By Michael Effiong
Tito Obaigbo is a doctoral student of the University of Lagos, she is the Founder/President of Smart Book Club, an innovative platform aimed at making women embrace the reading culture. In this interview, she explained why the Club was formed and more.
Q: Please tell us about your association
Smart Book Club (SBC) was founded on the 1st of April 2018 but duly registered as a club and a Non-Governmental Organisation with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 24th of June 2020. SBC as we love to call it is a book club established for women.
In SBC, we believe that readers are leaders and women who read will lead. Our primary objective is to bring together a select group of Seasoned, Mindful, Articulate, Resourceful and Tenacious (S.M.A.R.T) female avid readers to CONNECT, EMPOWER and BUILD a Network of WOMEN via Literature, Social Events, and Community Service.
Our mission is: We are women inspired to read and lead and our vision is: Building a Global Network of Women to Read, Connect, Empower, Serve and Lead. Join us by sending us a DM on Instagram @smart_book_club
Q: How did it begin?
It began 3 years ago precisely. 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 10years 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.
I also 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 book seller to source the books for us, so that made it easy for us to get all genre 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 book is “From Third World to First ,The Singapore Story : 1965 – 2000” written by Lee Kuan Yew.
When I left the bank 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 chatroom and started inviting friends to the chatroom. 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 it open to any woman? And why only women?
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.
Well 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 the sisterhood connections instead of women tearing each other down. 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.
Tell us about your forth-coming event. Provide all the details?
We are excited! We will be having our anniversary through a two day event. Day 1: 28th of May 2021 at 10am, We will be having our PSL, we call it Project School Library. So on that day, we will be visiting one of the public schools in Lagos and donating books to their Library. We will also be donating other items like sanitary pads, toilet soaps, detergents writing materials, hand sanitizers, face mask, wipes etc.
Day 2 is the D-day. Our anniversary dinner to just unwind and thank God for how far He has started with us and where He is taking us too. The vision for the club is huge. That’s story for another day.😁. So we are going to be having guests appearance. That’s a big surprise for members.
Theme of the event: Changing our Reading Culture. Event will take place at the Rooftop, Turaka Restaurant Ebony Place, VI, Lagos.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
We have a whole lot lined up. Our primary objective is to read a book every month and review. We are getting our Vlog ready so everybody can view our reviews on books. We will be having our movie night, beach outing, book fair if Covid-19 protocols permit us. Let me not let the cat out if the bag.
Please tell us about yourself?
My name is Tito Obaigbo, the Founder and President of Smart Book Club (SBC). A Doctoral student of Economics from the University of Lagos, an MSc 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.
Started my Career as a Banker and worked in the Bank for over a decade and left to pursue my own business, passion and further my education.
Today I run Oakhill Group of Companies comprising of Oakhill Books, Oakhill Mart, Oakhill Schools, Oakhill Gardens. I also founded an NGO called Charity and Development Initiative (CDI) to empower women and youths through social and developmental initiatives. We have empowered well over 100 women and youths.
I’m a lover of plants especially Cacti and Succulents. I also hold workshops on the care for plants and how plants can purify and at the same time beautify our environment through the process of photosynthesis.
I have been to several schools teaching students how to grow their own small vegetables in their backyards. I have also been working on some short documentaries and movies. Hopefully we will get the production up to speed soon. Because I love fashion which is natural and effortless with me. Certainly got my knack for fashion from my mum. She is one of the most beautiful women on earth. Also because I’m a plus size diva, I opened a plus size shop for women in the year 2009 called Max Woman. I advocate that whilst we are healthy eating right and exercising, we should embrace our curves. It’s the only body I’ve got, so I carry my body with grace and I love every curve created by God on my body.
Fashion for me is effortless because I go for comfort and what suits my body type. I have eyes for good things too. I love jewelries too and have a weakness for fragrances. Probably have over 100 bottles of perfumes.
My favourite colour is Purple, right from Primary School days. These days, I’m just falling head over heels for the colour Yellow
Don’t really have a favourite food as I’m not a foodie, but I can say I love plantain whether fried, roasted or boiled and I love grilled Salmon. I’m from Ekiti State and I’m happily married with children.
How did you develop this love for 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 has been the response to the idea of your association since inception?
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 pick their books for our next book pick. It’s been rewarding and encouraging.
How supportive have Corporate Organisations and governments been?
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.
Any additional information?
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 to 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, heros etc have either written a book or people have written books about them. Trust me, they are all avid readers and that’s why they are successful. We are Smart Book Club
We are Smart Ladies We are women inspired to lead and read.
Join us on Instagram @smart_book_club or send us an email on email@example.com