(By Tochi Okafor)
“To invite a scholar to give children lecture at an event can only appeal to their intellects for the brilliant ones, but using metaphors will appeal to their emotions. These children, like any adult, already knew what reading can do for them but to actually read they need to be catapulted into an emotional state that provokes hunger for reading. At this stage, they can go to any length in search of books assuming books are truly missing. Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure. If properly programmed, the child will link pain to not reading today but massive pleasure to reading today in his neurological compartment.“
Continued from yesterday
HOW then can we bring back “the reader” and not “the book” to revive the reading culture in Nigeria? The answer is simple: Project empowering references through metaphor and imagery to provoke aggressive internal motivation or hunger for reading. Let me ask you a question: “How did you feel after going through the pictures of Soyinka, Mandela, Achebe and people’s comments about their achievements?” I guess you felt like getting hold of their books to devour. The comments we present in this publication reflect people’s feelings like “You are my hero and role model, what can I do to be great like you, Sir?” “Can you share your stories with us?” “How can we get your books, Sir” “I will be greater than you, Sir.” “You are my idol.”
What this publication has achieved is to put you in an emotional state where you are now hungry for learning because we present you with a metaphor and reference that proves reading a worthwhile enterprise by simply using Soyinka as a model. The clear message of the metaphor is that if you want to be influential like Soyinka, then read like him or follow his footsteps. If Soyinka can make it from a humble beginning, you, too, can exceed him with the help of information-driven technology.
At this point, clarification of terms is absolutely necessary as experience has taught me. In one of the Radio Nigeria programmes, my host had to ask me what I meant by metaphor when we got to this point. Whenever we explain or communicate a concept by likening it to something else, we are using a metaphor. The two things may bear little actual resemblance, but our familiarity with one allows us to gain an understanding of the other. For example, I would like you to study the comments under “Tributes”, you will see phrases like “The elephant” “The iroko of literature” “A reliable encyclopedia”. Soyinka is not an iroko, elephant or encyclopedia per se but his life has become a symbol of them. Metaphors are heightened symbols used not only to paint a picture of somewhat abstract concept but also employed to create emotional intensity quickly. It is use of stories and imageries to create a mental picture in the hearts of people in order to move them to a desired value system.
Metaphors can transform us instantly because as humans we constantly think and speak in pictures as shown in people’s comments in this publication. So, when you invite a movie or music star to read book before the children in the name of ‘Bring Back the Book’ campaign, metaphorically you are causing confusion in the minds of those children. There is no basis to link reading with Desmond Eliot or Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde. To be practical, ask those children this simple question: When you think of Desmond Eliot as an actor, what comes to your minds? Ask them again, when you think of Soyinka or Achebe generally, what comes to your minds? Whatever their answers are to the second question, use stories and pictures of their achievements to link pleasure to reading as the secret behind their success. The pain of discipline of reading will be accepted as pleasure with the hope of commanding the same fame like Soyinka in future which may not necessarily be as a writer but as any other professional.
To invite a scholar to give children lecture at an event can only appeal to their intellects for the brilliant ones, but using metaphors will appeal to their emotions. These children, like any adult, already knew what reading can do for them but to actually read they need to be catapulted into an emotional state that provokes hunger for reading. At this stage, they can go to any length in search of books assuming books are truly missing. Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure. If properly programmed, the child will link pain to not reading today but massive pleasure to reading today in his neurological compartment. I challenge any school administrator at any level of education to test-run this piece by distributing this publication to students and take notice of their reactions.
The second term we must clarify is reference. Remember that from our diagnosis, we discover that the lack of motivation and bad references (role models) are responsible for youths’ apathy to reading. What are references? Tony Robbins defines references as “ all the experiences of your life that you’ve recorded within your nervous system – everything you’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled – store away inside the giant file cabinet of your brain”. Some references are picked up consciously, others unconsciously. Some result from experiences you have had yourself; others consist of information you have heard from others. References are ingredients that form your core beliefs. When all references available to you are anti-books, how can reading be an instrument of success? Definitely, your belief about reading would be that of a useless enterprise; something that stops with school at most, and which cannot connect you to the oil wells of Nigeria as your experience has proved looking at casts of people who are currently enjoying the so-called national cake.
