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Nigeria And The Challenge Of Nationhood

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Posted: Mar 27, 2016 at 3:00 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.

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.

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.

On the subject of corruption, the author has a lot to say. He argues that everyone is implicated. He highlights the various avenues through which corruption manifests and they include: lack of discipline and loss of family values; workers defrauding the government; retirees being defrauded of their pensions; policemen exploiting Nigerian citizens; certificate racketeering; examination malpractices and many more.

While discussing the need for social responsibility on the part of government and the individual, he touches on the deprivations and damage suffered by the people of the Niger Delta and the price they have had to pay for the petroleum resources located in their home land which is exploited for the benefit of the whole country.

He suggests that the lapses in the petroleum industry should be tackled by government and everyone concerned by eliminating corruption, privileging maintenance culture to increase the productivity of the existing refineries, thus limiting the massive importation of products which has been the norm.

He castigates the Nigerian government and those in authority for the many acts of injustice and the neglect of various parts of the country which he claims are caused by ‘’our glorification of corruption, our inordinate ambition, our small-mindedness and our ethnic and religious bigotry’’ (p. 34).

Odocha dwells at length on the acts of injustice inflicted on Ndigbo, in Nigeria, such as the marginalisation and the neglect they and their zone have suffered since after the civil war; the ‘’lack of federal presence’’ in Igbo land; the economic and political emasculation of Ndigbo; the hurriedly executed indigenisation policy when Igbo business men and women were economically strangulated after the war; and the ‘abandoned property’ debacle through which Ndigbo lost many choice properties in some parts of the country after the war; the denial of parity to the south-east zone regarding the number of states each of the zones in the country has and the genocide and spate of massacres that Ndigbo have suffered in some parts of the country, especially in northern Nigeria.  Odocha believes that the suffering of Ndigbo today is caused by two factors: a gang-up against them by the rest of the country and the current rudderless and visionless leadership situation of Ndigbo. He advises the Igbo people to rally round and change the condition in the south east. However, he does not believe that the situation of Ndigbo is irredeemable, for he ends on a positive note with the aphorism ‘’No condition is permanent’’, meaning that the fallen may yet rise again; or in the words of the prophet Ezekiel, ‘’Dry bones will live again.’’

The Way We Are: Ideas for a better Nigeria is an interesting and informative book. It gives incisive analysis of the challenges facing Nigeria today and proffers solutions to most of them. Odocha’s style is riveting. He raises an issue and gives concrete examples of its occurrence in our national and private lives and then relates it to similar issues in Nigeria and suggests remedies or ways the problem can be tackled or confronted. He is like a medical doctor who does not stop at diagnosing a disease, but goes ahead to find a cure.

This is a book I can say has little or no flaws. Some people might consider it preachy in some portions, especially in those passages where the author moralises or provides footnotes for the reader.

However, the author might be forgiven for this propensity simply because he is only trying to make his point clearly.

Indeed, this remarkable book is written in a clear, vivid and captivating style spiced up with humour and anecdotes.

I recommend the book to every Nigerian and to anyone who has the interest of Nigeria at heart.