Olubayode Treasures Olawunmi grew up in a contended family in Alapere Ketu area of Lagos. He describes himself as a mere mortal, everyday man, good father of three children and a good husband to his wife. The Oludeyo- Ijebu, Ogun State indigene recently attempted to break the Guinness World Record of the Longest Read Aloud Marathon and he read for a total of 122 hours, here is an excerpt of our discussion with him-
PDC: What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was tough, my Mum spanked me a lot for wetting the bed; dropping the plate; not doing my work. We lived in not too comfortable environment. I supported the family to hawk fufu, vegetable, groundnut and many other items. As an undergraduate, I worked as a laborer so as to make ends meet.
I must confessed that we enjoyed it because there was no better person or competition, we were with other families of similar standard. Although, we knew that there should be something better. We were contented.
PDC: Which schools did you attend?
I attended Arowosaye Primary School, Alapere; Comprehensive High School, Agidi, Alapere; I studied Accounting at Osun State Polytechnic Iree, Osun State.
PDC: If you studied Accounting, what made you love literature?
I picked up literature when I was in JSS 1 and since then, I have loved books. I read all types of genres- fiction, motivational, autobiography. I am not limited when it comes to reading books. I just want to know what is in the book; I read voraciously.
PDC: Reading to oneself is different from reading aloud, what made you go for reading aloud?
That appealed to me, I did what I did not for the record per se, I did it to make a statement that Africans read; that Nigerian youths are serious; so that people should see me as a role model and not just the pop artistes. It is a way to have positive influence on students. We like the buzz but I decided to attempt The Guinness World Record. I do bedside stories with my children but it is nothing compared to this attempt.
PDC: What motivated you to go for the Guinness World Record?
I wanted a platform to tell Africa my message where I can encourage people to read.
PDC: At what point did you discover that someone has set the record 10 years ago?
I discovered it March 2017.
PDC: Typically, Lagos is ridden with traffic, how do you combine reading with your day job?
I go around with books; I read in transit. I also read e-books on the phone. I read while waiting for a meeting; I read when I want to relax. I am always enmeshed in a book.
PDC: How many books do you read in a month?
It depends on my mood and on the volume of the books- I can read a book in a day and I can read between 1-4 books in a month.
PDC: There are times when you read to comprehend and there are times when you read to while away time, which of these do you do and how do you juggle between the two?
When I read a book, I am looking for all what will speak to me in the book. All the words matter to me. I can tell you the storyline of all the 17 books that I read during the marathon. While I was reading aloud, I was reading to myself too.
PDC: We all know that preparing preceded, this attempt, how long did it take you to prepare for this marathon?
I will be 40 by God’s grace in September. It took me 40 years to have prepared.
PDC: Congratulations on your 10th wedding anniversary, what are you doing to make your children take after you?
From day 1, I have always desired that my children would be readers, I know the value of reading. They are all readers and the person who is not willing to read voraciously is a writer. They saw me reading and they picked up the habit.
PDC: How many books do you buy for them in a month?
I buy books for them, it is not monthly but I do buy books for them. They are members of the book club in their school as such they have access to different texts.
PDC: Now that you are an Ambassador for Lagos Reads, what are the requirements for people to read for long hours?
It is not about reading for long hours; it is about reading for a purpose; students need to prepare adequately for exams. However, what I did was not for students alone but for adults too. In order to excel, you have to learn from those who had done it well. I heard that Pastor Sam Adeyemi reads the Preface, Introduction, Table of Content and the Chapters that he needs most. It is not all books that you read from cover to cover.
PDC: Now that you read 9 nine authors during the Marathon, do you believe that Nigerian literature can stand books published in other parts of the globe in terms of content, packaging amongst others?
The news speaks for itself. Nigerian literatures are doing well globally from time immemorial. Imagine, we have Professor Wole Soyinka; Professor Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is already translated into 17 languages that shows you that we are not left out in the international literary scene. They don’t write better but they market better.
PDC: Some people noted that books that are no more in our country are available in libraries overseas, what is the solution?
We need preservation; we need to have librarians and curators. In the library of congress, we have all the books published across the world. Does the National Assembly in Nigeria, have a library? Is it robust enough? We have to be deliberate in other to achieve this level of competence like the libraries overseas. The libraries are deliberately preserved, Nigerians do a lot of things haphazardly. A book in the library can save.
We also need to talk to ourselves, what is our personal book keeping culture. We lose books often; we don’t return books we borrow. So we need to start it from within ourselves. It is a culture that needs to change.
PDC: Do you write?
I once attempted to write a book when I was a Corps member in Cross River because it was boring but I lost the manuscript; I have written 20 pages before losing it.
…to be continued