Problems of the Book Publishing Industry in Nigeria: The Onibonje Publishers Experience after 50 Years

By Iwu Juliana James (librarian at Covenant University, in Canaanland, Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria)

Book publishing has been defined and discussed by various authors. Granis (1967), defined it “making public-to send forth among the people-the words and pictures the creative minds have produced, that editors have worked over, that printers have reproduced. He further explained it as “a formidable succession of activities no one of which can by itself, be called publishing. It is only when a manuscript has been transformed into a book and then distributed to its intended market place, that the process of publishing is complete. Lee (1979) defined publishing using its characteristics. According to him, there are three crucial components of book publishing. They are: book editing, book design and book production.

This research consists of secondary (internal files and reports, lists and catalogues of publications) and primary data (interviews asking open-ended questions).

Early History of Book Publishing in Nigeria
The very first printing press in Nigeria was established in Calabar in 1846 by Rev. Hope Waddell of the Presbyterian church of Scotland Mission. The press was used to print Bible lessons and later arithmetical books for schools. (Ajibade 2003)
In 1854 another missionary based in Abeokuta, Rev Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), established a press. Five years later, (1859) he used it to print the very first newspaper in Nigeria “Iwe Irohin”. From that effort grew what we know today as the CMS Press, which has published thousands of books in Nigeria.

Background to the Study
Onibonoje Publishers is located at Felele layout, Molete area Ibadan. Onibonoje was established in 1958 by Mr. Gabriel Omotayo Onibonoje. The company celebrated her 50th anniversary in 2009. It was started as a family venture, one man business otherwise known as sole proprietorship (Company owned, financed and managed by an individual. The person decides on everything. This company is likely to have limited funds and personnel); with eight (8) persons and later grew to one hundred and fifty workers (150).
Due to the politics of neo-colonial publishing, Onibonoje Publishers philosophy is to promote indigenous authors and talents. To provide reading materials relevant to the Nigerian context; reading materials that enhances our curriculum, cultural values and indigenous language. The country’s 1989 constitution, deals with the educational objectives of state policy. The sub-section 19(4), says simply that “Government shall encourage the learning of indigenous languages.”  The policy mandated the teaching at the Primary and Junior Secondary school levels of the child’s mother tongue or, in the alternative, some indigenous language of wider communication in his place of domicile
The company publishes educational books to cover: Pre – primary, Primary and Post primary levels of education. Books to assist in both teaching and learning process; covering the entire curriculum .The company usually strives to identify Nigerians who are highly skilled and talented writers. Onibonoje has devoted both time and resources in publishing mostly school books.
The company has only one office in Nigeria. It has a chief executive officer CEO, who is in charge of all operations; technical and administrative. All other persons report to him.  Apart from the managing director (MD), who acts in the absence of the CEO. Other units include technical services, personnel, editorial and accounts. 
The company has since inception to date published about eight hundred (800)  titles in subjects like Accounts and Book keeping, Business studies, Commerce, Economics, Home economics, Civics, Citizenship education, Geography, Government, History, Social studies, Agricultural Science, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, Creative Writing, Literatures, Yoruba, Creative arts, Christian Religion Knowledge (CRK), Education, Social Studies, Health Education, Family living, English, and junior  African Literature. Attached are comprehensive copies of the company’s publications
The company has produced textbooks which has and still supports the educational curriculum of the country. Considering when it was established, at the time when the Nigerian child had to make do with foreign or totally Christian literature. Onibonoje came up with literature with African aesthetics. In this regard, Onibonoje can be said to have promoted and still promotes literacy since it can boast of 60% output of publishing, in indigenous languages.


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