Book Title: Nigeria is Negotiable – Essays on Nigeria’s Tortuous Road to Democracy and Nationhood
Author: Chido Onumah
Publishers: African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, Abuja
Date of Publication: July 2013
Reviewer: Nnimmo Bassey
Chido Onumah warns of the truth of this saying a few times in his book, Nigeria is Negotiable: that when history repeats itself, and it happens quite often in places where people do not learn from history, what takes place is a farcical replay of tragedy.
It must be said right away that this 460-page book is a work of passion and deep concern for all who live in the geographical contours that define Nigeria. It is an unrelenting critique of the political class as well as the deep display of disappointment that we keep moving in circles without paying heed to the lessons that are thrown at us.
The critical praise for the book, the foreword by Hafsat Abiola-Costello, the preface by Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, the prologue by Anthony Akinola, the introduction by Yakubu Aboki Ochefu and the author’s note speak volume about what the reader is to expect from this collection of essays.
Divided into five sections, four of which are prefaced by poems by Chiedu Ezeanah, the first section deals with June 12 and the Democratic Alternative, the second deals with Heroes and Villains while the third section is on Matters Miscellaneous. The fourth section zeroes in on the subject of the book, Nigeria is Negotiable, while the last section looks at the next political games and gives away the author’s lack of faith in the processes from its very title, 2015 and all that jazz.
Taking Nigeria is Negotiable as just another compilation of articles will be erroneous. Just like Chido Onumah displayed in his Time to Reclaim Nigeria, this is a serious addition to the library of contemporary Nigerian history. The good thing about this book is that whereas historians crave the impression of being disinterested in their subjects, this tome does not pretend to be an impartial analysis of our fetid political history. Nor could any serious writer of fact or fiction afford that luxury except such a writer is part of the cohort immersed in what Chido calls sick intellectualism.
Anyone who has personally lived through the period of coverage of the articles that form this book will find it a brutal reminder of the repeated cycles of rot that has passed for politics over the last decades. Sections one and two are brutal renditions of the patently sick era of direct military dictatorship in Nigeria with the earliest article dated 1993. To appreciate and accurately understand this book, the reader must step back and take in the larger picture of what makes states and statesmen behave the way they do. Beyond the military dictators Babangida, Abacha, Abubakar and Obasanjo (especially in his first stint in the state house) we must of necessity see the systemic superstructure that made their ascendancy and sustenance in power possible. That same system has sustained the largely cash-and-carry politics that pervade Nigeria to this day.
The book chronicles and analyses the numbing realities that we have had to live through, including the phantom coups, the utter disregard for human life manifested in unresolved murders such as that of Dele Giwa, Chief Bola Ige and Chief Alfred Rewane among others, as well as the convenient deaths of Shehu Yar'Adua and M.K.O. Abiola. The murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola is one of the most notorious smears on the history of political/military leadership in Nigeria. And quite rightly, despite attempts to sweep the dastardly murder under the carpet, the struggle for justice in that regard goes on to this day. The book reminds us of the assault on human rights activists and returns repeatedly to the murder of four Ogoni chiefs followed by the brutal hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni leaders. The manner in which the Ogoni environment, the entire Niger Delta environment and the environment of the entire nation has succumbed to the powers of multinational companies and the corrupt and corrupting power of capital speaks volume.
This chronicle of our sordid history should not make you merely cringe as you read, but angry enough to stand up and demand answers to pertinent questions.
The title, Nigeria is Negotiable, shows the author’s complete rejection of the notion that anything about the geographic expression called Nigeria is set in concrete and cannot or must not be negotiated. We are reminded that the Nation was cobbled together by the colonialists in 1914 without as much as a consultation of the various ethnic nations living in the territory about whether and how they wish to live together and under what system. The painful reality is that ever since then the political leaders have pandered to the desires of the erstwhile colonial masters in subtle and in not so subtle ways. Let us see an extract from Chapter 11 of Section 1:
Like Babangida, Abubakar and his disciples who now serve as the overseers of this neo-colony called Nigeria, are not perturbed by the economic crisis convulsing the nation. Their attempt at democracy is nothing but a design to placate imperialism and maintain the neocolonial state structure. While it took some years for Babangida to initiate the transfer of the national economy to foreign control; the present monstrosity, a grotesque mediocre by all standards, has vowed to undertake the complete transfer of the Nigerian economy to his foreign backers before he leaves office in May.
