When it comes to accolades, some people make the crown harder for others to reach. One of such people is Treasure Olawunmi Bayode. Don’t let his calm demeanour fool you; he’s smarter that he looks. His intellectual prowess oozes out of his every word and every action he makes. It is no surprise that he is a record breaker. Sometime in February this year, Bayode took up a daring challenge to break the Guinness world record in the ‘Longest Marathon Reading Aloud’ category. Challenging the previous record of 113 hours 15 minutes, he read for a mind-blowing 120 hours non-stop. He began reading by 1:30 PM on Monday, 26th of February, 2018 and ended 3.30 PM on Saturday, 3rd of March 2018. Whilst he has said on social media that he did it for the culture, here is an exclusive interview with him for your reading pleasure:
LW: How did you feel winning the Guinness book of record on reading, in a country where we believe people don’t read?
Of a truth it was a suicide mission, anyway. I will say the truth because some people have been saying, “is it not just reading?” And, I dare them, please go and read for 8 hours. In fact, read for just 4 hours.
It wasn’t really about the record, honestly. It was about making reading popular. It was about going back to the fundamentals. Every nation is the result of what it reads; for a nation to develop there must be research, and you cannot do research without reading. This means that when you see a nation that takes education or reading seriously, you would see that the nation will get developed.
We have seen such examples in Singapore, Malaysia, and many other developed nations. While it is good to focus on the economy, the truth is that even the economy needs experts and you don’t have to import these experts from other countries to come and work on your economy as a nation – it has to be from your country.
There has to be quality education to raise experts. Now, even these experts need to continue to read, develop their skills and their knowledge. I can say Nigeria is where it is today, because we don’t read. It is the truth; when the citizenry read, the content of our discussion, will be deep, it won’t be shallow.
So it is important to read. Television might be important – I also love television, but you cannot underestimate the importance of reading. I am also an ardent football lover.
(LW: What’s your football club?) Chelsea football club. Still, I read. I watch movies, I love movies, I love music, and I do music. However, all of these things are only addendum to a nation; to the factors that can develop a nation. Education is still the bedrock of development because if you look at the 17 SDG goals, all of them revolve around education.
Not just education, but reading. This is why I needed to have a platform to talk about reading. I needed a platform that ensured that my name got out there fast, in order for me to be an authority in reading. Nobody was talking about it; few did, but on smaller platforms. This was why I went after the world record. If it was about the record itself, I could have chosen to run, dance, or eaten for days continuously.
I just wanted people to know that I read. I’m fulfilled because I achieved what I set out to do. I didn’t even know that the buzz was out there. I didn’t know that people came to see me read. There were primary school and secondary school children who came to see me read, and indeed that’s enough for me. It’s just how people would come out in numbers to see Olamide or Wizkid sing; people came to see me read. These children would remember going to see a man read and that in itself is impact.
That’s why I chose to read. Was it easy? No.
LW: What was the process like? Did you get any sleep?
I slept for ten minutes; sometimes fifteen minutes.
LW: Wow! I actually thought you would have slept for at least two hours
Actually, I had two hours break every day. In 24 hours, I would have two hours break. I also have five minutes break at every one hour reading. And if I read for one hour, I would have five minutes break. However, I could accumulate my breaks. So that means if I read for 6 hours, I would have 30 minutes break. If I read for 12 hours, I would have 1 hour break. Trust me; one hour reading aloud is no joke. So it was a gory-pleasant experience. Gory while I was going through it, but pleasant after I was done.
LW: How did the reading journey begin? How did you start reading? How did you develop interest in reading?
Unfortunately, nobody pointed me to reading. I picked up the habit myself. I knew how to read when I was in primary four, but nobody taught me. In my early days of Sunday School, I was taught that whatever you asked from God, He will do it for you. So on a particular day in primary four, I prayed to God in class. Even the prayer wasn’t in English it was in Yoruba.
