Founder and Director General of Center for Research, Information Management and Media Development (CRIMMD), founder of the Photo Museum of Nigeria History, publisher of 'The National Biographer Magazine' and author of over a dozen books, Dr. Raphael James, in this interview with ADA DIKE, speaks on why he donates books to individuals and organisations as well as his newly set up skills acquisition center.
Apart from the ones you requested online from authors, are all the books you are giving out donated to you or do you normally buy some of them?
I bought the 6000 books I donated to media houses. In most cases, I have been buying books. But there are some Nigerian authors who have given me five copies of their books each.
After many years of running a free library, would you say it has encouraged the Nigerian youth to imbibe the culture of reading books?
I can say it with pride that my library has produced medical doctors and engineers. When I returned from Abuja recently, I was told that a young man came here to appreciate me. He prepared for his exams in our library and got admission in Indiana College, USA. I am looking out to meet him. Sometime last year, one other young man, Dr. John did his West African Examination Council (WAEC) and used the library, today, he is a practicing medical doctor in Sokoto. These are the little things that each time look I back and remember, I feel satisfied and happy. It goes a long way to help others.
Can you give us an estimate of the number of Nigerian students the books you are giving out will change their lives in the next five years?
I cannot determine that because beside the fact that the library is open, most of the time, it is as we are pleading with people to come and read. They find it difficult to come and read because it is not part of our culture to read. In the next five years, I should be able set up a standard research centre, a kind of a cyber library in the sense that, beside us running the library, the photo museum and the new project – CRIMMD - Women Free Skill Acquisition Center. I am looking at a situation where we will have a place where you walk in and get practically everything you need. There will be an eatery, library, swimming pool and so on. My dream is to set up a one-point centre in Nigeria in the next five years.
Where will the one-point centre be located?
I believe God that He will bless us enough and give us somewhere bigger. It may be our own or a rented place. Our skills acquisition centre for women has started. It is a free centre. Based on experience, I have discovered that if a couple is working and earning N50, 000 each, the husband will spend about N10, 000 into the family while the wife will spend N40, 000 into the family. I have also seen a situation that when a man is dead, the woman then starts struggling to survive and I keep wondering why it is like that. I don’t pray to die or for any man to die, but in a situation like this, the woman will be able to feed the family. That is what prompted me to set up the skills acquisition centre for women with the notion that when you train a woman, you train a nation. I want to train a nation. The "CRIMMD - Women Free Skill Acquisition Center", has commenced with five sewing machines, four laptops and one computer desk-top, for computer training. In addition to tailoring/fashion designing and computer training, the Center will teach the following others: Catering, Bead Making, Soap making (liquid/tablet and detergents), Liquid disinfectant Production, Hat making, Air freshener production, Germicide Production, Insecticide Production, Ankara bags and shoes making and Make-up artistry. It is very tasking but God is helping me to do it.
How do you generate funds to run the centre?
For now, it is a one-man effort to change the world. I am not in partnership with anybody, not that I have not solicited for it, I have approached one or two organizations but there have not been a positive response to that. We have been able to get a place. I was giving a thousand dollars for the SDLG award and they specified to me that that money should go into the CRIMMD - Women Free Skill Acquisition Center. They paid a total of N499, 000 into my account which we are putting into the centre. It is like a drop of water in the project we are doing.
Going back to your question, I do research for government, organisations and individuals. It is the income I derive from my research work and my magazine I put into the CRIMMD - Women Free Skill Acquisition Center. So far, I have about 11 volunteer teachers who have accepted to work for us free for a start, but we are mapping out a strategy to assist them for their transportation.
We learnt that you bagged a new award. Can you tell us about it?
Well, I don’t know which of them you are referring to, but I know in the last three months, I have received three international awards. I got the African Leadership Improver Award 2015 which is being organized in Paris, but the presentation was done in Gambia for 2015.