We make a link in the next chapter where Chido writes that:
Not surprisingly, the international community, led by the United States and Britain, who are clearly detached from the Nigerian debacle and whose commitment is matched only by the amount of oil available for sale, have become the cheerleaders of this theatre of the absurd that Abubakar is directing; an absurdity that has the potential of consuming the unstable theatre. There cannot be any meaningful electoral process in Nigeria no matter the support of these vultures hovering over it. Western leaders pressing for the lifting of sanctions or applauding Abubakar’s transition must appreciate this feeling.
Note that, "commitments matched only by the amount of oil available for sale." You may replace the world “oil” with any other critical natural resource and you will see the same “commitment.” This means that talks of democracy are the hymns that are intoned at the altar of exploitation. Chido reminds us of the posturing of world leaders including those of African and Nigerian extraction when it comes to dancing to beats portending quaint transitions wired to have military despots translate into civilian presidents. We give examples here:
When General Abacha declared that the cap of the Nigerian presidency fitted only his head, a leader like President Clinton of the USA said he wouldn’t mind if Abacha ran for president provided he ran as a civilian. Kofi Annan, then General Secretary of the United Nations called on Chief Abiola, four years in detention, to denounce his mandate thus emboldening Abacha to cling on to power (page 115). Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Commonwealth Secretary General declared that the Commonwealth would accept any one of the Nigerian people elected (page 17). Chido reminds us that when journalists asked Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of Britain, if the Commonwealth would welcome Abacha as president he retorted: “That was a hypothetical question.”
On the local scene there was no shortage of sycophantic politicians and intellectual hangers-on falling over themselves in promoting the dark goggled “messiah.” Even the youths were not left behind. Under the infamous Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) led by one Daniel Kanu, the cacophony spiraled. We are reminded of the many costly jokes that were called transition programmes including the several banning and unbanning of politicians who continued to kowtow to their masters with no sense of shame.
General Babangida’s place in the military history of Nigeria is assured. His play in the political terrain including the engineering of two political parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC), a little to the right and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a little to the left, left him firmly in the centre of things. When the 1993 elections inexplicably broke religious cleavages with a two-Muslim presidential ticket winning the election, the general stepped forward to annul the results before eventually “stepping aside” from the seat himself on account of the massive and persistent resistance of the general public to that inglorious act.
Nigeria is Negotiable contains loads of facts and analyses on the sequence of events, the warning signals as well as the players whose acts of national betrayal will not disappear from our memories and from records such as the one in our hands today.
With reference to general Abacha, Chido’s chronicle reminds us that
It was not for nothing that Abacha bore the tag “Africa’s No1 outlaw”.
When he seized power on November 17, 1993, he promised a quick return to democratic rule; but that was not to be. In the five years that he reigned, Nigeria witnessed an archetype of military despotism which marks the period as the cruelest and most shameful period of her national history.
This allusion to Abacha’s brutal rule is not overdrawn; neither is the epithet that he was the most vicious and most corrupt ruler in the history of Nigeria. Abacha mindlessly engraved his name on the plaque of notorious dictators. Under Abacha, Nigeria became an absolute police state. He declared war on every aspect of the nation without batting an eyelid. The bestiality of his regime knew no frontiers. He unleashed wanton viciousness and terror. The press was shackled and citizens jailed and assassinated indiscriminately.
Abacha’s vicious jackboot was lifted from the neck of Nigerians on 8 June 1998, when perhaps by non-military exertions, the General succumbed to death. And another army general took over and eventually handed over to another army general in agbada. It had been a transition of marshal songs all the way.
Permit us to state the obvious at this point - that Chido Onumah is a clear-headed analyst with a firm popular ideological foundation. To add to that, he is a consummate writer as evidenced by his writings and by this new book. You may not agree with him, but you will not easily fault the premise upon which he builds his arguments and draws his conclusions. What we are reviewing today is a shocking collection of essays on shocking events and equally shocking actions of the oppressors and often even the oppressed.
