Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Nigeria - the Federal Republic of Nigeria - recently held celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of their independence from the United Kingdom - October 1st 1960. Now, Nigeria is a country known for many things-one of the world's largest oil producers; the most populous country in Africa, with recent estimates from the United Nations putting it at over 154 million; world re-known writers such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe and a vibrant music and film industry.

Other facts are less known- such as the fact that Nigeria has three satellites in space; that it is the United States' largest trading partner in Sub Saharan Africa and that it is the world's 32nd-largest country.

The incumbent Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, recently declared his intention to run for re-election, via a social networking site, Facebook. He probably is the 1st presidential candidate in Africa, if not in the world to do so. And i still wish him good luck!

What i would like to talk about Nigeria, is not about the bomb attacks in Abuja, allegedly orchestrated by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), on independence day celebrations; but about FRAN.

The acronym FRAN stands for 'the Free Readers Association of Nigeria' - every morning around Nigerian cities, people gather around newsstands, not to buy, but to read the newspapers and magazines on display for free. They then proceed to engage in lively discussions about the news items making the headlines in the day's papers.  According to an article by Vincent Ukpong Kalu, Dennis Ugbudian and Wole Balogun, these people are reffered to as " members of the unofficial Free Readers Association (FRA)" .
A newsstand in Nigeria

The debates are not only impassioned, but the participants, according to the article, are also "analytical, knowledgeable and above all political. The free readers are said to constitute the lead panel at such debates, that are also known as 'roadside parliaments'. The 'parliamentary sessions' discuss a wide variety of subjects ranging from politics, sports, economy, high society and other topical issues.

Free Readers Associations probably exist in many other African countries, where joblessness, a thirst for knowledge and vibrant political atmosphere, create interesting ways of interaction.

So, no money to buy the daily newspaper? No problem! Join a FRA in your city or town today! Association meetings begin every morning at a newsstand near you!

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