NATIONAL LIBRARY: A Building in Need

It was supposed to start by 9am, this was closing in on 10 and nothing yet, the hall seemed to be overflowing with barristers, it looked like every lawyer was here, so what are we waiting for? Or better still who? I asked myself as I folded my arms, murmuring, “why did I get here by 8?” When I have been told many times “there is something called a Nigerian Time”. Then, he entered through the crowd with a heavy entourage of security. Everyone stood up and so did I as a sign of honour, “we welcome the vice president of Nigeria; Prof Yemi Osibanjo” announced the moderator followed with “Now we can get started; we start with the National Anthem of Nigeria” with a sigh of relief I said “finally” but was it worth my wait? I am an engineer in the 55th annual national bar association conference, what was I thinking?

The vice president approached the podium with a loud ovation from his fellow learned friends; that is what they call themselves; lawyers. For people like me, it was just my first time being in the same room with the vice president of any country, so I joined the cheer and quietly ticked that box in my bucket list. He spoke in summary like a person who was a result of a deep study and a broad research. Evidently, this man must have his own private library I said seemly impressed. The conference was over for me just shortly after the vice president’s address and I intended to go through an unfamiliar route to buy a familiar product and there I saw it; the National Library Cooperation headquarters, or what was left of it, which got me thinking, where is the National Library?

The Library is not just a place books are laid up to study and borrow, it’s a cultural institution, the place past meets with the present and begins a candid discussion with the future, a form of archive, to store up our historic identity, without this institution a large chunk of this generation would know more about other cultural origins and survivals than theirs; that is already happening. The Library protects our national legacy; what our heroes past went through before and after the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorate and after independence. It gives Nigeria their true voice, not the political correctness seen on display through the internet. A library is supposed to acquire all intellectual output of every Nigerian, in or outside Nigeria and also every work relating to Nigeria and store them. The Library is supposed to be one of the busiest places in the country although still quiet. 

The first thing you notice looking for the national library building in the capital city is that the national library cooperate headquarters is miles away from the library they are supposed to be managing, closely after is how archaic (Old) the cooperate building looks; with the faded paint, windows which have been removed for lack of use I suppose, overgrown grasses and litters everywhere. The building looks like from the time it was built till the day this article was written, nobody had touched it in anyway talk more of worked in it. Next on the list is a comparison between the cooperate building and the library which happens to be the only difference between the two buildings as both are more similar, and that is the National Library cooperate building is four storey high while the library is close to one. In summary, the national library was nothing short of a bungalow with books in it.


The most expensive building in Africa is a library. It is worth over $220 Million, from the ancient times, the Alexandria Library was modified to meet the standards of this time and that cost a lot. As I walked through the streets of the capital city in 2013, I suddenly encountered more than once the rhetorical questions being asked in a conversation “Are you a Learner?” the answer always bothered me not the question actually, as whoever was being questioned was expected to produce a negated response to be termed as an individual from the twenty-first century. It became a trend, a norm and it soon became a song which had many hits. 

The national library system is worth looking into. The place should not be one where Nigerian citizens above thirty or ones who are just doing their university final year project alone go to. A place with a lack of security as most people with bags are expected to put their bags in lockers without padlocks, close to the gates where anybody can just stroll in and out with their properties, making many folks who know about it to stay less than usual in the library because they have to protect their valuables. It should be a place with an updated literature. A place that could house a professor and at the same time accommodate a child doing just a homework.

The national Library needs more funding and better structures, structures that would make you want to grab a book and join the company of readers, not one that would make you ask yourself, what am I doing here? The National library should take up better functions in this country, it could be combined with the national museum for conservation of resources at the beginning stages of the project, to sprout interest in those who are not particularly interested in reading but are interested in learning about the national heritage and identity.  One thing is sure though, Nigeria cannot go farther than the reach of some basic institutions, the national library is one.

By the way am just a bystander.
Follow: @dbystander1


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