The flow of the essays and the laying out of the Nigerian story is unrelentingly smooth. Until you arrive at Chapters 27 in Section 2 where the author brings on a rather abrupt injection of reflections on Dame Jonathan and the circle of manipulative image-makers around her. And in chapter 28 we see a snapshot on matters around Nuhu Ribadu former head of the EFCC.
Beyond these and a few other interruptions, Chido dwells on the annoying assertion by some politicians and commentators that Nigeria is not negotiable. Such claims, which the author debunks, include the suggestion that the nation’s creation was divinely orchestrated and thus should not be questioned. The essays in this book expose such arguments and pleas as puerile and such as are promoted only so as to secure the stranglehold on power of powerful interests, both local and international, whose main dream and pursuits are the exploitation and bleeding of the territory.
The book wraps up on a very concrete note. It sees the planned centenary of the amalgamation of the nation as wrong-headed and suggests that it should be a most “auspicious moment to negotiate Nigeria.”
We agree that there must be something basically wrong with a position that we should celebrate the day we were forced into a union and have since then been disallowed from even simply having a conversation about the nature, state, purpose and future of such a union.
Some may wish to dismiss Achebe’s assertion that Nigeria is not a great country but one of the most disorderly, corrupt, insensitive and inefficient nations in the world (see page 214). But if we take a sober look around us we should take caution from the caustic comments of the sage. The disorderliness cuts across every sphere – spatial, social, economic and very vitally political.
With these and the deep reflections presented in this book we completely agree with Chido Onumah that it is foolhardy for anyone to say that we cannot interrogate and even negotiate Nigeria.
Nnimmo Bassey is Director, Home of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)
It is a handy book that fits well into the genre of “How to Dos”, except for the fact that it belongs to the higher-level-academic/career niche, where only the best inhabit and saunter without much trouble.
But apart from its academic content, the book also dwells on the peculiarities and intricacies of the country called Nigeria. It is therefore a sort of handbook on the State Of The Nation, before, during and perhaps even after the authors arrival, performance and even departure from the scene. It highlights the nature of corruption and the complexity of corrupt practices among Nigerian officials both high and low, as well as the efforts to either fight or perpetuate it.
The description of corruption and corrupt practices in Nigeria by the author is so vivid and detailed that the reader likely to have the initial misconception that the book is rather about the subject matter, as opposed to its given title. But this misconception is, to a great relief, easily assuaged, as the book progresses and its content becomes clearer.
Through the course of reading the book though, two persistent impressions, having surreptitiously sneaked their ways into the consciousness of this writer, could not be dislodged even until the end of the book.
The first is the impression that Dr NOI is merely a technocrat – or just another technocrat if you wish. This may appear tautological, but there is good ground for its importance, which shall be thoroughly explained in the paragraphs to come.
The second impression is that Dr NOI is not a true Nigerian, or is she? This bit is sure humorous and bound to be controversial. But before the daggers are drawn, let me state that this is neither an attempt to question Dr NOI’s nationality, nor cast aspersions about her loyalty. Rather, it is purely an observation, made in the course of reading the book and, yet again, there is very good ground to explain its validity.
Together, the two impressions shall form the core of the review, which shall be attempt to take a peep at both the content of the book, as well as the persona behind the content, in order to give a more robust and incisive understanding of the work.
Dr NOI as a Technocrat
Throughout the book, there is no doubt that Dr NOI is a technocrat to the core. She is what Nigerians will describe as the “technocrat’s technocrat”, with her head securely screwed in the right places with regards to her chosen choice of profession.
This book is therefore, first and foremost, the work of one master technocrat to other technocrats, be they colleagues or sub-ordinates. It is a manual about the process of reform making, which climaxed chapter 7, appropriately title Reflections on Reforms and Lesson for Reformers. Box 7.1 on page 127, is carefully enclosed to highlight the important Ten Lessons for Successful Reform, based on the author’s experience. The 10 lessons are further explained in details in subsequent pages to the box.
