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Nigeria And The Challenge Of Nationhood

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Posted: Jul 24, 2016 at 1:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Title:     The Way We Are: Ideas for a Better Nigeria
Author:             Jonas Odocha
Reviewer:     Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo
Publisher:         Eagleman Books
No of pages:             265

One has lost count of the number of books published in recent times on the subject of Nigeria and the challenge of building a strong, united and prosperous nation. So when I was asked to review a new book, The Way We Are: Ideas for a Better Nigeria, on the same subject, I was not enthusiastic. However, a close look at the book and its content compelled me to read it and I am glad I did. This 265-page book of 27 chapters held me spell-bound for two days. The book is illuminating and of profound relevance to the present moment. It is a gripping read and should be made available to every Nigerian and to lovers of Nigeria.  Jonas Odocha has a compelling style that draws the reader like magnet. But perhaps what is so amazing about the book is that, though the subject matter – Nigeria and the challenge of nationhood – is a serious one, the reader derives great pleasure going through the book. This is largely as a result of the author’s style: a combination of humour and a type of native intelligence that I have encountered only in few writers who have written about the same subject.
Some of the issues the author analyses with remarkable competence are the climate of insecurity, violence and the culture of mediocrity that have beclouded and arrested Nigeria’s development; the failure of leadership at different levels in the country; the acts of injustice inflicted on Nigerians, especially Ndigbo, before the civil war, during the war and since after war; and the bewildering periodic and meticulously planned massacres of people of different religious or ethnic origins.
The book is quite readable and different from others that deal with the same subject because of its structure, content and form. The 27 chapters of the book are essentially essays written at different times which have now been gathered in this precious publication. The essays represent Odocha’s analysis of different issues that are of national and sometimes international import. Having served Nigeria in different capacities and various locations, and having travelled and lived in several parts of the country in the course of rendering this service, Odocha is in a vantage position to perceive, understand and analyse the multiple problems that have plagued the country over the years.
Most of the essays focus on Nigeria but a few, like the South-Asian Tsunami and the hurricane that swept across Haiti, take up global issues that made world headlines. It is important to note, also, that the actual writing of the essays, before they were collected in a book form, was done between 1998 and 2011, with each essay examining certain issues that affected and still affect the country’s socio-political, economic and moral growth since independence in 1960. The date when each essay was written was stated at the end of the text, helping us to put it in context and appreciate the realities surrounding its conception and articulation. The impression given is that things worked better for Nigeria in the colonial days and that the downward descent into anarchy, violence, indiscipline, corruption and irresponsibility in the nation reached the lowest ebb in recent times. This parlous situation is attributed to the visionless leadership Nigeria has been saddled with over the years. The author makes us understand that other factors responsible for the country’s abject condition are ethnic chauvinism, moral bankruptcy, individual and collective acts of injustice meted out to fellow Nigerians.
Apart from the topicality of the essays, especially in relation to the time they were written, the literary quality of each essay is commendable. Odocha is not only bent on informing us about the problems but is also conscious of conveying the ideas in a succinct and effective style. Take for example the first chapter entitled ‘’The Bee, the Butterfly and the Wasp”. The beautiful metaphor of the lower creatures is used to teach human beings to live a life of service and integrity just like bees. This mode of living is considered superior and preferable to the life of selfishness and cruelty exemplified by wasps. This metaphor captures vividly the condition and attitude of human beings on earth – either living a useful life or a life of greed and selfishness. The choice is ours.
Indeed, this remarkable book is written in a clear, vivid and captivating style spiced up with humour and anecdotes. I find the penultimate chapter, ‘‘The Village Clown’’, supremely engaging and hilarious. The chapter, narrated with humour and great wit, has a moral underpinning that sparkles and complements the solutions proffered in other chapters, to resolve issues with dialogue, effective communication and peace.
I recommend the book to every Nigerian and to anyone who has the interest of Nigeria at heart.