Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Trouble with Nigeria..

Achebe's short essay, The Trouble with Nigeria, is a text that anyone seriously interested in understanding contemporary Nigeria must read. In case you find the central assertion - that the trouble in question is the issue of poor leadership - a touch too simplistic, you might consider page 11, where Azikiwe is quoted thus:

"henceforth I shall utilize my earned income to secure my enjoyment of a high standard of living and also to give a helping hand to the needy."

and Awolowo thus:

"I was going to make myself formidable intellectually, morally invulnerable, to make all the money that is possible for a man with my brains and brawn to make in Nigeria."

The chap from whom Achebe gets the quotes is still alive and teaching at my first alma mater, Hull. Achebe summises, "Thoughts such as these are more likely to produce aggressive millionaires than selfless leaders of their people."

With leaders as avaricious and short-sided as this, who needed enemies?

Many of the sections of the book are true, if not truer, today than they were twenty five years ago when the book was published - the sections on the "False image of ourselves", "Indiscipline" and "Corruption" have not dated at all. Achebe was astute in ending on a positive note however, with a celebration of Aminu Kano's life and values.


Abiola,  5:02 pm  

Citizenship. Plain and simple. Nigeria is a state without citizens. Also, the bullcrap that is 'state of origin' - which only serves to divide us.

Lost at The End 5:26 pm  

Trite is an understatement. And I am sick of listening to the "fadas" of Nigerian thought.

However, if nothing else, the quotes from Zik and Awo proves that the concept of the nationalist hero is a sham (who knows, maybe also the literary hero).

I don't think many people get the fact that there really was never a golden age of great leadership in the Nigerian history of independence.

imnakoya 5:54 am  

Even though I've not read the text, but the quotes listed speak little to the mentality and achievements of the men mentioned while in public service.

Awolowo made the west what it's today, and his legacies are very much alive in the region.

I think we need go back to the history books, and also talk to those that were lucky (or unlucky) to see things first hand during the times of those men.

To simply tag them as "avaricious and short-sided (or short-sighted)" depends on the side of the table one speaks from, and certainly out of tune with the sociopolitical dynamics of their era.

Jeremy 7:26 am  

Imnakoya - according to Achebe, Awolowo stole the Western Region premiership from him in the 1950s, and he ensured that Biafran bank accounts were dissolved immediately after the war when he was Finance Minister. Which of these two 'facts' would you like to dispute?

Anonymous,  9:29 am  

The Awolowo quote was from he's autobiography and completely taken out of context. I believe that paragraph was from the chapter focusing on the period immediately after the death of he's father and he's Uncle refused to send him to school. To even suggest he is of the same ilk as current day politicians is laughable and an insult to the great man. I am almost done scanning the book so it can be out there in the public domain.

In regards to the firs 'fact' it is an oft repeated fabrication that no one obviously bothers to actually look up on, some chap on NVS put this to bed here:

I think the tribune even had a reprint of the west african pilot (Zik owned paper) which published the result and congratulations from Zik as well.

imnakoya 2:28 pm  

Jeremy, I thought it was Zik that some felt Awolowo chased out of the west. If Achebe feels that way too, he's entitled to his opinion; I'm not qualified to dispute what happened while I wasn't even born! However, I can discuss legacies; take a look at the legacies of all past statemen in Nigeria, Awolowo is right up the list.

Anonymous,  4:05 pm  

Jeremy, you know so little about Nigeria's history and politics that anytime you try to sound authoritative (which, dearie, you really shouldnt do often) it just does your actually impressive intellect so much disservice.

To reduce the life and philosophies of two such complex historical figures into simple quotes out of huge biographies that had rich context?

Surely, the rush to show off knowledge must have limits and rigour, even for you, no?

Lost at The End 6:38 pm  

@ Anoymous 9:29

"To even suggest he is of the same ilk as current day politicians is laughable and an insult to the great man."

I no fit shout jare. One day sha, you will understand that Abacha and Obasonjo did not fall from the sky. I don't know why Nigerians are so hostile to rethinking their assumptions about colonial/independence history.

Read On the Postcolony by Mbembe and you will understand how Zik, Awo, and Adedibu are all kindred folks.

Anonymous,  9:21 pm  

@ Lost at The End

And does this book deal with the specifics of post colonial Nigeria or is it Africa in general?

Abacha and Obasanjo did not fall out the sky but last i check the 'Fadas' of the nation did not plot the first coup (at least not through direct participation) that allowed those retards into the corridors of power.

Anonymous,  8:59 am  

"With leaders as avaricious and short-sided as this, who needed enemies?"

You are joking right? Awo and short sighted do not go in the same sentence. As earlier suggested read Path to Nigerian freedom and he's autobiography before making such statements. Hell you can probably get access to the parliamentary hansards/budget speeches from that period to help you judge the principle characters of the time.

He not only talked the talk he certainly walked the walk as well. He would have gone down as a great leader in any nation on earth never mind the cesspit that is Nigeria.

dapxin 9:44 am  

I havent read the book to know, but I suppose you cant reduce much of what was evident - written and phyiscal - of an Awo (the times), let alone a Zik to summations from 2 quotes.

Jason Bourne: It doesnt look right...

But then, they would have had clear flaws of their own, and that may probably be best understood by complete examination of their times against their acts or background.

This is also, not to forget the fraud in the notion of Nigeria itself....

btw, did you get boosts on your 'bandwidth troubles' ?

dapxin 10:04 am  

+ thank for you the google book link - an attempted peek has locked me in so much I am ordering a copy now.

That obasanjo quote...hehe. I Can picture him saying that.

I pray I dont fail this bloody exam next month...

Obifacts,  7:34 pm  

If we can tell ourselves the TRUTH...There is a trouble with Nigeria... not Nigeria as a geographic entity 'cos God so blessed this land that it gave it assorted milk and honeys both North, South, East and West...but the trouble lies in the Leadership...Do you remember the Police, the Customs... or is it the brain drain we cause ourselves...or the moral decay that we have allowed with its products as Corruptions and Greed...why can the systems work!!! Nigerians alas lets take a UTURN... may be there was some Truths.. I have seen in Achebe's work... might needs further research and findings...but the truth is Faith goes with Works.. yes we can change the swing for the Future of Nigeria!!! God bless Nigeria.

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