Okechukwu Oko

Restoration of democracy in 1999 after decades of military rule evoked understandable excitement and buoyed the hopes of citizens victimised and oppressed by decades of military dictatorship. Sixteen years later, the excitement that heralded the return of democracy has given way to anxiety. The Nigeria of today is, in some ways, more dangerous than it was during the era of military rule, definitely more difficult, more chaotic and complex.

Patriotic citizens, weighed down by anxiety and paralysed by fear, feel vulnerable, anxious, uncharacteristically confused and generally helpless in the face of crushing poverty, mounting unemployment, insecurity and economic hardship. It is not just fleeting dissatisfaction or disgust; citizens are scared and concerned about the future. Outrage and despair are reverberating across the nation as citizens demand a way out of staggering difficulties that prevent them from deriving maximum benefits from democratic governance. This is where the new book Who Will Love My Country by Senator Ike Ekweremadu comes in.

Senator Ekweremadu, one of the influential political leaders in the country, a brilliant and first-rate legal mind, remains a model of grace and integrity, unsullied and uninfluenced by power. He has written a thoughtful, measured, and insightful book that will forever change the way Nigerians view and think about the government and their leaders. The chief purpose of the book is to provoke thoughts and discussions about how to build the nation of our dreams.

The author attributes Nigeria’s problems to the reinforcing and preventable pathologies of bad governance, corruption, aggressive ethnic identification, declining educational system, crushing poverty, insecurity, and rising unemployment. He encourages leaders to do everything in their powers to reverse the situation and to prioritise national interest over selfish and partisan.

This is a consequential and important book, one that will have a seismic impact on how leaders and citizens view themselves and the nation. This book is one of the most important books ever written about Nigeria, both because of the vision of a better Nigeria it projects and the brilliant analysis of how Nigeria can overcome its problems and challenges. He truly believes that Nigeria’s problems can be solved. And he proffers ideas on how to solve them.

This magisterial book persuasively addresses Nigeria’s problems in a serious, systematic and intellectually honest manner. He provides deeply pragmatic perspectives and meticulous explication of competing alternatives in difficult issues and choices faced by Nigeria. Many of his arguments and suggestions are powerful and timely and if adopted by leaders will make building the Nigeria of our dreams a reality. Nigeria and Nigerians will be challenged and changed by the ideas contained in this book.

Written with passion, clarity, and simplicity, this book cogently and eloquently presents the case for squarely, resolutely and urgently confronting Nigeria’s problems. He examines the past, addresses the present, and offers prescriptions for building the future. The views expressed in this book are not just opinions; they are based on reasonable and objectively verifiable assessment of Nigeria’s problems.

Countries that aspire to greatness do not fold in the face of challenges or setbacks. Who Will Love My Country is a concerned statesman’s clarion call, a cri de Coeur, a summon to action designed to jolt Nigerians out of cynicism, self-doubt, false confidence, or torpor and to focus on the urgent task of building the Nigeria of our dreams. The book is analytical, not polemical, not an elegy of anguish over missed or squandered opportunities, and it is definitely not a doom-laden appraisal of Nigeria’s social problems.
The book opens the minds of Nigerians to new possibilities rather than condemning or condoning the status quo. Senator Ekweremadu is interested more in providing pragmatic solutions to Nigeria’s problems than in apportioning blames.

Two virtues stand out in this book: the author’s passion for a better nation, and his commitment to the truth. Easily evident in the pages of this book are his superior analytical skills, sophistication, intellectual integrity and distaste for hypocrisy. His approach is both conceptual and concrete. He examines problems from theoretical perspectives and offers policy prescriptions informed by real life experiences and driven by a vision for a better Nigeria. He writes lucidly, without pretence, ruminatively and eloquently marshals his arguments and invites the reader to weigh the arguments on their merits. His analyses and solutions are well researched, passionately argued, written in elegant prose, beautifully crafted, insightful, and convincing. There will always be a difference in how leaders and citizens address Nigeria’s problems because of Senator Ekweremadu’s book, Who Will Love My Country.

