The Trouble with Nigeria
Being a Paper Presented
Professor Owunari Abraham Georgewill
University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
1st Chinua Achebe Leadership Lecture Series
Nigerian Literary Society
Art Climate: #20 Igbodo Street, Old GRA Presidential Port Harcourt
Sunday 21th November, 2020.
I will like to most importantly thank the Almighty God for gift of life and grace, and also thank the organizers of this maiden edition of the Professor Chinua Achebe Legacy Series for inviting me to this auspicious occasion in memory of the late literary legend. The choice of his book "The Trouble with Nigeria?" for this discourse today was well chosen and speaks volumes of the understanding of the conveners on issues in Nigeria our beloved country.
The Man Chinua Achebe
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Anambra State, Nigeria. After obtaining his first degree from the then University College Ibadan in 1953, he taught briefly before joining the Nigeria Broadcasting Service in 1954. Later in life, he abandoned writing fiction for a period in favour of essays, short stories and poetry. He has a lot of other books to his credit amongst which is "There was a country" In 2007 he won the Man Booker International prize for his onerous contribution to fiction. He was a Professor of literature in Nigeria and US. The curtain fell on his existence physically on March 21, 2013 at the ripe age of 82.
Let’s kindly observe a minute silence in his memory.
“The Trouble with Nigeria”
In this book under consideration, Achebe pointed out succinctly "The trouble with Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership, the inability of our leaders to rise to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmark of true leadership“. This brings to the forefront the motive of our leaders in every sphere of human endeavours in politics, governance, military, public services, private enterprises, education, sports, health, social etc as well as everyone of us as citizens of Nigeria.
Tribalism, Indiscipline, corruption, false image of ourselves, social injustice, mediocrity etc were all given prominent place as they appeared as chapters in the book to buttress them as the major trouble with Nigeria.
Written 37 years ago in 1983, most of the issues raised by this fine author still remain the trouble with Nigeria. Corruption, Indiscipline, tribalism, lack of patriotism, greed and illiteracy are still plaguing our country. At page 10, the erudite scholar posit "Nigerians are what they are only because their leaders are not what they should be" A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people. He will be outspoken in condemnation of their shortcoming without giving way to superiority, despair or cynism. Does this describe our leaders? Indiscipline and Corruption assumed an alarming position until recently.
Knowledgeable observers have estimated that as much as 60 percent of the wealth of the nation is regularly consumed by Corruption. No wonder when you want water, you sink your bore hole, when you want electricity, you buy your generator until recently.
Chinua Achebe’s View and Nigeria Current Situation
The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is fighting corruption headlong in order to reverse these ugly trends in our national life. Achebe criticizes the political class for siphoning public funds through diverse ingenious ways.
Political news is just mainly politicians fighting politicians or politicians reconciling with politicians, political gossips, drama about politicians and what affects them.
Until recently, governance was merely used as self aggrandizing props by political leaders or as tabs against their opponents. No honest engagement on the causes of corruption that begat poverty, desperation for survival, infringed rights of ordinary citizens, insecurity destroying lives.
The Real Problem with Nigeria
These can be summarized in the following sub-headings:
Failure of Leadership "There is nothing wrong with Nigeria character" Achebe posits. I strongly agree with the above statement as Nigerians make waves all over the world in various areas or spheres of human endeavours.
Pious materialistic wooliness, fixation on wealth and self-centered pedestrianism rather than selfless leadership were stern words used by Achebe for the leaders of our nation.
Lack of Patriotism
Inability to devise public policies that will benefit all citizens and not a selected few; True patriot exists in the head, heart and the works of the hands of the leaders and citizens.
Exaggerated sense of self, promoting grandiosity, wishful thinking and empty praises must be exchanged for hard work and reality.
Permit me to ask the question as some have argued "Does the inability to recognize the abundant talent in the Igbos and its utilization also constitute the trouble with Nigeria?"
Nigeria is one of the most important country in Africa. Nigeria has abundant human and material resources. Nigeria is a leading country in influencing Africa opinion on many issues as it did on issues of liberation of South Africa, formation of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). It plays significant role in stability of other African States like Mali etc.
Nigeria has great authors like the late Professor Chinua Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka amongst others, musicians, professionals, businessmen etc known all over the world.
The oil boom era has given way to corruption, religious intolerance, Indiscipline, social injustice, election rigging, violence, cultism, lack of patriotism etc.
Conficius in his famous statement said "The prosperity of a country does not consist of material prosperity but in righteousness" Nigeria’s religiosity has become less a call to righteousness than a reason for many mundane issues: miracles, fast money, prosperity, strife, violence etc. Sad, even in religion we have gone low.
The book "The trouble with Nigeria" seeks to make sense of our past in order to help us understand contemporary events in Nigeria. It is a reference history of Nigeria 37 years ago when it was written. It chronicles events and personalities of Nigeria we all need to know.
The importance of personal responsibility in bringing about our desired dream for our beloved nation Nigeria will need not be overemphasized.
We must all begin to take responsibility in our little corner to take deliberate action to turn the tide of things in our country
That little corruption in our little corner must stop
That little Indiscipline in our little corner must stop
That little unpatriotic act in our little corner must give way to patriotism
That Religious bigotry must stop
We must get our elections right
We must get our politics right
We must get our education right
We must Reorientate our value system to reward hardwork, diligence, humility etc
We must dialogue on all issues “jaw jaw rather than war war
Our leaders must lead by sanctionable example.
It is My hope that at the end of today’s discourse we should be to put out some way forward in changing the fortunes of our beloved country Nigeria
Let the discussions BEGIN
THSMK YOU ALL FOR L STENING
MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL
Professor Owunari Abraham Georgewill
University of Port Harcourt Nigeria
Saturday 21st November 2020