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Hi Blogville Folks!

Happy New Month!!!

It’s so exciting to be alive and well today – the first day of the last month of the first decade of the 21st century… Lol! Coincidentally, today’s the World AIDS Day and I thought to share this account with you, albeit informal as it may sound.

Deji Badmus (Channels TV) taking a comment from Nze Sylva Ifedigbo

Last Saturday (27 November 2010) I attended the 4th edition of the Celebrity Read Africa, a campaign for inspiring an enduring reading culture in Africa, at the Terra Kulture, on Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island. It was a special HIV/AIDS Awareness edition organised by Greenwich Media and three youth-led Non-governmental organisations – Leaders with New Dimensions (LEND), Youth Are Talking (YAT) and TIER. The thrust of the programme was HIV/AIDS focused reading, hence marking the World Aids Day.

Hosted by Mr. Deji Badmus of Channels TV, the event started with a welcome by Ms. Chinenye Offor, CR Information Officer. A brief HIV/AIDS awareness talk by representatives of the NGOs served as a prelude to the main event. Thereafter, the five guest celebrities: Essence, Modele, Chude Jideonwo, Tosin Jegede and Myne Whitman took turns in reading from their favourites.

Moi, posing with Myne Whitman, author of A Heart to Mend

Myne Whitman, the US-based author of A Heart to Mend, read from the pages of her romance novel and talked about the risks associated with pre-marital sex and how she has addressed the issue in several of her writings in the past. I was so happy to meet Myne after months of online social networking! She is someone I’d call the ‘mother-blogger’; you are most likely to find her comment on any Nigerian blog (at least). I bought a copy of her book, got her autograph and grinned for a photograph. (Yay! Mission accomplished!) We later had a chat with other writers, including Nze Sylva Ifedigbo and Chiedu Ifeozo.

Modele read a portion from Dr. Ben Carson’s The Big Picture, specifically the part where young Carson reminisces on his struggle to develop a healthy reading habit and how it finally started to pay off when he is the only one in Geography class to correctly identify a sample rock as ‘obsidian’. Modele read so dramatically you would have thought she was reading to a bunch of kids who no doubt would have been giggling (just like many of us did) as she varied her tone and elocution with the mastery of a top-class elementary school teacher. She indeed took us on a quick trip into Carson’s world and almost left us there.

Modele: singer, songwriter and electrical engineer!

As if Modele’s theatrics were not enough, Essence was up next and she read ‘Advice from Our Elders’, a collection of African proverbs written in English. Her tone and comical outlook whilst reading seemed to make the salient lessons in the proverbs sink deep into one’s consciousness. “It is easier to prepare a young person than to repair an old person”, she read from the book. Then Tosin Jegede who runs an NGO to cater for the less privileged in the society read an excerpt about an HIV/AIDS patient. Chude read ‘No Woman Left Behind’ a short story by Tolu Ogunlesi told from the eye of a young woman about the fear of HIV/AIDS and its impact on marital happiness. This particular one made us laugh out loud and then think.

Christine Ben-Ameh alongside her guitarist

Christine Ben Ameh, winner of Nokia First Chance competition, sang ‘May This Be Love, a beautiful song she composed in memory of a friend of hers who had HIV/AIDS but died in an accident a few years back. Her perfect delivery, accompanied by her guitarist’s dexterity, was in tandem with her well-informed views about the HIV/AIDS pandemic which she shared earlier on. Thereafter, Chiedu Ifeozo, a systems engineer and poet read us a poem he wrote about Nigeria’s elections in 2011, encouraging everyone to Register, Select, Vote and Protect their votes. Jodie did a shorter version of Kirk Franklin’s ‘Up Above My Head’ in-between Questions and Answers.

Some of the issues raised included the concern about the reading culture and reading pattern of many Nigerians. While some participants wondered if Nigerians ever read, Chude was quick to emphasize that Nigerians read a lot, but these days they often feed mostly on motivational books and religious books, especially those authored by their pastors. Essence in her usual coat of fun mimicked the average Nigerian pastor: “Buy it, you will be blessed!” She noted, however, that though most church goers tend to buy books written by their pastors, not so many actually read those books. She made a personal confession that some of her pastor’s books are still tucked way, unread.

Essence in essence!

On a lighter note, at exactly 4:33PM (my phone time) someone’s phone rang: *‘Olo’un l’on s’oun gbogbo…!’ a Fuji tone that sent us all laughing at the back of the room! Not to forget, as I made into the venue, I was handed some printed material, but was somewhat dumbfounded when the attendant attempted to add a pack of condoms too. Kai! Well, more seriously, the crux of the awareness efforts on HIV/AIDS and the World AIDS Day is to curtail this pandemic (HIV/AIDS) that has claimed millions of lives across the globe since it was discovered in the 80’s. Generally, there are three (3) popular options coded by the ABC acronym. I have chosen the A option. You may feel more comfortable with B or C, though it’s safest to hold on to A if you are not married. Be safe and shun dangerous living. Get tested, if you have not been tested, and support people who are HIV positive to lead meaningful and purposeful lives.

Chude Jideonwo

With a few remarks from the organizers; it was time to call it a day. The event closed just before 6PM after we were informed about the expected guests for the next edition. The next edition promises to feature Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Dele Momodu, Prof. Pat Utomi, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, and Denrele Edun. The event was supported by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Prinz Energy Drinks. Bede Okoro is the founder/Project Coordinator of CelebrityRead Africa. The Contact persons for each partnering organizations are Okoro Onyebuchi Desmond for LeND, Ajayi Olushola for YAT and Olumide Makanjuola for TIER.

*‘Olo’un l’on s’oun gbogbo…!’: a Yoruba expression which means “it is God who does all (good) things”

Chiedu Ifeozo

Jodie with the angelic voice!

PREVIEW: I was in Port Harcourt penultimate Wednesday and was there for a whole week. Watch out for my Port Harcourt Diaries from next Wednesday.