Professor Chinua Achebe’s Views
In 1983, on the eve of the then forthcoming national elections, Professor Chinua Achebe published a politically-charged book titled The Trouble with Nigeria. On the first page of this book Professor Achebe bluntly wrote that, “the Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility and to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” Professor Chinua Achebe succinctly declared, in the same book, that, “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a problem of leadership.”
And, as a matter of fact, the leaders of Nigeria proved Professor Achebe right to the letter when the 1983 elections did took place. The election was marked by violence and rank riggings orchestrated by the very Nigerian leaders that Professor Achebe have blamed as being responsible for the trouble with Nigeria. After the elections Professor Chinua Achebe triumphantly told a reporter that, “I think, if anything, the Nigerian politician has deteriorated.”
Some dissenting sceptics may say that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion even if they are wrong. The only problem here is that the views and opinions of the learned Professor Chinua Achebe are not views or opinions that can easily be brushed aside, that is, considering the fact that the personality of Professor Achebe is a most weighty one of course.
Professor Chinua Achebe is a literary giant with an internationally formidable résumé. His Things Fall Apart is the most widely read work in modern African literature. He is the first to be awarded the Nigerian National Merit Award. He is the first living author to be featured in Alfred Knopf’s Everyman’s Library.
Furthermore, Professor Achebe’s commentary on Nigerian leadership and politics derives from his personal participation in Nigerian politics – so his comments are not those of an armchair literature who has no field experience in politics. He was the Deputy National Vice-President of the PRP in the early 1980s.
The point is that Professor Chinua Achebe is a leading proponent of the school of thought to the effect that the trouble and problem with Nigeria lay squarely on the Nigerian leadership. Many other observers and scholars rightly concur with Professor Achebe in pointing out that the leadership of Nigeria is a major culprit in the unfortunate situation that has characterised the history of Nigeria ever since the demise of the British colonialists from our corridors of power.
But Professor Chinua Achebe’s formidable personality and overwhelming school of thought aside, his view that the trouble with Nigeria is the problem of its leadership is, as a matter of fact, very true and right. Nigerian leaders have, over the decades, thrown the Nigerian politics, economy, infrastructures, and culture into a mess.
Nobody can deny that the oil-dependent monocultural economy of Nigeria is performing below our expectations. And this is as a result of virulent corruption that permeates the rank and files of the Nigerian corridors of power. There are times when even the petro-dollars alone could have propelled the Nigerian economy along but the rank corruption of the Nigerian leadership has always scuttled such opportunities.
Instead of building up infrastructures the Nigerian leadership have looted the national treasury in fattening their pockets and enriching their immediate family members. As a result the necessary infrastructure for anchoring a solid economy is by and large non-existent in Nigeria. Over 70% of all the roads in Nigeria are heavily infested by deadly potholes. In fact the entire transport section is in comatose.
The entire world is also well aware of the fact that Nigerian leaders have looted the national treasury and stashed their booties, at the expense of the poor Nigerian, in foreign accounts in Swiss, German, French and other accounts. The then Professor & Chair of Chemical Engineering, Howard University Professor Mobolaji E. Aluko’s analysis before the US Congress show that the money stolen by the Nigerian leaders is many times the size of the Nigerian external debt. This, of course, is a damning testament to the unpatriotic and callous character of the Nigerian leaders.
Even the man on the street today readily agrees with Professor Achebe that the bane of Nigeria is its leadership. Emmanuel Onwubiko concurred that, “Researchers, political scholars, economists, market women and traders including Motor park touts in Nigeria have come to accept the hard fact that Nigeria’s economy is in a deep mess and that the troubling economic, political and social situation afflicting Nigeria were occasioned by the prolonged period of bad governance characterized by the exhibition by our political rulers of the most primitive and wicked avarice, greed and corrupt tendencies.”
Professor Wole Soyinka’s View
We all agreed with Professor Chinua Achebe in 1983 that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a problem of leadership.” That is until Professor Wole Soyinka, another literary juggernaut, irrefutably told us, in the following year 1984, that the trouble with Nigeria extends from the leadership to an entire generation.
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, in an essay in The Punch, wrote that, “After a quarter of a century of witnessing and occasionally participating in varied aspects of social struggle in all their shifting tempi, dimensions, pragmatic and sometimes even ideologically oriented goals, I feel at this moment that I can only describe my generation as the wasted generation, frustrated by forces which are readily recognizable, which can be understood and analyzed but which nevertheless have succeeded in defying whatever weapons such ‘understanding’ has been able to muster towards their defeat.”
And just like Professor Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka is a formidable force to be reckoned with intellectually. He is not someone whose views or opinions can easily be brushed aside.
