Nigeria has often been of keen interest to the international community. It is the most populous black nation in the world, has a vast deposit of oil and mineral resources, a sizeable youthful population, and despite its constant flip-flops remains one of the largest economies in Africa. Given its backward turn of fortunes for much of its post-military trajectory, one is not sure whether the country can still be regarded as the Giant of Africa. A look at recent happenings in the country would tell even the most disinterested mind that all is not well. The escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency, which is now over ten years and still counting, appears to have overwhelmed the Nigerian military with mixed fortunes recorded in its fight against the deadly group. The relentless killing and destruction left by marauding herdsmen across the country also leave a sour taste in the mouth. That would have been enough to nip in the bud if secessionist tendencies in the southwest and southeast of the country had not also left unnecessary destruction of properties and wanton killings of unknown proportion in its wake. Although temporarily halted by the barrel of the gun, the mother of it all was the #EndSARS protest that rocked Lagos, especially, and other parts of the country in 2020. This was at the time Nigeria was battling with how to manage the deadly pandemic inflicted transnationally by COVID-19.
Apart from the fact that Nigeria suffers an acutely debilitating security challenge, there is a reason to believe that the country is deliberately sabotaged on all fronts; otherwise, what could have emboldened bandits to the extent of kidnapping citizens, including corps members, and demanding a huge ransom with little or no intervention by the state? In any case, there have been fears within the international intelligence circle as far back as the early 2000s that Nigeria may witness yet another military coup, and in the event of one, the likely consequence would be a humanitarian catastrophe of huge proportion. It is nearly two decades since these fears first emerged, yet Nigeria somehow retains its unity, although predictions of impending crisis cannot be overruled. To think that these current challenges emerged in recent times would be to make a mockery of Nigeria’s turbulent history. It is on this premise that the book, Understanding Modern Nigeria: Ethnicity, Democracy, and Development, written by Professor Toyin Falola and published by Cambridge University Press, comes at an auspicious time.
Falola is a renowned Professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, the University of Texas at Austin, United States. His intellectual oeuvre is not one for debate, as one may be surprised to discover something new today while counting. His works on virtually all aspects of Nigerian everyday life remain unparalleled, and because they are highly regarded at home and across the Atlantic for their rich interventions in the African Question, they are counted as classics. In Understanding Modern Nigeria, Falola gives us a 672-page book, which is not only the most voluminous single-authored book on Nigeria’s postcolonial history, but it also virtually touches on and critically analyses three fundamental issues that have often eluded Nigeria’s path to progress.
Ethnicity stands out first as one of the most serious spectacles that emerged in the closing decades of the colonial period and played a very huge role in the sad political tragedy that befell Nigeria only six years into independence. On the one hand, the democratic experience failed woefully, not lasting up to six years after independence and stretching on to close to five decades after. Until 1999, Nigeria had witnessed seven military administrations which returned power to civilian rule, which the country has enjoyed for more than two decades now, although with continued threats of cracks. On the other hand, development is a relative term used in relation to how Nigeria has fared in economic, political, and social terms. The author analysed each of these three terms – ethnicity, democracy, and development – to make sense of how to “understand” how Nigeria reached its peculiar state of global concern.
What makes the book unique, unusual, and different is that it diagnoses several and very germane issues that confront Nigeria as a country and then does not leave the reader hanging. Rather, policies are prescribed to mitigate these challenges. In other words, Falola has written a book that is critical but highly beneficial for the Nigerian political leadership at all levels of government. It comes as a “first opinion” away from and outside the opinions served by public servants working in government that the present and successive administrations could use to gauge the feelings and feel the aspirations and pulse of the citizenry.
Divided into six thematic parts, Parts I and II both dovetail with one another. Part I introduces the reader to the intricacies of the book itself. Part II provides a historical context to understanding Nigeria from its colonial phase, which was marked by zealous nationalism and introduction of regionalism to the independent phase that triggered one of the most brutal civil wars in the mid-20th century, a post-civil war phase that grounded military dictatorship upon the country, and then a post-military civilian phase since 1999, which has left some distressing imprint on the country. Part III discusses ethnicity, democracy, and governance, three very disturbing themes that have become a stumbling block to Nigeria’s progress for much of its political history.
