Book Review: Rethinking Nigeria

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Yinka Olatunbosun

The size of this 98-paged book titled, “Nigeria on the Precipice: Lessons for Emerging Heterogeneous Democratic Societies’’ is quite deceptive. It is very detailed in explaining the existence of the Nigerian state and the root cause of her hydra-headed problems.

Written by Michael Owhoko, this social commentary presents Nigeria as a nation of complexities with an overriding mix-bag of pessimism and patriotism from the author.

It’s essential to have an objective perspective on Nigeria’s continued existence such as offered in this book. Many respected writers have produced brilliant but sentimental narratives on the Nigerian Civil War, corruption and other threats to national unity.

What Owhoko has carefully done in this book is to write from a bird’s eye view, detaching self from the accounts while drawing upon a variety of sources in articulating his unbiased views on the sensitive topic of national unity.

If you pick the book with the hope of getting a singular position held by the author, you may become confused. The author lays before the readers the multiple options that can help to solve the national puzzle of our continued co-existence as a multi-cultural entity.

To a large extent, Owhoko is an authority on the Nigerian state having built his career life through the financial sector, oil and gas industry and of course the media. His work is also a proof of his interest in research and historical grounding, both of which provided a comfortable seat for this literary effort.

This easy read captures Nigeria at a glance, with a surgical thinking into the nature of Nigeria. Very similar to Chinua Achebe’s The Trouble with Nigeria, this new piece addresses the resurgence of Biafra and other agitations echoing in different parts of the country. When a surge of fresh clamour for restructuring flooded Nigerian media, it was worrisome considering the credible sources from which it was streaming from.

After 57 years over existence, the idea of disintegrating is simply disconcerting, but not unreasonable. The author seemed to be asking that the unity of Nigeria should not be forced on Nigerians.

Owhoko traced the history of the Nigerian state to the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates by Lord Lugard. The rationale was to create a strong African state where wealth is evenly shared.

The author stated that the Northern protectorate, under the colonial rule was not developing economically as their Southern counterparts. Hence, it was decided to pull the two sides together in what appears to be an early marriage. Perhaps, both sides needed some maturity that could have made them blind to ethnicity or ethnic pride. The deed has been done and in the interest of building a peaceful state, blame sharing should be stopped.

What the author had done in this book is to revisit the issues that led to the three-year long civil war and the deep animosity amongst the various ethnic groups. He also examined the rise of the Niger Delta agitations and the reason why the Petroleum Industry Bill has been jinxed.

The book offers a template for understanding an heterogenous state in crisis while assessing the right path to development. It is for this reason that the book made an impressive showing at the London Book Fair earlier this year. No doubt, it is an essential read for many who await the 2019 polls with measured apprehension.