Lanoz Publications Limited, Lagos 2012
• By Josef Omorotionmwan
We must acknowledge that there is already a good review in this book. Prof Steve Okecha set out to write a Foreward but, perhaps unwittingly, he ended up doing a perfect review of the book as an addition. Since Prof. Okecha’s work was before press, some errors could have slipped in during the printing process. That simply underscores the need more for a critique rather than a repeat review.
The Nigeria of Our Dream sets off with a frame of mind, how did we get to this sorry state? In the beginning, the coast was very clear. We had every reason to count ourselves lucky because in a situation where many African countries fought relentlessly and obtained their Independence in a pool of blood, so to say, Nigeria got hers on a platter of gold, without firing a single shot.
But while we were yet basking in the euphoria of our new conquest, many unimaginable things started creeping in. It soon became clear that, at best, what we had in our hands was neo-colonialism in which the colonialists and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, were within the same indigenous population.
Then came the culture of impunity in which corruption of the greatest magnitude, indiscipline, moral decadence, dishonesty and lawlessness became the orders of the day.
The situation became incrementally worse. Both government and governance ran away from us and we became lost in the woods. We have since been drifting into rudderlessness.
In 1914, the British Government under Lord Fredrick Lugard foisted on us, a marriage of strange bedfellows in the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates and we lost our cultural identity in the process.
The Nigeria of our Dream chronicles the evolution and eventual loss of the ethnic nationalities. The audience is taken through the 1914 amalgamation of the country and there is no doubt in the author’s mind that this was the very genesis of the country’s nagging problems. The author, very painstakingly, takes his audience through the journey to Nigeria’s Independence.
The Nigeria of our Dream also chronicles how this culture of constitutional instability was transferred to the various military administrations. Each time the military administration intervened in the governance of the country, the first broadcast invariably abrogated the existing constitution.
And each time an attempt was made to return to the barrack, a constitution was written. Between writing the constitution and actual handover, many military juntas were overthrown, thus rendering the constitution useless. This explains why at very heavy costs to the tax payer, the following Constitutions were prepared: General Yakubu Gowon (1967), General Olusegun Obasanjo (1979), General Ibrahim Babangida (1989), General Sani Abacha (1995) and General Abdulsalam Abubakar (1999). In all the myriad of Constitutions, for obvious reasons, only the Obasanjo Second Republican Constitution of 1979 and the Abubakar Third Republican Constitution of 1999 saw the light of the day.
The author strongly believes that to the extent that our cultural essence has been lost in the Constitution, we are operating “a borrowed constitution, which, like a borrowed culture, cannot work for the people” (page xiii).
The author believes that the saying, today’s youths are the leaders of tomorrow is not a term in abstraction. It is real. If we must dream of a better tomorrow, therefore, now is the time to embark on the holistic development of our youths – from the home to school and the society at large.
In this crusade, job creation should be given a top-most priority. We must accord vocation and skill acquisition a pride of place. Sports development cannot be ignored. The author reasons that if tomorrow must be bright, then, today’s education must be right.
The Nigeria of our Dream earnestly believes that a Nigeria where people can sleep with two eyes closed is possible but we must work hard for it. The author dreams of a Nigeria where one can be judged by the content of his character rather than by the power of his purse – a society where corruption shall be consigned to history.
The author strongly believes that it is possible to have a Nigeria where the aphorism “Why pay a lawyer when you can buy a Judge?” may no longer arise.
The author was at home in discussing the Nigeria Police, having spent a major part of his life in the Police Force. He argues strongly in favour of the State Police: “The Police cannot continue to remain one unit, a unitary police in a federal republic of 36 federating States, the only one such in the entire globe… If the President with all the powers does not use the Police against his political opponents, the governors or the lesser mortals can be stopped” (p.96)
One theme that runs across the book is hard work. The author thinks that a viable Nigeria is possible. He paints the glowing picture of a peaceful, beautiful, progressive and united Nigeria. But like the Bible says, “Faith without work is dead”, The Nigeria of Our Dream believes that anyone who wants gold must be prepared to dig deep because gold is not got on the surface of the earth. The author complains aloud, “The visionary leaders are talking more than they are working… The destiny of a nation does not lie only in the voices of the people; it lies also in their hands” (p. x)
The Nigeria of our Dream is certainly a product of many years of painstaking and sound research. The book is written in very lucid and straight forward language. This is one book that can be read as a novel for pleasure at home and a textbook in schools. Once you start reading, you won’t like to stop until you get to the end. Students of research, history, sociology, anthropology, politics, the social sciences, law and contemporary studies will find reading this book a most rewarding experience.
The author agrees with us that there is an urgent need to do a paper-back version of the book so as to spread its affordability. This is merely an expo. It is not to suggest that anyone should put off getting a copy of the book now. One can only do so at a personal loss.
• Omorotionmwan writes from Lagos