Metaphorically speaking, the book is about a reformer sheep that is hired to salvage a patrimonial farm that has been ran almost-aground by a park of wolves. With the sheep expected carry out its reforms, even with the collaboration from other animals, chief among who are the wolves that caused the problems in the first place, as well as in one disguise or another, a large cross-section of the wolves’ representatives. The book then states clearly the pitfalls likely to be found; the traps to avoid; as well as a tested approach to navigate through the assignment.
But the pertinent question to be asked is perhaps, what such a sheep may be found doing among the wolves in the first place? What was it thinking to have accepted the contract? Why would a sheep accept to work in the den of wolves? Could it be due to naivety, greed or an overdose of patriotic zeal? For, if there were any problems faced by Dr NOI in carrying out her assignment, they all seem to take their root from the fact that she did not belong in the league she found herself.
Dr NOI noted the above observation herself when she wrote in page 124, that “it was clear from the outset of the reform process and the formation of the Economic Team that president Obasanjo saw the team as technocratic and wanted to keep it that way…” And she continued in the same paragraph by saying that “initially, we also clearly saw ourselves in this light. We would keep away from politics, since in any case most of the politicians left a lot to be desired. In conclusion, she wrote that “in fact, I could sense that the politicians felt our team did not appreciate them and regarded them with disdain. After this, she then went further to reveal some specific instances, where there were altercations with politicians, as well as how the team began to veer into the political terrain. All these revelations are all indeed some eye openers, but are they really?
Dr NOI as a Foreigner-Nigerian
Again all through the book, the tone is that of a technocrat describing yet another case, which in this instance only happen to be Nigeria. This is no doubt understandable, because of the manual nature of the book, which requires of it to be neutral as to be understandable by all and sundry.
But nevertheless, to call Dr NOI a foreigner to the Nigerian political, as well as cultural scene, cannot be too far out. After all, before her first appointment, the good lady had been out of the country for an upward of about 30 years - a journey that actually started when she was just in her teens. And in the periods she was outside of Nigeria, it is doubtful if her works were exclusively focused on the country. Neither is her family nor professional network.
As a matter of fact therefore, it would perhaps be more correct to describe the writer as an international citizen than a Nigerian. A description, that is not in any way derogatory, and the fruit of which Nigeria has indeed benefited immensely. This is clear from the description in the book about all the efforts that went into securing the debt relief for Nigeria, which she had championed.
But still, the fact remains that Dr NOI was a foreigner-Nigerian-technocrat, brought in specifically to clean up a mess that other people made on behalf of Nigeria. And the fact that she accepted the job, without knowing much about what she was coming to face as challenges was not only evident throughout the book, but also revealing of the peculiar mindset of Dr NOI in particular and Nigerians in general.
To set the fact straight, the fact that an expatriate-Nigerian – a term being coined by some in online communities – is called upon and accepts to come and salvage her country is not in any way an ignoble thing. However, the mindset that is always quick to do this, and perhaps have come to rely on it, for its survival is what is curious in this particular issue.
A nation and its leadership with the mindset that is willing to offer a political position as high and crucial as the finance ministry to a foreigner-citizen, who is neither politically active nor inclined speaks volumes about the nature of the state in question. And the expatriate citizens that are willing to accepts such arduous challenges, and even sometimes lobby for them, without much qualm, again speaks volumes about a phenomenon that is peculiar to only a few less-developed countries of the world.
The interesting fact is that the above described is not just a happenstance, rather, it is the culmination of a deliberate albeit unplanned phenomenon. A trend, whereby a people export the best of their brains to far away countries and, thereby insulating and even alienating them, from the domestic political and sociological progressions of the home countries. The delusion is that at some later point in the future, these exported breeds would through a warped process termed as “reverse brain-drain”, return with superior knowledge, experience and ideas to help develop and salvage a moribund nation, as with the case of Nigeria.
Thus, it has become an unwritten convention that in order to break through and become somebody in Nigeria, one has to be educated abroad, usually at exorbitant costs, as well as work to acquire relevant international experience, before heading back to the shores of the country to perform magic. A process which of course fuel more corrupt practices among officials, as well as lead to capital flight and of course foreign exchange depletion from the country.
