‘I am the Nigerian Nation’: A review
“Great works are usually produced when people have left gainful engagements and are in retirement; this is an example of such”
The Narrator of the EPISTLE (a combination of a memoir and in-depth research) which has drawn each and everyone of us to this ARENA today is BANKOLE OLUSIJI AWOSIKA whose diligence , long and painstaking effort has yielded a BOOK shredding NIGERIA into its political, economic and social dimensions with details on major historical events and personalities spanning a crucial period of the Nation’s Complex History (i.e. precisely from 1914 to 2007).
Awosika is a SEPTUGENARIAN fast approaching an OCTOGENARIAN AGE. As we can see, as a former active athlete, he is ageing gracefully!! He is the son of Bishop and Mrs D.O. Awosika of blessed memory, who served the Anglican Church meritoriously in Benin, Akure and Ondo.
The writer has given full reverence to his respectable background – especially his father and late brother. A big part of our heritage we are discountenancing today is a good background which many have thrown into the toilet in search of the Nigerian Golden Fleece i.e. POWER, FAME and FILTHY LUCRE; which is partly responsible for why our nation is in disarray today.
His sojourn in the Ministry of External Affairs took him to the Nigerian Permanent Mission in United Nations where he served under the ICONIC, Chief Simeon.O. Adebo. He served in the Nigerian Embassy in Cairo, Nigerian High Commission in London and Edinburgh and the Nigerian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. His GLOBAL experiences from these tours combined with his outstanding role at the secretariat of the World Festival of Arts and Culture which ultimately took place in 1977 served as the big launching pad of his reminiscences, titled, “I AM THE NIGERIAN NATION”
This book is a product of the author’s experiences and exposure to global panorama at the Nigerian Foreign Service as a career diplomat from 1965 to 1981. He served in the major zones of the world where Nigeria had diplomatic missions – Africa, Europe, America and Asia. His Love for History channeled him to unravel Nigeria’s birth at the hands of the colonialists since 1914.
The introductory chapter discusses the geography, topography and the human and non-human resources of Nigeria with pictorial representations. It goes further to expatiate on the colonial arrangements for the political setting of Nigeria and the ultimate political independence and their personages. The role of the great journalists and the Press in the struggle for Independence is emphasised.
According to the author, “In essence, it is a veritable and unalterable fact that JOURNALISTS and the PRESS supplied the “bricks and mortars” that went into my foundation and construction as a national edifice named “Nigeria at my birth.” I also quote, “It is not mere coincidence that the Emergent Politicians were even before and after my independence, mostly the same JOURNALISTS who formed the Political Parties that held sway in Nigeria’s Politics before the Military Era”.
Chapters 3, 5 deal with the military era. As noted by the author, “It is remarkable to note that one of the rationale for the military putsch of 1966 was to tackle “Corruption” and “Internal Strife”. This anthem has been repeatedly sung at each subsequent coup. Chapter 4 discusses the Second Republic starting with Shehu Shagari. He continues with the chronicle of Civilian Rule under Olusegun Obasanjo in Chapter 6.
Chapters 8-16 discuss the personalities – men and women of distinction in Nigeria’s political and social evolution by placing emphasis on, “the role of Human Rights activists and Social Critics”, the “galaxy of stars in different professions -Scientists, Medical scientists, People in the Humanities, Culture, Drama and Music, especially our Nollywood Stars, Notable Authors, etc.
Chapter 16 deals exhaustively about sports, essentially athletics, soccer, boxing long tennis and table tennis. It also discusses the performances of promoters, coaches and search for talents. It is a journey down memory lane, featuring the soccer “UK Tourists of 1949”; the fabulous sprinters and soccer maestros who won laurels in various world, common wealth and African games; boxing in which Nigeria has produced two world boxing titles and finally in long tennis and table tennis which are both very popular.
The author’s Vision for Nigeria and Proffered Solutions to the Nation’s challenges in Politics, Institutions, Economy; and the current social dilemma of MILITANCY and VANDALISM occupy a prominent space in his thoughtful reflections contained in the book.
You will agree with me that many books have been written about this EPOCH in which this memoir is situated. Most of them deal with the role of the military IN THE POLITICAL ABERRATION experienced in our history. We have read accounts such as, WHY WE STRUCK, MY COMMAND, MY WILL, NOT MY WILL, etc which at best portray, in a way,the IGNORANT INNOCENCE of the apologists; in another way, the EGOTISM of others, who would like to claim SIGNIFICANCE or INDISPENSABILITY in Nigeria’s affairs of the time; which we all know is the antecedent of the social and political turmoil and depression that we face today as a people!!!.
IN CONTRA-DISTINCTION and as a morale booster, this book draws the attention of Nigerians to their HERITAGE and GENUINE BUILDERS of the Nation; LOVERS of Culture and TOURISTS who will like to get acquainted with the BEAUTIFULLY DIVERSE PEOPLE, PLACES, MUSIC and CULTURAL EVENTS of the country; BUDDING NATIONALISTS who would like to know the illustrious SONS and DAUGHTERS of the nation who have made waves in all areas of HUMAN ENDEAVOUR.
In the ANNALS of authorship of efforts telling the Nigerian story, this book stands out-in terms of depth and breadth of invaluable information on contemporary goings-on in Nigeria.
The author’s UNFLAGGING PATRIOTISM, INDISPUTABLE OPTIMISM ABOUT NIGERIA is prophetic, in this era of RECESSION and FRUSTRATION, that NIGERIA SHALL RISE AGAIN!!!!!! READ THE BOOK, IT WILL LIFT YOU AND ME UP TO GENUINELY SAY THAT NIGERIA SHALL RISE AGAIN!!!!!.
• This is Professor Fadayomi’s review of the book “I Am the Nigerian Nation”, authored by ‘Siji Awosika