“Mo fe mo we ka. Olorun wa je kin mo we ka. Ma le ka English, ma le ka Yoruba. I would praise you.”
The following term I started reading. I didn’t practice to read because I didn’t want to diminish God’s work in it. The next challenge was getting the books to read; my parents could not afford books. They couldn’t afford to buy books so there was no book to read. There was a guy I used to envy back then, Taofeek. His mum used to buy him newspapers to read. Whenever they come visiting, his mum would come with newspapers and I would read from there. With time, I became the star of the school. I was reading all kinds of books. I wasn’t exposed to literature books, just the ones for our classes like ‘Eze goes to school’, ‘Mr Edet’, and so on.
Around 1996, 1997, I read a book by Dale Carnegie, “How to win friends and influence people” and it was the first time I read something completely outside my normal academic books. It turned something in my life and heart. Since then, I have never looked back. Now I read for anything. I want to know how to be rich, how to get wealthy, how to live in the spirit, how to be a good husband, how to be a good father, how to be a good person, History books, literature books, and so much more. Regardless of the genre, I read.
LW: Could you give us a little background about yourself? What do you do?
I’m into branding and I have been, prior to this. I do brand consulting and the creation of souvenirs. I produce souvenirs for companies, I print diaries, T-shirts, Pens, Ties, Cufflinks, Neck Ties, and so on.
(LW: You run the company?)
Yes, it’s my company. It’s known as Pythagoras Media. I also take up general contracts; anything that can bring in the money.
LW: What was growing up like?
I got my primary school certificate at Arowosegbe primary school, while my Secondary School was at Comprehensive High School Agidi, Ketu – all in Alapere. I studied Accounting at Osun state polytechnic. I got an HND and since then, I’ve been discouraged to further my education in Nigeria. I discovered that it was just about certificate. We don’t study to know; we just want to get the certificate. Whenever I get the chance, even if I’m 70 when I get to US or England, I’ll go back to school. Then, I won’t be pursuing certificate; I’ll be pursuing knowledge.
LW: How has the recognition been so far?
I’ve been featured in almost all the radio stations in Nigeria. Specifically in Lagos, and Abuja. I have some more in Ibadan as well. Television stations as well. I’ve been on Channels, TVC, Wazobia Max, and many more. I craved such platforms in the past so that people could hear the message. Since I got this, everybody now talks about books. So I’m good.
LW: Do you have plans of writing your own book or have you ever written a book?
I was writing a book when I was serving in Calabar. Serving there was somewhat boring, so I started the book. However, I lost the manuscript. I still want to write, though.
LW: What kind of book will you love to write? Fiction; non-fiction?
I have very wide imagination, I tell stories to my children and I create these stories in my head. I love children stories. However, to write fiction stories, you must have the skills and I didn’t study any literary course. I would rather write books that can improve people. Like self-improvement books.
LW: Who are your favourite authors?
Dale Carnegie, Brian Tracy, James Allen are some of my best.
LW: Do u read Robert Greene? Like the 48 laws of power?
I sincerely don’t like that book. I’m a Christian and the book has a few principles I don’t ascribe to. I don’t need to cheat people to succeed; we shouldn’t for the sakes of business put other people in danger or harm’s way.
I also read Myles Murone, Napoleon Hill, and many more.
LW: I had come on one of the days to watch you read, and that was my first time at the ‘YOU READ’ Library. I loved the initiative by GTBank, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that there weren’t enough books. When Chimamanda Adchie was asked if there were libraries in Nigeria, a lot of us faulted them for being oblivious. But, in truth, we don’t have nearly enough.
Part of the things that we have been working on, is raising funds through grants, sponsorships, or even everyday Nigerians. Even if Nigerians could just contribute 100 Naira each, we would be able to build libraries across the federation, and of course load them with books. Another thing we are doing is what we call “Street School” on the art of schooling children. We intend to train them two or three times in a week after school hours. For now, we don’t have the required facilities, so we intend to borrow school premises were we can teach students how to read and write.