But the biggest irony of all these is the fact that, once the train had taken off, it is almost impossible to put it in the reverse direction. And like a carrousel with a powerful force of traction, more and more brains are pulled from the source countries in a process ad infinitum. This explains the reason why a country like Nigeria would lack crucial manpower, and operate an outdated system, as described in the book, whereas there are highly qualified Nigerians all around the world, while operating, as well as functioning under, some of the most modern systems.
That Dr NOI had almost lost touch with, or was not even aware of the realities of, the modern day Nigeria was evident in the tone of the book. But evident too is the fact that she was very enthusiastic as well as optimistic about the prospect of helping change the fortune of her fatherland. Perhaps compared to their home-based compatriots, foreigner-citizens tend by default to be more positive about their home countries, for they largely live in romantic-bubbles about such patrimonies. However, having lived through the everyday intricacies of the homeland, the home-based tend to be more sarcastic and dismissive of their countries, while sometimes even wishing its speedy disintegration.
Dr NOI was not altogether insulated from such weariness though, as she revealed in the book that she twice resigned, once before she even started and had to reconsider; and the other time more effectively, without an option of return. Eventually, she would write; “let me end on a personal note. Perseverance does pay off. Sticking to principles matters. And virtue can be its own reward. For me, the reforms were a tough road, but a rewarding one. I won and lost friends along the way, and created trust, but also suffered betrayal. In the final analysis, I learned about my country, and I have absolutely no regrets”. (Page 132)
But whether the reforms were worth the effort or not, the jury is still out. And whether Nigeria is reformable or unreformable, only the future will tell. As at the time of this write up, Nigeria s rumoured to be planning on embarking on a new lending spree. And an attempt at reforming the oil sector had almost recently brought down the country. Equally, a state of emergency is currently in place in the North East, due to the upsurge of terrorist attacks from that corner of the country.
One thing that however remains incontrovertible is the fact that Dr NOI has heard and answered the call of her fatherland in its time of need. Whether she had done this out of a deep – even if warped – sense of patriotism or, just simply as a matter of tackling another professional challenge is of little significance. What is most important though is that she has done her best under difficult situation and has survived to tell the story and pass on her experience to others. At a point like this, the words of the Nigerian national anthem, which prays that “the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain”, becomes apt.
As an addendum, the book offers subtle hints about certain events in the Nigerian political scene, such as the background to the fall out between president Obasanjo and his erstwhile vice president Atiku Abubakar. Could this have been due to the frustrated effort at reforming the Nigerian Customs Services?
Also revealed is the reason behind president Obasanjos junketing in those days, as well as the overwhelming influence – for good and bad – that some foreign governments together with their development agencies have on Nigeria internal affairs.
But all in all, the book offers a compelling read for all who have the technical need to understand how reforms are implemented in practice, as well as pundits of the Nigerian historical and political scenes.
Arrows of Rain is a fascinating satirical allegory that reveals in gory details the terrible effect of military rule in a country named Madia in the novel, but which is, in fact, a thinly disguised Nigeria. The book opens in captivating fashion with the story of the dead body of a woman sprawled on the sandy shores of B. Beach on New Year Day. The police arrive but do a terribly patched-up work under the guise of investigation. The only person who can give a credible eyewitness account is a maverick vagrant named Bukuru; he is a highly educated former journalist, but presumed mentally unstable. As he reveals that soldiers caused the unknown woman’s death and discloses that a highly decorated Army officer has done unspeakable violence to women, the police begin to hatch a cover-up, discounting Bukuru’s account – and accusing him of multiple homicides.
The novel’s opening pages limn the poignantly detailed story of oppression, corruption, egregious human right abuses, brutal killings and other ills visited on the Madian populace by the higher echelon of the military. After reading it, one is left with nightmares of the total evil called militarism in Nigeria, and governance in general.
