By: Deji Yesufu

My friend, Lucky James, published his book Tales from Our Past in January 2017. Since I did some editing on the book, I volunteered to help him sell some copies. The day came when he handed over 100 copies to me to sell. As I was taking them into my car, he told me he had another 900 pieces at home and he had no idea how to sell them.

He had published the books himself and was left with the burden of selling off all 1,000 copies his printer handed over to him. Two challenges stared us in the face: the problem of recovering the cost of publishing and the challenge of selling the books themselves to make extra profit.

My experience with Lucky James gave me some ideas on how to surmount the Nigeria literary market with its pervasive lethargy towards reading. I must confess that although I thought I had learnt a few tricks on how to sell books, somehow, to my dismay, I am realizing that those tricks are not sufficient.

When I embarked on the project of writing the book Victor Banjo, I was positive that when it hits the Nigerian market it would sell like hot cake. The Victor Banjo story, which I had pasted on Facebook and which had gone viral on so many social media platforms, appeared to me a story that many Nigerian would not mind paying a token to buy and read. Besides, the book format is a lot more researched and better written than the Facebook article.

But on reaching the market, I am being told that one of the ways that authors make money after writing their books is to do a luncheon. They say Nigerians love to have their ego rubbed and people would gladly lunch my book with hundreds of thousand of Naira, if they would be giving the money in public.

While I certainly do not have anything against lunching of books, I think it runs against my personal principles. Perhaps the biblical admonition for people not to make a fan fare of their giving has been too etched on my mind-set for me to embark on such a project.

Besides this, the family of Victor Banjo are very protective of their father’s memory and they very graciously granted me the opportunity of writing this story on him. I would not be partaker of a project that would seem to be making excessive gain off a family tragedy. So luncheon is out of it. Thus, I am left with the harsh reality of selling the book in Bookshops and through one on one marketing.

Then I am told that I should endeavour to get the book on school reading lists. That if the government would make my book compulsory reading for secondary schools, I would simply sit back and be smiling to the bank. The trouble is this: who do I know in government? Would a government in power sit down, read my book and decide that its lessons is worth something for our children to learn from? I honestly do not know.

Despite the gloom, I am positive my book on Victor Banjo would sell. The only challenge now is to help Nigerians realize why they need to read this book.

The Banjo Story, while narrating a historical event, offers Nigerians an opportunity to learn from our past mistakes. Nigeria seem to be the only country that repeats its mistakes and this is because we do not have a culture of rehearsing historical events and bringing their lessons into contemporary issues so as to chart a better way out of our troubles.

Take for example a key point in my book which was that Col. Emeka Ojukwu and the nation of Biafra were not sufficiently prepared to wage war against the Federal might of Nigeria in 1967. They had very little weaponry, they had very little agreement among the Igbos themselves on whether or not to prosecute a war, and, most importantly, they did not have one single country backing their secession bid. If IPOB knows this piece of history, they would realize that they have even less reasons to pursue secession today than Ojukwu had fifty years ago. This is how history determines how people make decision in contemporary times. If our people do not learn from history, they would repeat the mistakes of their forbears. And, in my estimation, the Biafran war was a tragic mistake.

The first step towards learning from history is for Nigerians to read.

I stood in a supermarket and I watched as a woman stuffed her food basket with groceries running into ten of thousands of Naira. Yet, somebody like her cannot spare one thousand Naira to buy my book. My book would give knowledge that would feed her mind and probably the minds of her children, helping them to make informed decisions in the future. This is the agony of an author who must self publish and then sell his books himself.

All hope is not lost though. Many Nigerians are beginning to see the close link between reading and productivity. The reality is that the richest nations in the world are those that produce something out of nothing, so to speak, while the rest of the world come to them to buy that thing.

Take Hollywood for example. The amount of money that that industry brings to the state of California and the United States at large is mind boggling. Yet, they keep churning out movies after movies every day, and the rest of the world pay these Americans huge amount of money just to be entertained by watching the screen. What about Facebook and the wonder of advertisement that Mark Zuckerberg has made out of it? If you have a product and it is not on Facebook, you have not started advertising.

These are examples of creating products out of almost nothing and becoming super rich doing it. The way to this kind of reality is by reading. Every human being is gifted with something he can do very well but if he is not informed about how to utilize that thing, he cannot do anything productive with it.

So, I encourage you to read a book today. And I would be glad you start with my book Victor Banjo. That way you would deliver me from the agony of self publishing and I would find enough resources to pursue more writing projects. Perhaps, God would be kind enough to make my works go viral and nations would be coming to Nigeria to buy them. This is exporting at its best and earning good foreign exchange doing it. My products, unlike Hollywood, would not defile your mind but educate you and help you to discover your hidden talents.

Deji Yesufu is the author of Victor Banjo. You may reach him on [email protected] to get a copy

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