More interesting is the fact that Professor Wole Soyinka is actually right. The problem of Nigeria involves an entire generation and not just the leadership of a generation. A critical analysis of the trouble with Nigeria will show that every Nigerian is more or less responsible for the mess Nigeria is in today. Corruption is not only rampant among the Nigerian leadership but is also rife among the taxi drivers, the market women, the police corporal, the lawyers and barristers, the teachers and lecturers, the students and even the pupils – corruption is a general and generational problem in Nigeria.
The Contradiction is Apparent
Some may think that Professor Achebe and Professor Soyinka are saying different things. While Professor Achebe is blaming the leadership, Professor Soyinka is blaming an entire generation. Professor Achebe said it is the fault of the leaders, but Professor Soyinka said it is not the fault of the leaders alone but also the subjects and the generality of the Nigerian populace.
There has been an ongoing debate as to who is right between Professor Achebe and Professor Soyinka. The truth, however, is that there is no any contradiction between the opinions of the two intellectual juggernauts.
The truth is that the two professors are actually saying the same thing. Chris Ngwodo wrote that, “Achebe situated the Nigerian problem in bad leadership while Soyinka pilloried his generation for squandering Nigeria’s opportunities for greatness. In a profound sense both men were saying the same thing. Put together, their views could be summarized in one sentence: the trouble with Nigeria is the wasted generation’s bad leadership.”
The two professors are saying the same thing. The leaders and the led are both responsible for the mess that is Nigeria today. As a matter of fact it should be clear to all engaged in researching this topic that bad leadership cannot exist in a void without bad followership. And that is the view of Alhaji Abubakar Gimba.
Alhaji Abubakar Gimba’s View
Alhaji Abubakar Gimba has taken the Achebe-Soyinka debate to further dimensions when he wrote his book titled Letter to the Unborn Child. Alhaji Abubakar Gimba is of the view that the problem with Nigeria does not only comprised of both the leadership and the existing generation but also the future generation – the unborn generation.
Whatever the different or similar views of the three literary juggernauts discussed above, the fact still remains that the general consensus is that there is something wrong with Nigeria as a polity.
The fact is that things are really bad as far as Nigeria is concerned. As we have discussed previously, the economy, politics, culture, and every other aspect and facet of the Nigerian polity is not functioning to our national and international expectations.
We can all see that the Nigerian economy is in a bad shape. Pastor Kumuyi, the General Superintendent of the Deeper Bible Life Church, declared that, “Nigeria’s economy has hardly enjoyed stable health since independence. It has oscillated between numbing distress and fatal anemia.”
We can all see that Nigerian politics is in a bad shape.
We can all see that Nigerian infrastructures are in bad shape.
And it is not just the three intellectual juggernauts above who have pointed out that there is problem with the Nigerian polity; so many other authorities – scholars and intellectuals alike – have consistently pointed out that the Nigerian polity is in a bad shape. As a matter of fact so bad are things for Nigeria that Pastor Kumuyi solemnly stated that, “We don’t need a preacher before our leaders know and understand that this house; this present house may fall at any time.”
Even international observers are of the view that Nigeria is in a very bad shape. As a matter of fact an international agency once predicted that Nigeria will soon collapsed as a failed state in decade or so time.
This is indeed a gloomy scenario. Nothing about Nigeria seems to be working.
In fact things are so bad for and in Nigeria that today even the lay man on the street, the typical ‘illiterate’, is also well aware that Nigeria is in a bad shape. Condemning Nigeria as a society wherein nothing works the way it should be has become a daily and monotonous mantra on the lips of the lay man on the street of Nigeria. Everywhere you go the length and breadth of Nigeria you see the ordinary Nigerian in the market place, in the beer parlour, in the office, and even in the academia, disowning and cursing Nigeria.
The national orientation has turned cynical and resentful. An astringently negative national orientation has overwhelmed the Nigerian populace.
So embittered is the average Nigerian with state of affairs in Nigeria today that one can never hear a Nigerian saying anything good about Nigeria on the very streets of Nigeria itself.
But, in spite of all the measured analysis of the Nigerian intellectuals and the unrestrained anger of the lay Nigerian, we believe that we would not be wrong in asking the rather loathing question: “But are things really that bad in Nigeria?”
I have been asking myself this question for quite some time now and, the problem is, the more I research into this question the more I see that things might not be really that bad for Nigeria as we are won’t to assume.
It is in this context that Pastor Kumuyi declared that, “The malaise is curable if we have the collective will to seek the cure. The prospect of turning the overwhelming tide of negativism is seemingly insurmountable but if in spite of our dismay at our self-imposed suffering, we pursue the dream of turning our poverty into prosperity. It can be done (and I daresay), it will be done.”