A book filled with spectacular intrigues Arrows of Rain is, in my view, a book for everyone’s library. I read the book by pure accident. I was ordering the much-talked about memoir of Professor Chinua Achebe, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, and saw this book listed. Being a great fan of Ndibe’s erudite weekly commentaries on the litany of Nigeria’s social issues, I ordered a copy. I am rather surprised that the existence of such an important book, rich in the history of class struggle in Nigeria, was unknown to me.
The plot of Ndibe’s novel sounds at once prophetic and realistic. Some of the book’s dramatic events will be familiar to most Nigerians, but Ndibe’s flair as a novelist enables him to avoid the trap of recreating the staid realities of Nigeria’s political history. Yes, the novel offers an all too familiar canvas of corruption and massive looting by politicians, which occasion military intervention in a coup d’état. The military regime offers lots of promises that keep the expectant populace relieved and happy. However, the military soon becomes dictatorial, triggering once again a yearning for the corrupt elected politicians. The cycle continues again.
This book will be of immense interest to a variety of ideologically driven minds. From the women’s rights advocate, who wants the world to understand the plight of women under a military dictatorship, to the historian who wants to grasp the nature of military rule in Nigeria, to a law student who wishes to gain an insight into the real drama of cross-examination, rules of evidence and expert testimony – there’s a treasure trove in this fine novel.
The beauty of the book is that many readers will finish it and then spend days discussing many of the social issues that the author has adroitly embedded in a short book of 247 pages. If you haven’t read the book yet, but want to debate which is better – a very corrupt civilian democracy (in the case of Nigeria, government by looters) or an equally corrupt military regime – you should probably stop the debate, run out and order a copy of the book first. Part of the story centers around the unspeakable crimes committed by General Isa Palat Bello (IPB), a very powerful and dreaded military ruler of Madia.
Elected but rather corrupt civilians, who squandered the wealth of Madia in a most reckless manner, are at first Madia’s rulers. The elected president, Askia Amin, is both clueless and indulges excessively in sexual liaisons with women as well as hedonistic consumption of alcohol. The massive looting and lavish lifestyle of these elected officials leads to the country being ranked as sixth on the list of countries rated as “disasters in waiting” by a world organization. Dr. Bato, a brash Ivy League economist who heads Madia’s Economic and Planning Ministry, dismisses the report as “misleading” and actually puts a spin by calling the rating as “good news.” In total disregard to the true state of Madia, Dr. Bato swears that nobody in the country is dying of hunger. He also justifies needless death in Madia, arguing in Malthusian terms that people need to die and be replaced by newborns. Dr. Bato is summoned by Madia’s legislators to explain his statement; he talks down to the lawmakers. His insolent manner triggers a huge parliamentary row. All bets are off, and pockets of protests erupt all over Madia. University students take to the streets to demand the firing of Dr. Bato. Instead, security agents slaughter hundreds of the defenseless demonstrators, triggering more and wider protests.
The disruptive atmosphere enables General Isa Palat Bello, an emir’s son, to sack the elected government and assume office. The corruption-ridden administration of Askia Amin is consigned to the rubbish heap. Bukuru’s already difficult life takes a turn for the worse with this development. He knows too much about the new dictator. He knows about the general’s rape and murder of Iyese, a former teacher turned prostitute who once got entangled in a three-way relationship with Isa Palat Bello and Bukuru. When Iyese got pregnant and bore a son, Isa Palat Bello, who has a long history of unspeakable violence against women, wrongly assumes that the male child is his (he has no male child with his wife and badly wants one). When Iyese insists that the child is Bukuru’s, IPB kills her, leaving the new-born baby an orphan.
Terrified, Bukuru never accepts responsibility for the child. When General Isa Palat Bello becomes president, Bukuru fears that his days – as someone who knows too much about the new military ruler – are numbered. He develops a deep paranoia and even starts hallucinating. His terror gets worse when two men show up at the newspaper where he was a member of the editorial staff, and demand to see him. The fear of IBP literally drives him to the brink. He calls off work, and then starts a long but sad journey that sees him take refuge on B. Beach. In the end, he makes a home on the beach. And it is there, years later, that he witnesses more violent rapes and the killing of prostitutes by Isa Palat Bello’s soldiers.
