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This New PH Library and the things wrong with Nigeria – Peter Obidike


I guess it is a matter of time before I get kicked out of the new library in Port Harcourt. You should know the one I am talking about now. That one I visited and was so excited I even shared the pictures on Facebook. It is close to the Air force junction at Aba road. First, I wrote and fully signed   a petition last week and inserted in the suggestions box, hoping they will contact me to find out details. This week I quarrelled with the librarian!

On one of those visits to the United states when “elu wu ana osa”, there was dollar everywhere to the extent that our brother Timaya always went there to charge his phone, smaller fries like us went on vacation to commune with family, I had gone to a library in Houston with my uncle and fell in love with the serene school environment that I longed to go back to school. My uncle was well over fifty years then and was still studying very hard for additional higher degrees, not the one week courses in Harvard our senator brother claims degrees from oh! You can’t beat a serene environment as mere looking around can already inspire you to do that critical thinking required for research. And the decency and respect for other people! You see everyone minding their business and maintaining that silence you would assume is common sense when you come into a library.

Fast forward to Nigeria, the opening of this new library brings to mind the thing about Nigeria I just do not understand. I was in the library on a very important personal national assignment, reading to find out how I will solve the APC and PDP leadership problems in Africa’s largest parties which have seen to the fact that the blessed country remained backward in the midst of the abundant natural resources, only to be interrupted by intermittent singing and clapping from the second floor of the building reminding me of the same reason (you can guess who by now) I ran away from my house and located a library. I struggled as I could to concentrate and hoped it was a one off. When I came down to sign out, I made enquires and was told some secondary school students had a function there! In a library? I asked myself. Apparently, there was also a conference hall incorporated in this Nigerian library! In fact, that was my second time of being disturbed but what made this bad for me was that it was under the library’s control, unlike the initial case where it was noise from a party in the nearby gulf course. I quickly wrote (they had a suggestion box) and asked the management in my petition how they could allow such activities to go on in a so called library and there was no sound proof designed to shield the noise from the reading area.

On my quarrel with the librarian, I was “jejely” carrying on with my national assignment only to hear music from an administrator’s desk, a meter away from the library reading desks. I was mad at how someone could be playing music in a library, I stood up and walked up to the person at the desk and politely told her she was disturbing us. She looked up at me and asked “sorry, is it disturbing you? I said yes, and she agreed to turn it off. By the time I sat back on my seat, the damn music was still playing. I stood up again and walked up to her again and this time with an unpleasant face, told her “this is a library please”, she looked at me “one kind” as I walked back to my seat and a moment after that, everything went silent. It was when I was about leaving and needed to pay that the security guard excused himself to go call the librarian upstairs that I realized I had been educating the librarian on how to conduct herself in a library. With our initial encounter, I braced myself up for any eventualities but it did not come to that and we both transacted our business as if nothing happened.

These may be termed petty but that is indeed one of the things wrong with Nigeria. A country where we do not take anything serious, where we trivialize everything. A library, which a company had spent millions of naira to build in order to encourage reading is being turned into an “event” hall apparently to generate fund or keep the place warm in the case of lack of visitors. And even if the event hall was part of the plan, then  it further exposes those problems with Nigeria, where a proper impact assessment is not done in siting public buildings, or how do you explain incorporating an event centre in a library that is supposed to be a silent zone?

I am sure we can do better as a people and it is not every time we blame everything on the government. There are many areas that need our contribution in nation building, from conducting ourselves in public as civilized beings, to sweeping our immediate houses not waiting for the one week in a month sanitation days, also doing our work diligently, respecting each other’s space in public places such as libraries or doing busy body petition writing like me.


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