What later became known as Nigeria was previously an aggregation of diverse peoples who lived under different suzerains, empires, and kingdoms. While some had existed even before the creation of modern states in Europe, others emerged from the ashes of the fall of empires. Falola observes that the sad trajectory of ethnicity in Nigeria found its origin with the creation of regions and political parties. As he rightly claims, these political parties, brought about by heightened nationalist fervour, were nothing more than ethnic champions led by sons-of-the-soil. As the country became independent, these parties continued to play the ethnic rather than national card, causing internal crisis and schisms. The military had little choice but to dissolve what it viewed as cankerworms.
In Falola’s view, the Nigerian political class did not appear to learn any useful lesson from its experience and continued to strengthen the chord of ethnicity during the brief democratic experiment between 1978-1983. It is unlikely that any other lessons will be learned, given recent happenings in the country, at least since the 1990s. The book points to the fact that since ethnicity plays a major factor in successive governments’ decision-making, the governance of the country has been retrogressive. States like China and Myanmar, where state-sponsored killings target Rohingya Muslims in Southeast Asia, are clear examples of what Falola calls the calamitous experiment in ethnic performance, which is used as the basis for crimes against humanity. This part of the book is a must-read because it pays very strong and detailed attention to how the early political leadership missed the opportunity to set Nigeria on a sound footing after independence. The integration of ethnicity into the rubric of Nigerian politics can be a positive force. This is possible when the country’s diversity is harnessed by a leadership with a broader, nationalistic, and political mindset. A country that prides itself as a melting pot can, thus, benefit from a structured political process even if ethnicity comes to play.
Part IV shifts its analysis to the consequences of democracy and governance. The points of discussion here are ten-fold. Falola explains the corrupt turn Nigeria has taken, particularly with the country’s newfound oil wealth. As oil created the nouveau-riche, so did power become concentrated in the hands of a few. Criminality and theft surged even as governance became even more centralised. The country’s administrative structure changed from three regions to thirty-six states with 774 local governments, which pushed the grassroots farther from their representatives. Here, Falola shows that power was not used to develop the people and the country but rather helped reproduce underdevelopment. This explains why despite Nigeria’s abundant wealth, its citizens wallow in abject poverty, which has given rise to violence, all kinds of organised crimes, and consistent resistance against the state by very powerful non-state actors. Without overstating the issue, this part of the book is highly revealing as it touches the very heart of Nigeria’s development crisis. There is no better way to understand Nigeria than this.
In Part V of the book, readers are taken into discussions surrounding reforms and revolution, and here, I find the analysis on youth and politics quite interesting. The book highlights the fact that active youth participation in any society is often a determining factor in the socio-economic and political progression of such a society. This has been a difficult path for Nigerian youth, who are usually side-lined by the more wealthy and elderly political class and have been rendered weak and vulnerable to political machinations at all levels of governance, resulting in political apathy among them. Falola advocates for a more flexible system that would include the active participation of the youth in the governance of the country. He believes that this would help to ensure that vital issues concerning them are adequately addressed. There is so much to unpack in this part of the book, which is quite understandably so. The #EndSARS protest that rocked the nation in 2020 is a reminder that the youths, when provoked, can change the political configurations of the state. Falola makes it clear that protests are no longer called with a megaphone. Governments could either be removed or restored, not through the barrel of the gun this time around, but through social media. Several examples abound across the world. We are reminded that social media forced a Nigerian minister out of office recently following the allegations of a forged NYSC certificate.
Part VI concludes the book with “Pathways to the Future.” In the author’s view, the book reveals different components that are responsible for, and have a compelling influence on, the development of Nigerian society. It then moves on to identify the ways through which the country can reverse itself to strengthen its prospect. One of the pathways suggested by the author is for Nigeria to return to the secularist philosophy that should govern the conduct of a multi-ethnic, multireligious, and multicultural community. Within this pathway are several solutions that Falola identifies to guide Nigeria back on track, whether in mechanised agriculture, youth inclusion, friendly business environment, cultural revival, the collaboration between government and the citizenry, and most importantly, the eradication of corruption. Falola recognises that Nigeria’s challenges are daunting, yet they can be addressed with serious leadership convinced of the need to build transparent institutions that promote social justice and human rights, irrespective of status, age, or position.