Life eventually takes a more terrible turn for Bukuru when he testifies in court about the death of the young woman who dies on B. Beach at the outset of the novel. His revelations in court about the heinous crimes committed both by soldiers and the dictator, General Bello, create an international sensation. He becomes the victim of a conspiracy featuring a corrupt high court judge, dishonest police officers, and a terrified psychiatrist. The machinery of state power is mobilized to provide false testimonies implicating Bukuru for the murder. Since Bukuru’s truth is all too frightening, the judiciary as well as other officials conspire to portray him as a mad man and to depict his own indictment of General Bello and soldiers as figments of his deranged imagination. Reading this novel, I recalled a statement by Karl Max and Engels in their slim book, The Communist Manifesto: “the bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, and the man of science, into its paid wage laborers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”
The best part of Arrows of Rain is that, despite the seriousness of the issues in the book, Ndibe uses his great gifts as a writer to weave in stories that illustrate the richness of Igbo culture as well as relationships and funny tales. There are such vignettes as traditional marriage rites as well as a sampling of the type of advice given to young women about to enter into marriage. A grandmother advises her bride-to-be-granddaughter: “a wise woman can take any man and mould him into the husband she wants.” The title of the book, Arrows of Rain, is also taken from an enthralling folklore, which holds that rain brings life to things and people, but its arrows can also create such problems as floods and death.
I think Ndibe's portrayal of the manipulation of power jives with an already-established mythology of extreme corruption and careless attitude towards the plight of “the masses.” The point he makes in the novel is as compelling as the techniques presented are accessible. His style of writing is alluring, crisp and lucid. Even when he uses unfamiliar words, the context always lends them clarity, rendering the words easy to understand.
Ndibe’s views are stacked heavily against the ruling class, and in favor of the downtrodden in society. This is likely to make him a target of right-wing apologists who argue that he is too egalitarian, even socialistic in outlook. But he is a novelist who portrays his characters, whether poor or rich, weak or powerful, with great complexity.
Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Arrows-Rain-Heinemann-African-Writers/dp/0435906577
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
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'I am an African woman. That's not a political statement. I am not a Whoopee Goldberg or an Oprah Winfrey, a middle-class American in search of an identity or asserting a political right. I am a woman and I am African. That is all there is to it, and that is my tragedy.' In Douala, Cameroon, an African woman relates her life as a woman of Africa to a white oil company worker. Her story can be seen as an experience which encompasses a range of issues that affect women in Africa today, it touches upon Aids tribal prejudice, prostitution, poverty and ignorance. Viewing her life through the conflicting filters of religion and cynicism, her narrative is entertaining and moving. She relates, with no trace of self-pity, her life as a Biafran refugee, as a women in modern Cameroon and as an uneducated Anglophone in today's Douala. The story she tells starts from her birth during the refugee crisis of Biafra. She grows to be a willful child who realises there is life outside the ghetto. The book follows her as she develops into a young woman whose singular, eccentric and colourful character drives her to embrace life furiously. In doing so she challenges the social norms of her society. Rarely self-analytical, she forces an almost existentist path through her limitations, frequently falling along the way but always pulling her self back up without a trace of despair. Through the force of her character she overcomes obstacles to succeed in her dream to become A Woman of Africa. This is an important new novel - and a fictionalised reworking of real life stories told to author Nick Roddy in Douala by Biafran refugees. Nick's own experiences in the region also inform this novel - while writing it he was kidnapped by MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and held captive in the Jungle for 3 weeks. Nick still spends part of each year living and in Douala.
For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria
By Cheryl Johnson-Odim, Nina Emma Mba
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a Nigerian feminist who fought for suffrage and equal rights for her countrywomen long before the second wave of the women's movement in the United States. She also joined the struggle for Nigerian independence as an activist in the anticolonial movement. "For Women and the Nation" is the story of this courageous woman, one of a handful of full-length biographies of African women activists. It will be welcomed by students of women's studies, African history, and biography, as well as by opponents of the Nigerian military regime that has held one of her sons, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, in solitary confinement since August 1995. Cheryl Johnson-Odim, chair and associate professor of history at Loyola University in Chicago, is coeditor of "Expanding the Boundaries of Women's History". Nina Emma MBA, senior lecturer in history at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, is the author of "Nigerian Women Mobilized" and "Ayo Rosijc".
