Raphael James
Raphael James

INTERVIEW: Africa needs as more libraries as number of churches- researcher

NEWS DIGEST – A Nigerian researcher, Raphael James, has stated that the African continent will be more developed if there are more libraries just like there are places of worship scattered across the continent.

In an exclusive interview with NEWS DIGEST, Mr. Raphael decried the poor reading culture in the continent and its effects on literacy and national development.

“The way out is to make libraries available, for example on every street in Lagos there are two to three churches, if only we can get that number of libraries on every street like church and the youth will have access to books.”

The Abia- born writer was awarded the “Kofi Anan global integrity historic/ educative tourist of the year award” by the Africa Integrity Media Group in 2018 and was also listed among the ‘Top 100 Tourism personalities in Nigeria’ in 2018 by Travellers Magazine, the First Travel Magazine in West Africa published since 1996.

His magazine, The National Biographer Magazine (NMB) has featured nations’ heads like former Nigerian Military President Babangida, Ex- President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, former President J. J. Rawlings of Ghana and former President Barack Obama of the United States of America.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

NEWS DIGEST: I’ve read your biography and learnt you are an author, a tourist, a humanitarian and an avid reader. Anything you’ll like to add?

I am also a researcher, media executive, Director General of Centre for Research, Information Management and Media Development (CRIMMD) and founder of the largest Photo Museum of Nigeria History with over 36, 000 photos. I am the Publisher of African Dame and The National Biographer Magazines; I am the author of 23 published books and 56 unpublished manuscripts. I have donated over 24, 000 books to schools in Nigeria and Ghana since 2008. I run a free public library that have contributed to the upliftment of the educational standard in Nigeria in the last 15 years. I run a Free Skill Acquisition Center for Women, and I have received a total of 113 awards as at February 2018. I am a collector, I collet Stamps, coins, banknotes, marbles, post cards, stones, plastic animals.

NEWS DIGEST: Wow! Between 2008 and 2018, you’ve donated over 30,000 books. What has been your drive?

To make Nigeria a leading nation, since I know that readers are leaders. I am of the opinion that if we have more libraries, more books and more Nigerians reading, they will discover al the secrets buried in
books and make use of them to make Nigeria a greater nation. My first donations was in 2008, when I donated books worth N1 million to 29 Media organisations in Lagos, since then I have never looked back and as at November 20th, 2018, I have donated 30,058 books across Nigeria and Ghana. I also donate to orphanages and gives free motivational speeches to students.

NEWS DIGEST: What can you say about the reading culture in Nigeria in comparison to other countries (the challenges, solutions and prospects)?

I don’t know the situation in other countries, but if I compare it with some of the African countries I have visited, I will say it’s the same, Africa is generally backwards and it can be attributed to our poor reading habit. The way out is to make libraries available, for example on every streets in Lagos there are two to three churches, if only we can get that number of libraries on every streets like church and the youth will have access to books. I am doing the little I can in my own little way, only if we can get more Nigerians doing same and on that note, I can say in good authority that I have motivated over 50 – 100 people to start libraries in Nigeria with my donations.

NEWS DIGEST: You run a big library, I mean CRIMMD. How do you fund the project?

I started the free public library in 2004 and so far it has contributed to the upliftment of the educational standard in Nigeria in the last 15 years, I started with less than 100 books and today we have about over 44, 000 books.

The Library known as CRIMMD FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY, is a strong legacy for the communities of Idimu, Ejigbo, Isolo, Okota and Ikotun in Lagos Nigeria where it is situated. The library was official commissioned to the public on December 16, 2004, by the former Federal Minister of Information Chief Sir, Alex Akinyele JP.

Funding is done from my private pocket, I have a policy that any money I make from research works, my books or my magazine, I share into three and one third goes into the library, that is how I have been able to sustain it without much pain. Ithas not been easy and have not been rosy but I am very determined to make my country a better place for the upcoming generations.

NEWS DIGEST: Have you ever had a time you wish to quit?

Several times, though not for the library, when I started my Photo museum and it kept galloping funds in millions, and I was not getting visitors to the museum and funds in return, one day I locked myself up and cried until I was satisfied and opened the door and came out smiling, life goes on.

NEWS DIGEST: As a tourist who has toured over 20 states in the country, what have been your major discoveries and the challenges so far?

Since 2013, I have contributed my little quota towards the promotion of domestic tourism in Nigeria. As adventurer, explorer, historic/educative-tourist, wanderer, I have toured 31 out of 36 states of Nigeria and documented close to 300 tourist sites in the last 5 years.
My discoveries, Nigeria don’t value what we have, we don’t have our tourism potentials and historical sites, for example, there are two hanging lakes in the world, one in the US and the other in Nigeria. The Oke Ado hanging lake, is about 20km West of Iseyin, Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State amidst mountains. The mountains were some form of defence for the inhabitants in the prehistoric years. Just like the Olumo rock in Abeokuta was, the Oke Ado mountains kept the enemies away. The one in US received an average of 1 million visitors and that of Nigeria receive less than 100. If 1 million visitors pay a dollar each for that visit, then one can imagine how much money they are making.

NEWS DIGEST: Recently, you were listed among 100 tourists in the country. The Nigerian government has not been supporting the tourism industry. Do you subscribe to this?

Government is doing her best but we can’t just leave all for Government, more need to be done, it is not just about the tourist sites, the roads to the sites, good hotels, security, and proper publicity. After my visits to 30 states in Nigeria and my visit to 3 East African countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, I have come to see where we are getting it all wrong. While in Nairobi Kenya, I saw the way the Kenyan government made money from tourism, all tourists pay to have accesses to tourists sites and the entry fees differs. While Kenyans as citizens pay less, East Africans pay double the much Kenyans are charged. West Africans and Europe pays 4 time to 4 times the fees of Kenyans.

The payment are paid into an automated machines that issues receipts automatically, this way, I was told one cannot pocket government funds. My other observations was the fact that all roads leading to the sites are motorable, thereby making transportation easier. We too can make so much revenue from tourism if we set our priority right, This is the time to go back to the black board and correct it from where we got it wrong.

NEWS DIGEST: What do you think will become of tourism in Nigeria in coming years?

Things can only get better, Tourism is now a subject in most higher institutions, and a lot of young people are branching out into it, so if you ask me I will say it can only improve.