Saturday, 17 December 2016


A Reflection on Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwes Contributions to Library Development in Nigeria (1904  1996)

As the song writer will say;

Fading away likes the starts of the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun
Thus, would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.

It is exactly 20 years since you departed to eternity.

Today, you will be remembered for your numerous achievements in politics, journalism, nationalism and sports, though many are not familiar with your immense contributions to the development of libraries, literacy and education in Nigeria and Africa at large. Historically, it is documented that you were the first and only indigenous Governor-General, and first President of Nigeria in the 1960s who was able to wield sufficient political influence to ensure a legal basis for public library development in Nigeria, a situation and a development which brought about the establishment of the university of Nigeria library, which you named after yourself and the eventual creation of the national library of Nigeria.

According to Aguolu and Aguolu (1997), you saw the library as a vehicle for the intellectual emancipation of Nigerians from colonial rule, which brought about our victory over colonialism in the country. As the premier of Eastern Nigeria, you ensured the enactment of the Eastern Nigeria publications law in 1955, which help in speeding up library services in the Eastern part of our country. It was through the value of public library legislation and a publication law that made state government in the whole Nigeria to enact public library legislation, set up library boards, and provided legal deposit in respect of publications issued within the states. This was one of the most significant things that happened in Nigerian library development. As at then, you consulted librarians and the development in the field emanated from there. In your words universities have been responsible for shaping the destinies of races and nations and individuals. They are centres where these materials are made subservient to things intellectual in all shapes and forms. No matter in which field of learning at any institution, there is an aristocracy of mind over matter  Black Africa has no intellectual centre where the raw materials of Africa humanity may be re-shaped into leaders in all the fields of human endeavor . With 12 million pounds there is no reason why the libraries, laboratories, cannot be built and professors cannot be produced right here, and continent (Africa) can become overnight A continent of light, is still significant uptill today. It was your perception of the role of libraries in African universities that clearly anticipate and antedate the comments of the two British commissions on education in 1945, which gave rise to the establishment of libraries in African universities due to its contribution to quality education. Even after the war, you saw the need to rebuild libraries that were destroyed and you did it. A development which served as an important research centre to scholars in diverse fields, especially historians, political scientists, doctors, biographers, and constitutional lawyers.

As an astute and enigmatic politician, you saw the National library as an evergreen tree of knowledge which could, in such a complex, and pluralistic society as Nigeria, will contribute richly to the building of a better social order. Thus, serving as a principal instrument in weaving the tapestry of the countrys multi-ethnic and cultural pluralism.

If I would want to continue to stress on your numerous superlative and pragmatic services to our educational system and library development, other areas would be explored. But since it was not the essence of this piece, I will limit my scope and domain to few considerations.  

Worthy of mentioning, when some Nigerian nationalists, like the colonial administrators, thought of a national library largely as a magnificent and monumental edifice, with the best architectural design, involving an enormous financial outlay; as a young Nigerian embedded with educational culture, you perceived the national library as a living agency of progress, intellectual enrichment, and public enlightenment, not as a repository of artifacts or archival documents of the past. This which has yielded a great legacy today. No wonder John Harris while commenting on your contributions to library development in Nigeria was heard to remarked you as the Father of Nigerian Libraries.

Sadly, how I wish you are still alive. In spite of your legacies in the library development in Nigeria, which emanated when you realized from your experience in the use of American University Libraries that the proper equipment of any university library was the basis of quality university education, the Nigerian government has remained reluctant and lackadaisical in the sustainable development of libraries in the country. A situation where public libraries have been left in dilapidated conditions with obsolete collections which are not relevant to a large scale of people, even the allocation to education remained very poor as compared to the development in your time.

Furthermore, the importance of library in the 21st century is evident in its services to the patrons as well as the society. This is the era of knowledge. The rate of development of a nation is directly proportional to its literacy level. Literacy is what drives the world. Any nation that must be developed, must have an higher rate of literacy. With a medium of knowledge acquisition, the people will be literate, which will inform, educate, liberate, and empower them for a better standard of life.

The library is a social institution which is charge with the responsibility of informing, educating, liberating, and empowering the citizens (patrons) with information, which in turn raise their literacy level. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe left a remarkable footprint in the sandstone of time. I use this medium to register this call; Its time we renovate the public libraries in Nigeria. Lets sustain Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwes legacies. It would be a thing of joy if our nation is developed beyond the present standard. We should not forget that the rate of development of a nation is directly proportional to its literacy level. Literacy can only come through reading, and the most condusive place for reading, devoid of discrimination, segregation, subjugation and victimization is the library.

The libraries accepts both the son and daughter of the rich and the poor. If we must be a developed people, if our nations educational system must produced intellectually and knowledgeably sound graduates; we must renovate and establish more libraries with adequate funding. We must inculcate into our children a sustainable reading culture. We must seek knowledge in everyday life. And we must follow up the visions and policies of all governmental administrations and dispensations. With these, a better Nigeria is assured.

Thank you for reading!

Yours in Service,

Prince Enwongo-Abasi Francis
(Readership Activist, Humanitarian and Librarian)

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