Who would have thought that Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA) had envisaged the recent tweet of Reno Omokri about the Nobel Laureate prize that was awarded to Professor Wole Soyinka and not Chinua Achebe. Well, it becomes exciting to see a book that defines Achebe while trying to measure the extent to which scholarship has been overrated around Nigeria and obviously across Africa.
The first page of the book made it known that it is not only leadership that has failed Nigerians, scholarship has equally failed and this has led to the stagnancy of the society at large. Having said that, I will like to say that the comparison made by Onyeka Nwelue about the writings of contemporary writers as such as Helen Oyeyemi, Diekoye Oyeyinka and Chigozie Obioma and that of Chinua Achebe is not appropriate. I presume that the writers of the various ages in English literature also differ and this has led to the canonization of literature and writers were grouped into eras. This is equally applicable to Nigerian writers and an era should not be used to discredit another era because different generations have various ideologies.
There was also an overwhelming mention of Albert Einstein, a physicist, in the early pages of the book, it got me wondering what the crime of Achebe was as he was benchmarked against Einstein. Eventually, it can be summed that it was a way of challenging the scholars from across the country to showcase their inventions other that in literature. This showed that many times, Africans have excelled in literature more than in other fields of human endeavor, especially sciences. However, the fluid and independent nature of literature would account for this success largely.
There is a striking part in Book One about how people go to school and return a moron. Pg. 40. This typifies the failure of scholarship and in turn, the failure of leadership. In the author’s words, “the state and/or nature of leadership is determined by the state of knowledge, not of the leaders- but more importantly- of the society, and, knowledge forever changes.” To summarize the first book, we need scholarship that is not sheepskin but scholarship which is truly an innovation and an invention.
Another germane thrust of the book is why do we rewrite history at every point in time? The author mentioned that General Gowon and some other Nigerian leaders have committed series of offences but the history is forgotten and/or being rewritten. This is also happening across the country without recourse to the upcoming generation. It must be agreed that these is another failure of the Achebe generation was that they were unable to use technology to advance their people.
Equally, he introduced recent Africa scholars like Professor Lumumba and Professor Chidi Odinkalu who foregrounded their discussion on Tanzania. The author played on their varying discussion to show that post-studentship research is not adept enough to lead us out of our leadership failures. At another instance within the book, Tanzania was greatly compared to Nigeria in terms of her ethnic population and the dynamically unrelated settings. This reflects that various African country cannot be totally lumped together in the narratives about the continent.
The final book in the text, gets to speak to a businessman-banker relationship and how sore it has gone. With my little understanding of what is happening around the imbroglio, I can say that tribal sentiments has been one of the meanings being read into the issue. While I draw the curtain on the issue, remember that lately an image was trending online which reads, “when you owe money, and don’t pay it back, do you know what that’s called? Stealing.”
The book is not bereft of cultural nuances, the author spoke of the Ogboni cult which original started in Ijebu; he also spoke about Oriaku among others. The book is also rich in history as it speaks of various generation represented by Achebe, Obasanjo, Dangote, Gowon and other renowned Nigerians.
Let’s sum the entire book up by taking an excerpt from Book 3, Chapter 5: “To resolve the Nigerian development question would be to teach and instruct the present Nigerian leadership-intellectual-media Industrial complex that first, they do not have the brains they presume they do and second, the “lack of leadership” they are agitated about is non-existent.”
This text by Dr Jimanze Ego-Alowes is a repository of quotes, analogies, analysis and contrast. It cuts across history, sociology, cultural studies and other areas of scholarships. I would want to add that the disconnection between the town and gown has been so much; we need to drive the change from the classroom to the media and eventually, these two can shape the leadership of the nation. Let’s all get to work by changing our world through ingenious ideas. It does not cost a kobo, do not hide in whinning. Just invent and prove the New Nigeria as gifted as the best of the world.