Falola’s Understanding Nigeria does not give the reader a glimpse but rather a robust insight into Nigeria’s past and present. Due to his vast grasp of what makes up Nigeria today, the reader can now understand where Nigeria’s future lies only if we can look into the very rich recommendations highlighted in the book and make use of them. Whether one holds a political position or not, the book speaks to every Nigerian citizen who yearns for a better country. That the biggest supporters of government agree that the country seems to be on the brink of a dangerous situation indicates that drastic steps are required immediately to salvage the situation. By reading Understanding Nigeria, it is hoped that everyone concerned will be fully informed of their role in transforming the country for the better.
One of the main pluses of the book is its very robust use of sources that are directly related to the arguments raised in each of the themes. It is also written in very lucid language, and as much as possible avoids any kind of speciality. The author says it as it is and does not pretend to be all-knowing but rather allows the facts to speak for themselves. Not only are very concise and easily readable maps scattered across the book, but they also puncture very captivating pictures that help connect with the ideas spelt out in the book. These, I suspect, are deliberate attempts to make the book easily accessible and understood by all categories of people and ages. Now that, as part of government policy, history is taught in many Nigerian schools, this book will serve as an intellectual building block for young minds to know about their country’s past and present. It will also easily complement the work of geography instructors, but most importantly, the book is for a general readership. It is often touted that citizens are affected by collective amnesia because we lack a sense of history. This has led to the unfortunate retention of people with questionable characters in the corridors of power, despite the crimes they once committed, which are detrimental to the progress of the state. The book, therefore, makes for an interesting read for policymakers, political leaders, instructors, students, and virtually anyone who wishes to understand where we were, where we should be, and where we will be in the not-too-distant future in Nigeria.
To quote the author, “The objective of this book is to present the challenges of postcolonial Nigeria against the background of the expectations of its people.” If this has not been duly justified in a 672-page book, particularly one written by Africa’s most published scholar and one of its most distinguished intellectuals, anyone who feels otherwise should give us a far superior version of Understanding Modern Nigeria. Until then, Falola has given us one of the most authoritative histories of postcolonial Nigeria in recent times, for which we cannot but be thankful.
Raheem Oluwafunminiyi, an independent scholar, writes from Osogbo and can be reached via email@example.com
Read more authentic news on our social media platforms
Achebean Studies: A Tribute And A Syllabus
By Toyin Falola
On September 29 and 30, 2023, some of the most prominent names in the field of African literature will present papers at the Chinua Achebe International Symposium, which also doubles as the 10th memorial celebration of the late sage and central figure of African literature. There will be poetry reading, performances, hosting, and toasting to infuse dynamism and creativity into the feast. His Royal Majesty Igwe Alex Onyido, the Monarch of the Ogidi Kingdom, will be present in his royalty. There are also ambassadors, led by my good friend, Professor Abena Busia. Another major highlight of the event is the Keynote Speaker, His Excellency Peter Obi (now a household name), the recent presidential candidate of the Labour Party and the former Governor of Anambra State. Just as Nnamdi Azikiwe lent his name to the Zikist movement established in 1946, Obi has become an iconic figure of the “Obidient” movement. To Obidients worldwide, Peter should not allow the cock to crow three times!
As only the deep can call to the deep, only a scholar of Dr. Chika Okeke-Agulu’s calibre can organize a conference this expensive and elaborate. I am sure many already know Chika, but for those who are unfamiliar with him, his brief biography can be found at https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/546722-chika-okeke-agulu-shining-the-spotlight-on-a-true-son-of-the-soil-by-toyin-falola.html?tztc=1. Chika’s leadership of the Africa World Initiative has been stellar and impressive, in addition to his incredible skill in partnering with the program in African Studies and The Christie and Chinua Achebe Foundation.
In my brief presentation on the occasion, which I am releasing now as no one knows tomorrow, I will direct my attention to the dialogue encompassing Achebe’s literary body of work within the framework of global literature to facilitate cross-cultural exchanges and create a platform for discourse that brings the eternal and universal essence of Achebe’s profound perspectives to the forefront. Next year, Bloomsbury will release my long book on this iconic figure, Chinua Achebe: Narrating Africa in Fictions and History. Nothing in this tribute anticipates my long book.
Africa, as we know, is a continent teeming with abundant diversity, intricate historical narratives, and deep intricacies. From the golden sands of the Sahara to the verdant rainforests of the Congo, from the vibrant streets of Lagos to the tranquil vistas of the Maasai Mara, our continent is a rich tapestry interwoven with a multitude of cultures, languages, and customs. However, amidst this kaleidoscope of diversity, a common thread exists that unites us all – our shared past and the guidance that has shaped it. The chronicle of African leadership is as ancient as the continent itself. It is a tale that spans millennia, from the time-honoured realms of Egypt, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe to contemporary nation-states.
Throughout this extensive chronicle, the art of guiding has played a pivotal and transformative role in shaping the course of our destinies, for better or worse. As we stand at the crossroads of a new era, we must thoroughly scrutinize the paths taken by our leaders, the obstacles they encounter, and the prospects that lie ahead. African leadership has emerged as a tapestry interwoven with contradictions in the postcolonial epoch. We have borne witness to visionary leaders who have ardently championed the cause of emancipation, ushering in waves of sanguinity and aspiration. However, we have also observed individuals who, cloaked in the guise of liberation, have fortified their positions of authority, often at the detriment of the same people they pledged to serve. This dichotomy, this inherent tension between the allure of leadership and its frequently tumultuous reality, constitutes the essence of our present discourse and aligns with the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s provocative political treatise, The Trouble with Nigeria.
We honour the magnificent literary titan, Chinua Achebe, and commemorate his profound impact on the world. Hailing from the fertile lands of Nigeria, he was a guiding light for Africa, resonating far beyond its borders. Achebe’s brilliance extended far beyond his mere occupation as a writer; he was a masterful storyteller, a profound philosopher, and a protector of our collective memories. Through the eloquent rhythm of his prose, he infused vitality into the ancestral chronicles, painting vibrant tapestries that encapsulated our culture, traditions, and the essence of our shared humanity. The power wielded by Achebe’s pen surpassed that of any sword, challenging and dismantling colonial narratives while offering the world a glimpse into Africa’s soul. From the heart-wrenching downfall of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart to the intricate political entanglements of A Man of the People, Achebe masterfully captured the intricacies, magnificence, and hardships of a continent teetering on the precipice of transformation. However, beyond the pages of his novels, Achebe emerged as a champion of humanism. He embraced the profound value of each individual’s inherent dignity, the interconnectedness of our shared humanity, and the wondrous ability of narratives to bridge the gaps that divide us.
Prof. Chinua Achebe
In our celebration of Achebe, we do not merely pay tribute to a man but to a legacy—a legacy that serves as a poignant reminder of the potency of language, the significance of our cultural heritage, and the boundless opportunities that open up when we dare to follow our dreams. Although Achebe, the majestic Eagle perched upon the Iroko tree, may have taken his final bow, his tales, sagacity, and unconquerable spirit will eternally soar within the depths of our souls.
In the heart of Africa, a storyteller was born,
Achebe, the voice, when hope seemed forlorn.
With a pen as his spear and paper as his shield,
He painted our stories, and our wounds slowly healed.
From the banks of the Niger to the world’s vast expanse,
He sang of our heroes, our love, and our dance.
In tales of tradition, of gods and goddesses,
He echoed our struggles time and again.
Oh, Chinua, the sage, with wisdom so profound,
Through your words, our history will forever remain.
For in every line and every verse,
You captured our soul, the universe’s diverse.
A beacon of hope, a pillar so tall,
In the annals of time, your legacy won’t fall.
For as long as stories of Africa are told,
Your spirit, dear Achebe, will forever hold.
Rest, great bard, in the land of the free,
Your legacy lives on in hearts like the sea.
Achebe’s Discussions, Scholarships, and Interpolations
Following Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah’s brilliant views on the book The Trouble with Nigeria, he notes that Chinua Achebe expressed strong criticism of Nigeria’s insufficient road network, only to tragically become a victim of a life-altering accident on the same road. In Anthills of the Savannah, Achebe vividly portrays a ruthless military regime willing to sacrifice the citizens’ lives for its interests. According to Na’Allah, Achebe’s prophetic admonitions regarding the Nigerian political landscape remain pertinent, encompassing Nigeria and neighbouring nations. Despite a concise overview, this analysis necessitates attention due to Achebe’s multifaceted role as a political writer, essayist, and activist. Subsequent issues will delve into these facets. This significance arises from Achebe’s post-independence essays, novels, and poems, which offer a perspective through which the unfolding political events in postcolonial Nigeria can be comprehended.
Achebe’s reflections on the condition of postcolonial Africa are intricately intertwined with politics and aesthetics. This interaction constitutes the core of postcolonial aesthetics. As explored in this segment, examining the language matter, thoroughly studied by scholars and writers such as Owomoyela, Bamiro and Uwasomba, is an integral component of postcolonial identity. In “Postcolonial Adaptation and Appropriation in Chinua Achebe,” Anuradha Basu (2015) contends that Achebe’s literary works present postcolonialism as a means of resistance against the dehumanization of Africans. Nonetheless, as Olaniyan posits, Achebe’s approach is marked by moderate resistance, and he offers an alternative viewpoint on postcolonial politics and identity by employing Igbo aesthetics. In Arrow of God, Achebe metaphorically compares the world to a mask dance, and that remaining static deprives one of truly comprehending its essence. This symbolism embodies Achebe’s balanced position, indicating that the identity of postcolonial individuals should incorporate the consequences of historical events and conflicts between cultures, which profoundly impact African people’s psychological and social composition.
Achebe’s literary contributions have played an important role in the extensive collection of African literature that employs stylistic comparative methods by juxtaposing cultural elements from various origins. Central to his works is the examination of the challenges faced by African identity, both during and after interaction with Western cultures. Achebe’s narratives symbolize the profound impact of this encounter on African literature, as they are heavily influenced by the reactions of indigenous Africans to foreign ideologies and values. Nigeria’s complex tapestry of multi-ethnic divisions is a poignant backdrop to Achebe’s exploration of the obstacles to national unity. His writings act as mirrors that reflect the intricacies of the socio-cultural landscape of this nation. Presently, scholars engage with Achebe’s literary creations and the reflections embedded within them. This scholarly endeavour aims to evaluate the accuracy of Achebe’s portrayals and acknowledge any potential shortcomings in his representations.
Beyond this critical examination, the scholarly scrutiny of Achebe’s work is motivated by a desire to appreciate his enduring legacy and continued significance in the African literary panorama and on the continent. Both as a man and a writer, Achebe remains an enduring figure of interest within academia. Consequently, this intense focus on Achebe’s life and literary output has generated a rich research reservoir. These studies comprehensively analyze every facet of the Achebe phenomenon, providing valuable insights into the complexities of African identity and the evolution of African literature. Achebe’s contributions ignited a profound intellectual exploration that continues to shape our understanding of African cultures, identities, and the power of literature as a medium of reflection and transformation.
An Achebe-Inspired Proposal on New Waves and Directions on African Leadership
As we engage in discourse regarding leadership and statecraft in Nigeria and Africa, I am eager to present novel concepts, perspectives, and courses of action to this esteemed gathering. These ideas provide a distinctive framework to examine the intricate nature of African leadership, incorporating insights from historical circumstances and present-day trials.
- Neo-traditionalism in contemporary leadership
Although Africa boasts a wealth of historical traditional leadership structures, a noteworthy trend is emerging in which modern leaders embrace and adapt these conventional roles to consolidate their authority. This phenomenon of neo-traditionalism entails leaders embracing ancient titles and rituals, not necessarily to honour tradition but to authenticate their governance and appeal to cultural sensibilities. The implications of this trend on democratic processes and institutions in Africa could be profound, necessitating a more comprehensive investigation.
- The evolution of the “Big Man” syndrome
The “Big Man” syndrome, characterized by leaders wielding centralized power and influence, has been a recurring motif in African leadership. Nevertheless, with the advent of social media and the proliferation of globalized communication, some leaders now utilize these platforms to construct a more contemporary and accessible image while retaining their hold on centralized control. The existence of this duality–embodying the characteristics of a conventional “Big Man” while having the qualities of a contemporary, technology-savvy leader–poses an exceptional difficulty for both governing bodies and opposition movements.
- The role of women in African leadership
Throughout history, African leadership has predominantly been under the control and influence of the male gender. Nevertheless, there is a growing acknowledgement of the importance of women in assuming leadership positions, be it within the realm of politics or traditional settings. For instance, countries like Rwanda have remarkably progressed in this domain. This discourse could centre around the obstacles that female leaders encounter, the distinctive viewpoints they bring forth, and the societal transformations facilitating this paradigm shift.
- Postcolonial leadership and the shadow of the past
Following independence, several African leaders positioned themselves as emancipators, liberating their nations from the shackles of colonial domination. Nonetheless, several decades after independence, confident leaders still rely on their liberation credentials to retain their authority, frequently at the expense of democratic processes. The panel could explore the continued influence of colonialism on leadership styles and the expectations placed on leaders in the postcolonial era.
- Youth movements and the challenge to established leadership
Given that a considerable proportion of Africa’s populace is below 30, a discernible divide is emerging between the established leadership and the younger generation. Instances such as the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria and the protests in Sudan highlight the youth’s discontentment with the existing state of affairs and their yearning for transformation. The panel discussion may delve into the obstacles and prospects engendered by this demographic shift, the aspirations of the younger generation, and how the leadership can adapt and respond to these demands.
New Directions in Achebean Studies
Achebe, an eminent figure in African literature, has masterfully composed stories that depict the African encounter and reflect the intricacies of human societies. His literary creations, abundant in thematic profundity and narrative artistry, provide a rich fabric of discernment that is simultaneously profound and illuminating.
- The principle of balance in Achebe’s fiction: The recurring motif in Achebe’s literary works is the principle of balance, which manifests thematically and stylistically. A more intricate depiction emerges when examining the relationship between the direction of balance in Achebe’s fiction and its form and style. As Marjorie Winters notes, Achebe’s narrative style deviates from conventional English usage, introducing elements of “interest, variety, and emphasis.” Although these divergences momentarily impede the narrative’s progression, they contribute to a sense of equilibrium in sentence structure. Critics often interpret this stylistic equilibrium as indicative of “stateliness or formality.” Such a balanced stylistic approach is evident in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, with irregular sentences employed approximately one-third of the time, resulting in a distinctive rhythm and cadence.
- Ironies of balance: Achebe’s anthology Girls at War, presents diverse narratives that explore the societal shifts and transformations occurring in postcolonial Africa. While thematically bound, these stories testify to Achebe’s command of language and narrative techniques. In praising Achebe’s works, a literary critic has highlighted the notion of balance as a recurring aspect of his fiction. This balance can be observed in various dimensions, ranging from the balanced dualities of the Igbo worldview to the equitable evaluation of characters and situations elicited by his fiction. The stories within this collection, which include the depiction of the Biafran conflict and explorations of tradition and modernity, are imbued with a pervasive sense of equilibrium. However, this equilibrium is frequently tinged with irony, particularly in Achebe’s portrayal of the societal shifts and the erosion of traditional values.
- Achebe’s narrative techniques: Achebe’s use of narrative techniques extends beyond exploring themes; it exemplifies a masterful demonstration of narrative skill. His utilization of oral and literary narrative techniques results in the creation of a distinctive style of storytelling. This style, characterized by juxtaposing, adding, and aggregating various elements, provides equal significance to each narrative component, thus highlighting their importance.
- Embracing tradition and modernity: Achebe’s narratives frequently grapple with the inherent conflict between tradition and modernity. These stories place a considerable emphasis on practice and acknowledge the transformative influence of modernity. As one selected excerpt elucidates, “Despite the preoccupation with the thematic content of these stories, I propose that there exists an unnoticed quality within them: a peculiar and subversive manipulation of linguistic symbols, a manipulation that conventional notions of rationality, equilibrium, and moral order have tended to suppress.”
Drawing upon these insights, it is apparent that Achebe’s literary creations are not merely a mirror image of African societies but also a form of commentary on the human condition. His works offer readers a profound comprehension of the intricacies of life, culture, and history through their intricate fusion of theme and style. Therefore, scholars can uncover the layers of intricacy and subtlety that establish him as one of the most noteworthy writers of the 20th century by examining Achebe’s literary oeuvre through these critical perspectives. Such a multifaceted exploration will enhance the scholarly dialogue surrounding Achebe’s works and give students a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities of African literature and culture.
At this moment, I propose five new avenues that can be considered in the field of Achebean Studies, which could be advantageous in the Africana Studies curriculum.
Achebe’s critique of Eurocentrism
Achebe’s literary works, particularly Things Fall Apart, can be perceived as a direct response to European literature that inaccurately represents Africa, such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. A more in-depth analysis would entail dissecting Achebe’s narrative techniques undermining the Eurocentric perspective. This endeavour would require a critical examination of how Achebe reclaimed the African narrative, presenting an alternative history that challenges Western perceptions and stereotypes of Africa.
Gender dynamics in a changing society
Although women in his novels may appear subservient at first glance, a more meticulous examination uncovers layers of agency, resilience, and subversion, making his depiction of women multifaceted. A scholarly inquiry can concentrate on the nuanced methods through which women navigate the patriarchal structures of Igbo society, particularly in the presence of colonialism and Christianity. This exploration can illuminate the interconnectedness of gender, colonialism, and tradition.
The tragedy of Okonkwo: A comparative analysis
Okonkwo’s tragic descent can be juxtaposed with the tragic heroes of other civilizations, such as Oedipus or Hamlet. A comparative analysis can delve into the cultural aspects that mould these sad narratives, illuminating the widespread nature of specific human experiences and emphasizing the distinctive cultural contexts that shape them.
Language, power, and identity
Achebe’s decision to write in English while infusing his prose with Igbo proverbs and idioms is an important assertion of language and authority. A critical examination could concentrate on how language in Achebe’s literary works is not merely a means of communication but also a tool of opposition, assertion of identity, and preservation of culture. This will result in more extensive discussions on language politics in postcolonial societies.
The interplay of individual and community
Achebe’s characters often encounter tension between personal desires and communal obligations. A deeper analysis can focus on how Achebe portrays the intricate balance between individual agency and societal expectations. This will shed light on the broader theme of the individual versus society, a conflict that resonates across cultures and periods.
So, with reference to Nigeria, it is not surprising that the immediate consequence of the realistic portrayal and exposition of the inefficiencies of Nigerian politicians and the subtle condemnation of their pseudo-messianic tendencies by prominent post-independent African fiction will emerge. With the country’s increased political instability, African and Nigerian writers, historians, and political scholars have risen correspondingly, diligently delving into political systems, actively documenting unstable political occurrences, and significantly producing works in Administrative Studies. The primary motive and objective behind these professionals’ endeavours in Africa is to elucidate and hopefully raise awareness among the general public about the continent’s political predicaments and anticipate the inevitable instability, crises, and disorder within the African polities.
However, rather than explore the terrains of political scholars in understanding this phenomenon, the choice of focusing on Chinua Achebe is vital, partly because he is one of the foremost Nigerian writers to adequately present political crisis through many lenses from the military regime to war stories, and even democratic settings. Also, Achebe’s restriction to the Nigerian space is captivating, chiefly because of his universal depiction of the size, cultural complexity, and modes of operation unique to the nation, as well as criticizing the Nigerian government and giving voice and agency to citizens who suffered and were silenced by these forces of leadership.
Once again, congratulations to the distinguished Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu for hosting this major gathering. Thanks for organizing what will become conversations across time and space. I now rarely attend conferences except to deliver Keynote Addresses, but this is an invitation that I cannot decline from one of the world’s most prominent art historians, an activist, and also, by any measure, an iconic figure himself.
Toyin Falola’s New Book, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni And African Decolonial Studies, Explores Decoloniality Discourse
Prof. Toyin Falola’s new book, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni And African Decolonial Studies, is divided into 11 chapters:
Chapter 1: Introduction: Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s Decolonization Vision for the World
Chapter 2: Decolonization and Decoloniality
Chapter 3: Marxism and Decolonization
Chapter 4: Race and African Studies
Chapter 5: Africa’s Liberation
Chapter 6: Zimbabwe in History
Chapter 7: Mugabe and His Politics
Chapter 8: Militarism in Africa
Chapter 9: The Challenges of Higher Education
Chapter 10: Futurity
Chapter 11: An Epilogue: The Future of Decolonial Studies
This book considers the work of the preeminent scholar on decoloniality, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, as a means of examining the development of decoloniality discourse and considering the future direction of the African knowledge economy.
Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni has been instrumental in constructing theories and ideas necessary for advancing a decolonial system of education and epistemology. This book considers how Professor Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s work has helped to shape our thinking both on Mugabe and the history of Zimbabwe, and beyond to the broader questions of race, liberation, higher education, and the future of decolonial studies. Renowned author Professor Toyin Falola then invites us to consider the dangers of continued repression of African epistemologies, and the enormous benefits of an alternative knowledge economy in which a diverse multiplicity of ideas drives our understanding of the world on to new heights.
Unpacking the various conceptual leanings of decoloniality through the works of one of its leading lights, this book will be an essential read for researchers across African Studies, Race Studies, Philosophy, and Education.
Toyin Falola, Ph.D., is the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of History, The University of Texas at Austin. He is an Extraordinary Professor of Political Science, at the University of Pretoria, Professor of Human Rights, University of the Free State, and Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Lead City University, Ibadan. He is the recipient of many distinguished awards, including 16 honorary doctorates. He has contributed substantially to decolonization studies, most recently Decolonizing African Studies: Knowledge Production, Agency, and Voice (2022) and Decolonizing African Knowledge: Autoethnography and African Epistemologies (2022).
Nigerian Writer, Other New Voices Dominate Booker Prize Nominations
A graceful novel about a squash prodigy battling grief on court, a dystopia that reimagines Ireland as a totalitarian state and a coming-of-age tale about a neurodiverse teenager are among 13 titles longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.
The longlist, announced in a news release on Tuesday, features only a handful of novels by celebrated authors, including Sebastian Barry’s “Old God’s Time,” about a retired policeman confronting painful memories, and Paul Harding’s “This Other Eden,” about a mixed-race community that faces eviction from its island home.
Instead, the list is dominated by works by lesser-known writers, including four debuts. On the list is Nigerian writer Ayòbámi Adébáyò, “A Spell of Good Things”.
The New York Times quoted Esi Edugyan, an author who is the chair of this year’s judges, as saying in the news release that the list was “defined by its freshness — by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones.”
All the nominated books “cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways,” Edugyan added.
The four debut books are “If I Survive You,” by Jonathan Escoffery, about a Jamaican family in Miami; “Pearl,” by Sian Hughes, about a mother’s disappearance; “All the Little Bird-Hearts,” by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow, which is told from the perspective of a mother with autism; and “Western Lane,” by Chetna Maroo, about the grieving squash player and her family.
Among the other nominees are “How to Build a Boat,” by Elaine Feeney, about a neurodiverse schoolboy and the teachers who help him, and the forthcoming “Prophet Song,” by Paul Lynch, about an Irish society falling under the grip of authoritarianism.
Founded in 1969, the Booker Prize is one of the world’s most coveted literary awards, given each year to the author of a novel written in English and published in Britain or Ireland. It is often seen as the capstone of a writer’s career, but the award has also regularly made new literary stars. Recent winners have included Bernardine Evaristo, Douglas Stuart and Marlon James.
Last year, the Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka won the prize with “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida,” a satire exploring the trauma of his country’s civil war. After the announcement, the book’s sales jumped to more than 100,000 copies and it has now been translated into 19 languages, the Booker Prize Foundation said in Tuesday’s news release.
This year’s judges will now narrow the longlist down to a six-book shortlist, scheduled to be revealed on Sep. 21. The winning book, whose author will receive a 50,000 pound prize, about $64,000, will be announced at a ceremony in London on Nov. 26.
The full longlist is:
Ayòbámi Adébáyò, “A Spell of Good Things”
Sebastian Barry, “Old God’s Time”
Sarah Bernstein, “Study for Obedience”
Jonathan Escoffery, “If I Survive You”
Elaine Feeney, “How to Build a Boat”
Paul Harding, “This Other Eden”
Siân Hughes, “Pearl”
Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow, “All the Little Bird-Hearts”
Paul Lynch, “Prophet Song”
Martin MacInnes, “In Ascension”
Chetna Maroo, “Western Lane”
Paul Murray, “The Bee Sting”
Tan Twan Eng, “The House of Doors”
NEW TIMES CULTURE
Socio-cultural And Economic Strides Of Anioma
Self-esteem Of The Male Child, A Tool for Peaceful Marriage
Mohbad: When Love And Light Are Not Enough
Why GOFAMINT General Overseer Demoted His Deputy
BREAKING: UK Suspends Work, Study, Family Visas For Nigerians Over Ukraine War
BREAKING: First Nigerian Female Vice Chancellor Alele-Williams Is Dead
Opinion3 days ago
A Response To Toyin Falola’s Obasanjo, Obadide And Obajoko
Opinion2 days ago
The Toyin Falola Interviews: Panel Discussion On Coups In Africa: Geo-Politics, Legitimacies, And Resource Management
Interview5 days ago
Coups In Africa: Historical Antecedents, Root Causes, And The Systemic Way Out
Politics5 days ago
Thousands Dump Amosun, Re-Align With Abiodun
Opinion3 days ago
Use Your Penis: Hopes, Expectations And Realities Of African Migrants In Europe