Nigerian Canadian professor of African Studies and English at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, Nduka Otiono, has donated books worth N382,000 to three Nigerian Universities: University of Ibadan (UI), University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), and University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Professor Otiono made these donations recently in continuation of his commitment to supporting teaching and learning at the tertiary level in Nigeria, according to a statement.
The assistance began with the gift of a media projector currently worth about N300, 000 to Delta State University as a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow about four years ago.
Multiple copies of the books donated by the award-winning writer, journalist, and former General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) comprises his recent publications which were published/printed abroad. The six titles donated to the three universities are: Oral Literary Performance in Africa: Beyond Text (2021); Wreaths for a Wayfarer: An Anthology in Honour of Pius Adesanmi (2020); Polyvocal Bob Dylan: Music, Performance, Literature (2019); The Night Hides with a Knife (1995 ); Voices in the Rainbow (1997 ) and The Conquest of Azenga (2021), a new novel by I. Harry Hagher.
“I realise how tough it can be having access to some of these books published abroad. More so, given how expensive the books are when their foreign prices are converted to Naira,” Otiono wrote in a cover letter accompanying the books.
In his letter to UI’s immediate past Head of Department of English, Professor Ayobami Kehinde, Otiono wrote: “I have had a productive relationship with University of Ibadan’s Department of English as an alumnus and an adjunct professor.” He continued: “In fact, as you would notice skimming through the books, most of them have strong ties to the Department. Particularly noteworthy in this sense is the Oral literature volume, Oral Literary Performances in Africa: Beyond Text (Co-edited with Chiji Akọma), dedicated to Professor Isidore Okpewho.” Responding, Professor Kehinde commended Otiono for his “sustained interest in” and “unflinching support for the Department.”
In choosing the other two universities, Otiono revealed that he considered his recent appointment as an adjunct professor to the University of Abuja, as well as his work with Professor Hope Eghagha of University of Lagos, which also doubles as one of the three Nigerian universities that has a Memorandum of Understanding with Otiono’s home university, Carleton. Otiono recalled a 2018 Master Class he gave to the graduate students of English at UNILAG at the invitation of Professor Eghagha.
Underscoring the significance of Otiono’s books’ donation to the various institutions, Professor Tunde Ope-Davies, Head of Department of English at UNILAG said: “As you may be aware, this kind of precious and generous donation of books addresses a huge gap in the ability of our students to have access to quality and relevant collections and writings from celebrated internationally-recognised and reputable writers like you. The collections will no doubt enrich and enhance our students’ and colleagues’ understanding and skills in creative writing and literary appreciation. We are proud of you and can only wish you greater heights in your career.” He added: “Please do keep us in mind as you continue to provide the North-South literary bridge that will further help our scholars and researchers to have access to useful scholarly material, works and opportunities.”
Otiono clarified that besides his connection to the universities he donated books to, he also considered their strategic location in the country. According to him, “the popular location of these universities—Ibadan, Lagos, and Abuja—make them accessible to other researchers who tend to visit these metropolitan hubs for business or leisure.”
Otiono also indicated that he extended his book donation to Delta State library board, Asaba, to further bridge the reading gap.
Otiono obtained his B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Ibadan, was an adjunct lecturer, as well as practiced journalism in Nigeria for 15 years before relocating to Canada in 2006. He also continues to visit his homeland frequently while mentoring multiple young people in various institutions and in transition to postgraduation engagements. This background informed his understanding of how things work in Nigeria, especially relating to Nigerian researchers’ and teachers’ frustrations in accessing academic books and papers published abroad. In an essay published July 9, 2021 on Cambridge Core Blog, American-based Nigerian scholar and writer, Abimbola Adelakun, decried the inability of her Nigerian colleagues to access her recently published monograph due to the astronomical cost of purchasing it from either Amazon or any other online bookstores. She questioned the rationale behind “publishing a book about Nigeria but which would be likely not read by Nigerians because it was priced out of their reach.”