It’s no longer news that a social club that promotes reading among women is in town and is doing a lot to create awareness of the potentials available in reading impactful books. Smart Book Club began its good work 3 years ago. It was formerly founded precisely on the 1st of April 2018 and last week the club celebrated its 3rd anniversary in style. The celebration was held for two days with the first day meant to extend hands of benevolence to pupils and staff of Community Primary School, Magodo. This was under its core “Project School Library”. The second day was for Dinner Party and Book Review. This was well attended by reputable people of timber and calibre like lady Nkiru Anumudu, an icon and Director of Globe Motors; Mrs Omotayo Omotosho, MFR ace broadcaster and former DG, Tourism fondly called Madam Tourism and her lovely husband Pastor Segun Omotosho.; Rt. Hon Titi Oseni Gomez, MFR – Former Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly; Mrs Clara Oloniniyi – MD, Infinity Microfinance; and Mr Michael Adesanya, Author and Stanford Business School Alumnus.
President and founder of Smart Book Club, Tito Obaigbo is a doctoral student of Economics from the University of Lagos. She had an M. Sc graduate of Development Economics from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, an MBA graduate from the University of Lagos and a B Agric Graduate from the University of Agriculture Abeokuta. She had worked in the banking sector for over a decade and decided to leave to pursue her business, passion and further education. Tito is an entrepreneur per excellence. She runs a number of flourishing organizations parts of which are Oakhill Group of Companies comprising of Oakhill Books, Oakhill Mart, Oakhill Schools, and Oakhill Gardens. She also founded an NGO called Charity and Development Initiative (CDI) to empower women and youths through social and developmental initiatives. The organization has successfully empowered over 100 women and youths.
Adding to the above organizations under her tutelage is the Smart Book Club. Being the brain behind this novel club Tito told City People how she conceived the idea of setting up the club, why she chose the course of encouraging Nigerian women to take up the task of reading and how smooth things have been since then.
How did you conceive the idea of setting up the Smart Book Club?
“I have always had the notion that Nigerians do not really have the knack for reading most especially Nigerian women. Taking us back to when I was a Branch Manager in one of the Commercial Banks in Nigeria over 10 years ago, my boss then loved to read and would encourage all Branch Managers to read but because I loved to read too, we would talk about bestsellers and the latest books. Also because I loved to read, sometimes my boss would give me a book to read and I would read and do a critical review of the book for him. When I went on vacation abroad, I would visit different book stores. I always wanted to be ahead of my boss, so I would ask for the hottest and latest book on the shelf.”
What do you do to encourage those that worked under you to pick up the habit of reading?
“I encouraged all my team members in the branch to buy at least one book in a month and read. As a matter of fact, I got a bookseller to source the books for us, so that made it easy for us to get all genres of books. I remember the first book I recommended was ‘Who moved my Cheese’ written by Dr Spencer Johnson followed by ‘David and Goliath: The underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants by Malcolm Gladwell’. Of course, one of my all-time favourite books is ‘From Third World to First, The Singapore Story: 1965 – 2000’ written by Lee Kuan Yew.”
When did you start sharing the idea of starting a book club and how did it go?
“When I left Banking to pursue my own business and further my education, I then spoke to my friend Mrs Adaeze Kingsley-Anyanwu, who is now our Vice-President, and another friend then about reading a book every month and meeting up at nice restaurants to unwind and review the book we read. We tried a few times to meet but we just couldn’t agree to meet. The third person was just starting his export business and was always out of the country, so the arrangement just died a natural death, this was around 2013/2014. Then 4 years later in 2018, with the advent of Social Media Platforms especially WhatsApp and Instagram, I got the vision again and this time it was clearer in terms of structure and modalities. I called my sister, Mrs Yemi Ogunlewe who is now our Publicity Secretary and a few other friends and I set up the chat room and started inviting friends to the chat room. Most of us that started have remained in the club till date. Members then invited their friends too and today we have built long-lasting sisterhood connections.
Is smart book club open to all, who are those expectated to join the club?
“Oh yes! It’s open to all women. We have members who joined us from seeing our activities on social media and they reached out to us.”
Why is it strictly for women?
We decided to limit it to women so that members would be more comfortable. I thought about those days when our mothers would have meetings. When it was my mum’s turn to host the meeting, we would cook and cook. I used to dread those days. However, the beauty of the association or peer group meetings then was the sisterhood connections that they built. They would rally round members when celebrating birthdays, naming ceremony, burials etc. They would all wear the same attire or would wear the same colour. I think that was where the popular Aso-Ebi came from. So I wanted women to be women and build sisterhood connections instead of women tearing each other down.
How is the club faring since it was founded 3 years ago?
So far, it has been a beautiful journey supporting members and being there for one another. It’s been awesome. By the grace of God we have over 40 women in the club.
What are the goals and aspirations of smart book club?
We have a whole lot lined up. Our primary objective is to read a book every month and review it. We are getting our V-log ready so everybody can view our reviews on books. We will be having our movie night, beach outing, book fair, media house tour, book exhibitions etc
How did you develop the habiting of reading?
I have always loved books. Guess I was a bookworm in school but I also loved fashion. I was the Assistant Head Girl back in Secondary School. I attended the Legendary Queens School Ibadan. I have a way of balancing book, fashion and fun. I read when I need to and have fun when I need to. Guess I have always loved reading right from my primary school days. When I grew older, I developed this passion for research work. I always love to proffer probable solutions to problems. I have written several articles for newspapers and magazines too. I have also written articles for journal publication.
What can you say about the remarks you get from people?
The response has been phenomenal. Everyone says it’s a new development. We have also gotten recognition locally and internationally. Authors and publishers write to us and donate lots of copies of their books to us just to read and review. Authors reach out to us to please choose their books for our next book pick. It’s been rewarding and encouraging. For now, we haven’t approached any corporate organisations or governments. We have strictly been running all our activities by ourselves. We will appreciate collaborations from everyone willing to support the vision, whether individuals, corporate organisations or governments.
What would be your advice to nigerian women on reading?
Women should continue to aspire to get more knowledge. Knowledge is power, it’s yours and no one can take it from you. Reading broadens your horizon. It gives you a bigger, clearer and broader perspective of life. The secrets of making good success in life, businesses, marriage, finance, governance etc are all embedded in books. Have you stopped to ask yourself why all legends, past presidents, billionaires, history makers, heroines, heroes etc have either written a book or people have written books about them? Trust me, they are all passionate readers and that’s why they are successful.