One impressive thing about Who Will Love My Country is its range. There are chapters on important and pressing national issues- changing the culture of government, reforming the electoral process, reforming party politics, public participation, revamping public institutions, improving our educational system, inequitable resource sharing, rethinking our security system, curbing the menace of corruption, reducing poverty and unemployment, rethinking Nigeria’s federalism and cooperation between leaders and citizens. Senator Ekweremadu’s evaluation of issues is driven chiefly by contextual realities, not some fanciful thoughts based on how he wants Nigeria to be. On most of the issues covered by the book, Senator Ekweremadu has the inestimable advantages of a statesman: deep practical experience, capacity to prioritise national interest and the ability to focus on public good.

This book confirms Senator Ekweremadu as a demanding and curious mind, a scholar and a public servant of genuine distinction whose utterances and views are directed by a deep and abiding love for Nigeria. Senator Ekweremadu provides an imperishable example of how political power can be used to advance public good. Those privileged to encounter him find him to be an astute, candid and principled politician, a formidable advocate of public good and citizens’ welfare, a man of enormous integrity and prodigious intellect, and a source of inspiration, wisdom and encouragement. This book reinforces his already powerful tendency to prioritize national interest over personal or party interests.

Unlike many commentaries and books on Nigeria’s problems, this book is not an indictment on past or present leaders, neither is it a defence or explanation of the status quo. Rather the author focuses brilliantly on what ought to happen to build the nation of our dreams. He shines his flashlight into different aspects of our society, illuminating and exposing problems, and proffering solutions in calm, detached and objective way. He synthesises his findings into a narrative that is gripping, easy to read, and devoid of partisanship.

He makes his case in a manner that is intelligent, honest, appropriately modest and respectful of opposing points of view. The book is designed less to dictate solutions than to inspire, ennoble, and challenge Nigerians to embrace efforts to build a better Nigerian society. Readers will be impressed by the analytical rigor of this book, his impeccable intellectual candour, rare capacity for larger insights into pressing national issues, and prodigious appetite for measures that advance national interest and public good.

Nigeria is at a precipice, eagerly awaiting creative and purposeful leadership to save it from falling off the cliff. The problems and challenges described by Senator Ekweremadu pose long-term dangers to the nation. Some, like security, have assumed disturbing, even alarming proportions chiefly because leaders paid insufficient attention to them. Some of the problems are so deep-rooted and far reaching that failure to address them could drastically alter the trajectory of our national development.

The author notes that citizens who embraced democracy envisioned a better society but leadership excesses and failures leave them unsatisfied. He, therefore, acknowledges that public anger and frustration with political leaders are understandable. He is concerned that the citizens are uninspired. He states that “any country that inspires its citizens to embrace the democratic process stands a good chance of simultaneously deepening democracy and screening out bad leaders.”

Political elites from different ethnic groups came to a consensus about how to rescue the nation from the clutches of colonialism. Regrettably, the consensus frayed soon after independence, as ethnic irredentism replaced national interest. To Ekweremadu, fears, anxieties, and even paranoia caused by aggressive ethnic identification can produce mental habits and mindset inimical to national unity. This mindset, contributes to decadence; makes the emergence of truly national political leaders difficult; encourages the tendency to view government as a forum for securing ethnic privileges; prevents the practice of true federalism, undermines the effectiveness of public institutions; encourages or condones corruption; and results in truculent struggles among ethnic groups seeking a larger share of the national resources.

Despite Nigeria’s problems, Senator Ekweremadu is sanguine about the future. He believes that the frayed consensus can be rewoven into a national and all-inclusive fabric that can forge a durable alliance and bonds of friendship among the ethnic groups that comprise Nigeria if Nigerians can love their country above various contending narrow interests. The answer to Nigeria’s problem is recognizing our differences, making sacrifices, building consensus on important issues, and designing effective and implementable agreements and policies that advance the best interests of the nation.
Senator Ekweremadu ends on an optimistic note. Quoting Albert Camus, the author states: “I should be able to love my country and love justice”. He believes Nigeria can bounce back more vigorously and prosperously if Nigerians rededicate themselves to justice, equity, and patriotism.

No doubt, Nigeria will truly be a remarkable country if leaders and citizens read and heed the advice contained in Who Will Love My Country. Otherwise both democracy and Nigeria will suffer immeasurably.

 Professor Oko is a Lislet Fellow of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Legal Studies in Business