I was among the five finalists in the SDLG Africa Most Reliable Person. The SDLG Award is being organized by a construction company in China. They felt that it was time for them to appreciate Africans that are doing well. So, the nomination was open on the social media. A total of 792 of us were nominated across Africa. Out of the 792, they had five finalists, myself representing Nigeria. We had Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and others. But at the end of the day, Ghana won the award but I happened to be the first runner-up in the award list.
I also got the Nigerian Arts, Fashion & Beauty (NAFB) 2016 Image Award from the United States of America. It is organized by the Founding Fathers Inc. based in the USA. The mission of the NAFB awards is to highlight, celebrate and recognize the talents of those who have made great contributions to the development and promotion of Nigerian rich arts, culture, history, indigenous fashion styles and beauty. All these awards are in appreciation of what I will describe as my little contribution to humanity.
You have many awards displayed in your office, it is like, apart from the past and present Nigerian Presidents, you are one of the few Nigerians that are receiving awards from different parts of the world. What is the secret?
Let me start by saying that I appreciate God for the awards coming in because, I see it as a way through which humanity is appreciating the little things I am doing. I have been running a free public library for the past 12 years. Beside running the library, I have been doing free book donations. In 2015 alone, I donated 6, 000 to schools, organizations and individuals. I remember I started to reach out to people through book was in 2008 when I bought books worth one million naira and donated them to 39 media houses across Lagos and Ibadan. We went to Tribune in Ibadan, but the other 38 media houses were based in Lagos. The aim of the book donation was to let those media houses use their platform to talk about the importance of book reading. I felt that the one way to achieve it was to give to them and let them talk about what we are doing. In 2015, the 6000 books I donated was to encourage non-governmental organizations and schools to establish libraries. I gave 50 books to every school, church and other NGOs that came. So individuals that walked into the library got two books each. The basic aim was to encourage reading habit among individuals and schools. I didn’t even stop there. The NGOs that got 50 books and came back to give me proof that they actually set up a library got additional books from us. In this 2016, we have started giving out books. Some weeks ago when I visited Katsina-Ala College in Taraba State, I pledged 200 books to the school and we are working to get it done. I did something I have never done before by making an open request to authors, asking them to donate books to me so that I can forward it to the school. So far, I have received about 130 books. What I now want to do is, instead of giving them those books I pledged to them, I am going to donate 300 books to them. I feel that with this, we can encourage the younger ones who are coming up to get into the reading habit and that is the only way it can benefit them for the future.
Do you have any other information?
We are donating toys to motherless babies’ homes and schools that have the kindergarten sections and we have made a budget of a million naira to buy these toys.
Dr. James’ profile
Dr. James is a graduate of Psychology with a Certificate in Conflict Resolution. The former Special Assistant in the Presidency Abuja and former Media Assistant to Abia State Governor, was appointed as the Registrar of the African Institute of Entrepreneurship, Lagos. He has received a total of 68 awards nationwide, received Appreciations/Commendations Letters from Lagos State Government Education District VI; NTA 2 Channel 5; former USA President Bill Clinton; Queen Elizabeth of England. He is a member, Institute of Business Advisers; Fellow, African Institute of Entrepreneurship; Rotary International; Nigeria Institute of Public Relations; Nigeria Institute of International Affairs and Nigeria Institute of Management.
He runs a free public library and has started The Women Free Skill Acquisition Center and he is not a politician.
Dr. James is presently on a tour of the nation. In 2015, he visited 15 states including Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Kogi, Edo and Delta. He explained that it is capital intensive, doing the tour without sponsorships, but thanked God for guiding, protecting and directing him throughout his journeys. He believes tourism has an important place within the world economy and represents a basic branch in many countries with tourists’ location. It is a known fact that the Christian pilgrimages to Israel and Islamic faithful pilgrims to Saudi Arabia have contributed to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in those countries. If the government of Nigeria can invest in tourism, James is convinced that it will improve our GDP a whole lot.
In 2016 so far for nine days, January 28 - February 5, 2016, he was on the road, he visited six states: Osun, Kwara, FCT Abuja, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba.