Review: The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe
Title: The Trouble with Nigeria
Author: Achebe, Chinua
Length: 67 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Politics, History
Publisher / Year: Heinmann / 1983
Source: Book Depository
Why I Read It: Geosi reviewed this and really piqued my interest.
Date Read: 15/11/11
This was a very slim book – at first I wondered really how much could it cover in 67 pages. If you’ve been following for some time you’ve likely seen a few reviews that hint at the environmental, tribal, and corruption troubles that plague Nigeria. I should never have doubted Achebe though, as he packs quite a punch in this slim volume and says a lot through careful selection.
The book contains sections on: Where the Problem Lies; Tribalism; False Image of Ourselves; Leadership, Nigerian Style; Patriotism; Social Injustice and the Cult of Mediocrity; Indiscipline; Corruption; The Igbo Problem, and; The Example of Aminu Kano. Each section examines a slice of the trouble and builds upon the section prior. As they build up the full picture comes into focus, and Achebe’s love for his country and desperation to see it turn around are on evidence.
The problem, Achebe says, is a failure of leadership which causes all these other issues. The book is a call, he says on page 2, to ordinary citizens to do more.
The aim of this booklet is to challenge such resignation. It calls on all thoughtful Nigerians to rise up today and reject those habits which cripple our aspiration and inhibit our chances of becoming a modern and attractive country.
He then goes on to discuss the basic principles and values of the country. With a motto on the Nigerian coat of arms reading On Unity and Faith, Achebe asks unity in what? and faith in what? It is easy to be united in disorder and corruption, but that isn’t what the country should be united in. He raises some interesting points on virtues in this discussion on page 12.
Another really interesting point is made on page 24 when Achebe says:
Without peace no meaningful social programme can be undertaken; without justice social order is constantly threatened. And the reason is simple. A normal sensible person will wait for his turn if he is sure that the shares will go around; if not he might start a scramble.
Right now, Achebe says, it is a scramble in all levels. And of course all the citizens will scramble when they have so little and the elite have so much. Especially when that is the example given to them by the elite. If the country had better leaders who could take stands against corruption, it would definitely have huge trickle down effects that would aid in bringing social programs, peace, social order and justice.
He says on page 53:
We have stood too long on the side-lines; and too many of us have adopted the cynical attitude that since you cannot beat them you must join them.
Our inaction or cynical action are a serious betrayal of our education, of our historic mission and of succeeding generations who will have no future unless we save it now for them.
I wonder what Achebe would say now, almost 30 years after writing this volume, with the country having only slid further into more and more of these troubles that he describes. I would love to hear his opinion on his country now and if he still has the same hope for it, or if he is becoming weary of the state of affairs. A very interesting read that I’m glad I picked up, though again, I would love an update!