I think any campaign that aims to revive the reading culture should, as a matter of urgency, provide youths with different references that empower reading as a rewarding enterprise of life. The good news is that we can borrow good references of other people even in the midst of bad strong influences. Early in life, I chose to focus on those who had made it, those who had succeeded and contributed by impacting lives in a major way. I did so by reading biographies of successful people and learned that regardless of their background or conditions, with a sense of clear vision and consistent actions, success eventually came. I borrowed the reference that reading maketh a man! So, the habit of reading was wired in my nervous system as a way of life. I used their references as my own, forming the core belief that I could really shape my own destiny with great books, positive thinking and corresponding actions.
A pragmatic reading campaign should explore the wealth of literatures, stories, myths, poetry, music, movies, and audio tapes that teach one thing: power of reading as a genuine route to happiness and fulfillment. Bombard their minds with these materials and you would have programmed them for life. These materials will serve as fabrics for formation of core beliefs in life. Never forget home movies and music industries are already providing them with these ingredients but full of negative references. This is why our children can dance ‘kukere’ with perfection but cannot pass their WAEC with distinction. It is all about programming through pain-pleasure principle. When you invite a musician to a reading campaign, you are just helping them to relive the experience they get from Star Jams.
My candid advice to any young person running through this piece is to stop waiting for a reading campaign before you can stir yourself up for voracious reading. Study closely the pictures of Wole Soyinka in this publication and you will discover that reading and writing played a major role in his transformation. In the journey of greatness, reading is not all that is required. Thinking great thoughts is crucial and unavoidable.
Greatness is attained only by the thinking of great thoughts. No man can become great in outward personality until he is great internally; and no man can be great internally until he thinks. No amount of education, reading or study can make you great without thought. You are not mentally developed by what you read, but by what you think about what you read. Reading lubricates thinking.
Read about great things and think about great questions and issues. We have at the present time few really great figures in the political theatre of our country; our politicians are a pretty lot. There is no Zik, Awolowo, Bello and Okadigbo. Why? Because our present statesmen deal only with sordid and pretty issues – questions of Naira and Kobo, of expediency and party success without an ideology, of material prosperity without hard work and regard for ethical rights. Thinking along these lines does not call forth great souls. The statesmen of Zik’s time and previous times dealt with questions of eternal truth; of human rights and justice in wiping out colonialism from African soil. Men thought upon great themes; thought great thoughts and they became great men. Zik was called the Great Zik of Africa and Awolowo – the imperishable philosopher and sage of all times.
With motivation and good references in place, we can turn WAEC and NECO results from 38.81 percentages to 100 percentage pass under one year of aggressive mental programming campaign. However, students and youths should take their destinies in their both hands by believing in the power of reading as captured in the excerpt below by Tony Robbins:
“The power of reading a great book is that you start thinking like the author. For those magical moments while you are immersed in the forests of Arden, you are William Shakespeare; while you are shipwrecked on Treasure Island, you are communing with nature at Walden, you are Henry Thoreau. You start to think like they think, feel like they feel, and use imagination as they would. Their references become your own, and you carry these with you long after you’ve turned the last page. That is the power of literature…”
In conclusion, I would like every young intellectual of Nigerian origin to dissect and assimilate properly “The Wealth and Poverty of a Nation: Who Will Restore the Dignity of Nigeria?” by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. Now is indeed the emergence of The Turning-Point Generation and you cannot afford to miss this progressive train of mental emancipation.
• Okafor, a multi-talented dynamic philosopher; a certified motivational speaker, researcher and author, is the executive director of Dream Connect.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”