Regenerating ardor for history, reading

Dr. James Raphael

Dr. James Raphael

Dr. James Raphael’s passion for reading and research led him to establish the Centre for Research Information Management and Media Development (CRIMMD). It includes a free library and a gallery of Nigerian history with over 25, 000 photographs telling stories dating back to the pre-colonial era to present day including Nigeria military, civilians governors, presidents and head of states, first ladies, senate presidents and major historic events.

An only child who grew up being an indoor person, his love for research and collections manifested as a young boy as he collected stamps, buttons, fish tits and bottles, “I have coins from 123 countries in the world, I collect biographies; I have about 139 biographies of Nigerians. During my service year, I ended up writing two books; first was on Cigarette smoking while the other was on the history of the university I attended. I had approached the school authority about writing the book, they discouraged me but I didn’t give up, eventually when they saw the manuscript of the book, the Vice Chancellor was impressed and the school sponsored the publishing of the book.”

In 2004, he decided to start up a free library when he couldn’t get another job after working as a media assistant to Abia state governor government house in 2000, “I started with less than a 100 books, I had at that time in my house and today, we have about 47,242 books in the library. I got major donations for the library from the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and the Rotary Club International, which amounted to about 500 books, the rest of them, I have been buying. I get crazy with books, I don’t have a car because the money I would have used to buy a car I use in buying books.”

Dr. James who consistently donate books to the public amounting to over 6000 says people hardly come to the library except there are JAMB, WAEC or GCE examinations to be written, then its flooded, after then, you just see one or two people who are doing one professional exam or the other, come around.

On how he started out with collecting photos, he said, “In 2010, I started planning for the centenary, I wanted write books about Nigeria ahead of the centenary celebration; I tried to get to the planning committee of the Nigeria at 100, I met with the Late Tekunor Tamunor and was told that the committee do not have money to fund any project but can give out letters to source for funds and so I told myself I could still do my project on my own. In the course of working on those books, the concept of gathering these photographs into a museum came about. So we started planning and sourcing for photos. I don’t think there’s any place I see a photo that tells a story about Nigeria and I walk away, even if I have to beg, snap or pay and that is how we came about the over 25, 000 photographs we have today.”

Since the collection of Nigerian history in photos requires a vast knowledge of Nigeria, Dr. James started a tour across the states, visiting 15 states in 2015, and has continued in 2016 covering others. “Each time I go with my camera and take pictures that tell stories. When I visit elderly people, I don’t accept food rather I prefer to go through their photo album and get pictures that tells stories of those who live in the 30s and 40s.”

The photo gallery which receives visitors from school excursions is limited by space, as only about 5, 000 photos are displayed while the rest is piled up. “The beautiful thing about these photos is that they have been labeled in a way that even if you walk in and there’s nobody to guide you, it tells you a story as you move from one picture to the other. We need the assistance of the government to help us with a larger space.

“My interest is to disseminate knowledge and honestly, I enjoy it. I see young guys come in here and years later they come back to tell me how well they have succeeded with school and career, that gives me joy. I advice young people never to be in a hurry; I see young people come in here and they say, ‘Sir, I need to make money’, I tell them, you don’t need money all you need is ideas. Our problem is not money but ideas, and one way to get ideas is by reading books.”

Dr. James is a graduate of Psychology from the Ondo State University; he holds a certificate in conflict resolution from the California state university, a diploma in Journalism and a certificate in corporate management. He has published 13 books which includes his biography, autobiographies of personalities who have made an impact in the growth of the Nigerian economy. The native of Abia state is married with three children, two of which are also published authors.

Dr. James who plans on setting up a zoological centre soon has won over 50 awards both locally and internationally including, the African Leadership Improver award 2015 – Corporate leadership award, SDLG- Africa Most Reliable Person Award in China, US based Nigerian Arts, Fashion and Beauty (NAFB) 2016 – Image Award.

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