LW: What do you think about the poor reading culture in Nigeria? How do you think we can fix it?
The truth is that people are reading, but what are they reading? Novels, Instagram posts, and Twitter posts. So it’s not that we are not reading. We just need to define how effective the impact of what we are reading is, on our lives and to the nation. Now, I’m not averse to reading novels; fiction books have a way of building your vocabulary, grammar and the rest. However, what actually brings development are self-help books. You have the chance to become a better person and learn things you can never learn in the classroom from the books.
I am more of a self-help book type of person and the truth is that they work. I came across a book, “Power of the Plus Factor” by Norman Vincent Peale and I added that book as part of the list of books to be read. The reason was that I felt I was going to get to a point when I needed to give up. As I was reading the book, I was actually motivating myself. Books like “Menopause: The guide for Real Women” by Caroline Carr, have information that would not be taught in the classroom. That means when a woman picks the book and reads it, she will know what to expect when menopause is approaching.
LW: Is there any way you think we can make people read relevant things or at all?
Yes; it’s about campaigning for it. We should have a platform where we talk about reading. One of the things we want to do is to incentivise reading. Currently, we are looking to find 10,000 people. We are also hoping that by God’s grace, a million people would register for it. The first 100 have an opportunity to win 50,000 Naira each. Each person reads one sentence, so it is a way to keep the fun alive. The big thing is that we are changing the narrative in Africa, because we want to have the whole world talking about it. If we have funds, we intend to bring in CNN and BBC into the mix, so they would blast it across the globe that Africans read. Now we read; we do read.
LW: What other things are you working on?
I already mentioned the street project. Another thing we want to do, is what we call “Lead to Read.” Here, we get people like Uncle Sam, who is a leader in society and a star in his own right, and take them back to their Alma matter to share books to students. The person would read to students for say 20 minutes, and because his or her affinity with the school, people are more likely to believe them. People would be more likely to believe Uncle Sam, if he says that he is where he is today because he read.
We would also be getting the musical stars, the lawyers, the doctors, and the actors as well and taking them back to their schools. If possible, we would take these artists to students to read to them and show that even if they act or sing, reading is still very important and education is very important.
LW: You said something about another world record
Yes, that involves 10,000 friends and myself. We are looking for people who can read. Each person reads a sentence, and out of the people that do so, a number of them would win 50,000 Naira each. This is just to show that there can be instant gratification in reading as well.
LW: Is there a way you intend to make money yourself as well? We do it for the passion but we also need the money too.
I mentioned that we are going to be building libraries. We need money to build libraries and we don’t want to wait. If Nigerians can contribute money, we would see that there is power when we put our resources together to push a particular cause. This is so that there are initiatives for many things like breaking records, and making a statement in Africa.
LW: Do you have anything to tell the younger generation?
I will close with this. There are some secrets to life; there are some ideas for innovation, there are words of inspiration locked in books. Until you open them, they won’t be unravelled. It is written in the book of Daniel 9:2, “I Daniel understood by the books.” That means that after reading the books he understood and was able to unravel a secret. They were to spend only 70 years in exile but they had spent 74 years. When Jeremiah proclaimed that prophesy, there was a scribe who wrote it down, meaning there was a documentation. God did not reveal to them that they were to spend only 70 years in that place. He did not send anyone to Babylon either. Daniel had to carry out research to know how long they were to spend in exile. If he hadn’t read, maybe they will still be there today.
Even God promotes reading. He said He will write His covenant on the tablets of their hearts. This is why He wrote the first covenant on a stone because there were no books for them to read. That means, if God is promoting reading, then we need to read. It means that reading is very important. In fact, the Bible said that in Heaven a book would be opened. In Heaven, many books are opened. He said, “I saw an angel and he opened a scroll.”
Without a doubt, reading is very important.
Treasure Olawunmi Bayode is married with 3 kids and he lives in Lagos, Nigeria.