will continue to hold publishers, printers, book importers, booksellers, school proprietors and librarians to the highest standard,” Asein said, adding, “I use this opportunity to congratulate young Nigerians who, in the last few months, have attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the longest reading aloud.

“From John Obot in Uyo and Osariemen Angel Asein in Benin to Asonya Wunuji Manasseh whose attempt is ongoing in Wukari. They have read in their own way and remain champions in their own right.”

In his goodwill message,  Prof Soyinka called on stakeholders to use everything within their powers to fight against piracy and intellectual property theft.

According to him, “The book remains both consolation and affirmation of alternative understanding that may yet salvage humanity from the rubble of the present.”

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