By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
An Abuja-based organisation, +234Express, has launched an initiative aimed at exposing Nigerian children to inspirational stories from all parts of the country in order to inculcate in them a culture of tolerance right from their formative years.
Mr John Adoga, the organisation’s proprietor, told journalists in Abuja at the unveiling of the theme; tagged “Reading Against Intolerance”that his team got the inspiration from the current situation of intolerance in the country.
“Political fissures are deepening and divisive ethno-religious rhetoric is attaining fever pitch. We see an urgent need to shield future generations from the growing voices of hate and prejudice,” Mr Adoga said, adding that one of the ways the organisation felt this could be addressed is through reading.
“For us, one way to roll back the current push towards division and violence is to expose our children to inspirational stories from all across the country; teaching them the cross-cultural similarities buried in our histories, in the histories of our heroes and heroines, as well as in our common experiences. Of course, we may differ in ethnicity,in tongue, in tradition, culture and belief;but we definitely share the same timeless human values,” Mr Adoga stated.
Quoting Lyndon B. Johnson, a former President of the United States of America, whom he said stated: “A book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance,” Adoga called on both state and non-state actors – governments at all levels, religious and cultural organisations, politicians and well-to-do in society – “to join hands together so that we can shield the next generation from intolerance!”
Adoga further stated: “This problem is not unique to Nigeria alone. Intolerance, hate and prejudice have been on the rise of late globally. In Nigeria’s case however, other underlying tensions like the recurrent farmer-herder conflicts and an inexplicable unhealthy rivalry between North and South, are driving the populace towards the same precarious extremes that led to the unfortunate Civil War of 1967 -70. Surely we can’t sit back and let history repeat itself.While the adults bicker and brawl daily, the children are watching and learning. This portends a great danger for the future unity of this country.”
Adoga said, +234Express had kicked off book donation drive since January this year (2021)in which hundreds of books from the Nigeria Heritage Serieshave been freely given out to various schools, libraries and book clubs in Abuja, Lagos and Kaduna through partners like The Bookworm Café, Lagos; Hope on the Streets Foundation in Kaduna; and the Abuja-based bookstore – Coffee Coloured Books.
He urged the stakeholders to key into the initiative by sponsoring as many sets of theNigeria Heritage Series to make the books available to as many schools as possible across the country, including libraries and book clubs in localities.
The Nigeria Heritage Seriescomprises 21 full-colour illustrated children’s story books under the following titles:Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Uthman Dan Fodio, Jaja of Opobo, The Great Benin Empire, The Battle of Ijebu Kingdom, Kanta of Kebbi, Sango,andOlaudahEquiano.
Others include; Queen Amina, Bayajidda and the Great Snake, Queen Moremi, Margaret Ekpo, Queen Idia of Benin, Ladi Kwali: The Pottery Queen, Inikpi The Brave Princess, HajiyaGamboSawaba, FunmilayoRansomeKuti, Mary Mitchell Slessor, Aba Women Revolt, Nana Asma’u and Oduduwa.
According to Adoga, all the titles, which are based on the history, culture, myths, legends and folklore from different parts of Nigeria, have been reviewed and recommended by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) for use in primary schools.