USA-Africa Dialogue and Cyberframing Nigerian Nationhood by Koleade Odutola
2012 • $30.00
• 204 pp • paper
• ISBN: 978-1-59460-926-8 • LCCN 2011020491
When Africans dialogue with citizens of the United States of America, the continent in its parts through the perspectives of nationals engage each other in conversations. The conversations flow like streams in many directions yielding fruits of different sorts. It is possible for a systematic observer-researcher to fish out important themes and ideas. This book, Diaspora and Imagined Nationality: USA-Africa Dialogue and Cyberframing Nigerian Nationhood, traces the hegemony of Western ideas in postings and conversations online. In the process it frames Nigeria's presence online as a postcolonial nation (or nation space) through various communicative activities of citizens at home and in the diaspora. These communicative activities and political activism have led to a wide range of scholarly interrogations and interventions in media, communication, and migration studies against the backdrop of globalization, democratization, and modernization theories. It has been amply documented that communication and social interaction produce ideas that can be evaluated along the lines of deliberative democracy. These approaches have produced outcomes without the benefit of the complex debates, dialogues, and disagreements that come with popular participation and creation of variegated knowledge by a collective. As part of the conclusion, the study posits that the concept of nationhood is not fixed but is a symbolic construct that evolves through unstructured conversations, sharing, and intense debates.
This book navigates the unstructured virtual terrain of dialogues, debates, and seas of information available online. One of the objectives of this book is to bring together the multiple voices and transitions of individuals who left their home-countries to new host-communities by attending to one of the fruits of this technology-driven mode of communication and knowledge production. Diaspora and Imagined Nationality does not pretend to be a universal representation of all Nigerians in the diaspora; it instead focuses on what a small group of intellectuals of African descent and their friends talk and gripe about, and how these themes affect the larger collective.
This book is part of the African World Series, edited by Toyin Falola, Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin.
"The world wide web's impact on global communication has been phenomenal and it is becoming increasingly more so as technology advances. As a result of this, institutions and individuals are able to share ideas on the internet. The Nigerian Community is not immune to this activity and this brilliant book examines various issues that are developing from online discussions amongst Nigerians in the diaspora. Thus, Odutola explores how and why the notion of National Identity plays a significant role in online conversations. For him, Cyberframing Nigerian nationhood has created a radical new way of discussing the idea of the Nation as it has also allowed marginalised communities and people to (re) tell their own stories and create their own concepts of National identity without fear of being subjugated or challenged by dominant groups. Since the issue of National identity is now in cyberspace, it allows for endless definitions and discussions of this already complex concept and raises such question like 'Whose National Identity is it anyway?' Overall, it is remarkable to see how communities in the diaspora have found their voices in their new 'imagined spaces' on line to make ideas, discussions and projects become real." — Ekua Andrea Agha
"Among other things, information and telecommunications technology has made it possible to expand the meaning of community without propinquity. This book shows that despite the ongoing Diasporization of Africans as a result of the world's most recent encounters with globalization, epistemic communities are in formation. These communities are composed of people who remain concerned about their countries of origin, and those who study those countries, engaged in conversation with people located there on matters of common concern and interest. The book in particular, considers the nature, forms, content and meanings of conceptualizations of nation, as well as discourses of nationalism by Nigerians at home and abroad, and consequences of these discussions and debates on clarifying what it means to be a nation. It is well-researched, thought-provoking, and constitutes a significant contribution to Nigerian, African, and Communication Studies." — Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, Professor, Brooklyn College CUNY
"A wonderful read! One of the most original contributions to the cutting-edge body of work on netizenship and the public sphere in Africa. Theoretical acuity meets narrative savvy in Kole Odutola's brilliant study of the impact of the USA-AfricaDialogue listserv on African studies. This book should be read and reread by all lovers of Africa and knowledge!" — Professor Pius Adesanmi, Winner, the Penguin Prize for African Writing
Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon by Michael E. Veal