For the Love of Country… How to make Nigeria work
By Bayo Ogunmupe
The book, For the Love of Country: Predicting Nigeria’s Past, Foretelling Her Future (Parresia Publishers Limited, Lagos; 2016) is an engaging work of analysis and critical essays, which is educative, inspiring and upbraiding. It spreads the twin messages of patriotism and the sermon from the pulpit for the empowerment of youth, the pursuit of accountability from Nigerian leaders and honest and responsible followership from the people. The author, Bamidele Ademola Olateju, passionately demands equity and justice from Nigerian leaders. She demands these attributes with a sharp analytical prowess and an uncanny ability to predict events in the course of dissecting Nigeria’s economic environment.
Prior to Nigeria’s independence, there was a long line of female activists – Mrs. Olufunlayo Ransome Kuti, who founded Nigerian Women’s Union. Then the struggle was for women emancipation, social justice, human and economic rights. What Nigeria has never had before and after independence is a female intellectual politician, who combines activism with the struggle, as an organic labourite aiming to achieve a better and fairer Nigeria.
It is that intellectual woman leader who seeks to make Nigeria a place where human dignity and justice reign that Olateju represents. And true to type, she bestrides that figure like a colossus. With her book, she is seeking to free Nigeria from her asphyxiating condition as a pre-literate society. Her focus is to right the self-inflicted wrongs and errors of a country seemingly doomed to a fate of unrealised potential.
“This book is evidence that Bamidele Olateju has emerged to fill the void in Nigeria’s public sphere, to free the country from her asphyxiating wrongs: of a country seemingly doomed to a fate of unrealised potential.”
This collection of essays is not just your regular run of lamentation for Nigeria. They are the musings of an intellectual with a gift for analysis and originality of thought. This volume examines Nigeria’s persistent problems of poor power supply with an uncommon insight. Also, she offers solutions and the way out of the imbroglio.
You read olateju feeling summoned to participate in a joint task of taking Nigeria out of the doldrums. On reading Olateju, you become a member of a pan-Nigerian force blessed with the intellect of the most influential female activist of a generation. Social dysfunction is overwhelming in Nigeria. But as shown by Olateju, Nigerians have not all been silenced by the shame. Indeed, the love of country and fame has lured the author into refusing to distort the truth and values. Thus, she writes this testament in the strong belief that it is not enough to learn and think without spreading the gospel of Nigeria’s return to true federalism, prosperity and self-reliance.
In part one, Olateju defines her role in the world as a woman. In her own reality, a woman is a human being of the female gender, who has gained full recognition of being a female and the weaknesses ascribed to her from birth. For this inheritance, she accepts her great battle in a world dominated by men. To her, being a woman is to bear the burden of caring for others at your expense and the changes your body bears at every phase of the journey. Being a woman means being strong because you will need all the strength you can muster.
From a panegyric on womanhood, the author moves to an analysis of religion as a tool of domination, impoverishment and deception. In southern Nigeria, the Christian message governs everyday living and provides the concept of justice. That is the reason, according to her, why Christians must participate in politics. She opines that Nigerian politics has not evolved past bigotry. Instead of framing issues around morals, the Nigerian clergy incites the congregation with prosperity gospel, claiming they are doing this in the name of Christ.
By proclaiming the name of Christ, the Nigerian entrepreneur pastors are corrupting the grace and perverting the law, and making Nigeria an example of how political power corrupts the church, as the bearer of the gospel of Christ. In her opinion, the clergy has been led to abandon the body of Christ for the love of money. The pastor-entrepreneurs have lost compassion for the faithful and instead they have embraced greed by building universities members cannot send their children and shuttling in private jets.
According to Olateju, these pastors-entrepreneurs even preach violence and hate instead of love. By so doing, the rich gets richer by fleecing the poor and looting the country. Olateju believes the church has failed to provide the moral fabric necessary for a great country to emerge. Pastors and imams know that the greater your education, the more you understand the world. Education allows you to need less miracles and magic. So, they ruin education, make their colleges unreachable to the poor in what is evil collaboratively of both the church and the mosque. She insists Nigeria will become better if religion focuses on skills acquisition delivered through subsidised education.
For the second section of the book: Olateju dwells on youth as Nigeria’s emerging underclass. But for the prevalent mediocrity of prevailing psyche, the unemployed youth can use their permanent voters’ cards to alter their destiny either by voting themselves into power or by promoting better leaders.
Unlike the Israeli student who killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to stop a two-state solution to the Mid East crisis, Nigerian students can only undertake armed robbery to get rich quickly.
According to her, “No nation can achieve greatness without investing in its youth. Yet, Nigeria cannibalizes her young through policies and through determined deprivation. The youth is usually energetic, vibrant, adventurous, learning and full of life. In Nigeria, the youth is disoriented, weak, mis-educated, thoughtlessly shallow and directionless yet burdened by impenetrable armour of meaningless swagger and overrated sense of worth and exaggerated aspiration for material acquisition.
“But somehow, we cannot blame the youth for this exaggerated vision of grandeur. This is because they have seen the dregs of society come into stupendous wealth by going into politics or advanced fee fraud. The 18 to 35-age bracket is about 70 million and is growing rapidly. The youth has no credible role models. All they see are those who reinforce their belief that education is a waste of time.
“However, our missteps are traceable to our antiquated educational system. While most nations developed through skills acquisition due to technological revolution, our educators still insist in the ancient rote learning, the knowledge that has become obsolete because of communication revolution. The consequence of our poorly educated youth, especially in a Nigeria that is desperately in need of investors, is underdevelopment and insurrection.”
With literacy rate of less than 60 percent, our nation cannot achieve industrialization without solid educational investment in our citizens. Finally, why Nigeria is good at picking bad leaders will cap this review. Nigerians are as bad as that because they focus on wrong things. They rely on contrived narratives such as lack of shoes (Goodluck Jonathan), exaggerated meekness and superfluous religiosity (Buhari) or even deep pockets (Bola Tinubu). Even then, a new leader faces daunting obstacles such as ethnic/religious pressure, sabotage, endemic corruption and a staggering mediocrity.
In what qualifies a leader, Olateju examines seven qualities of eminent leaders.
From integrity: the quality of being honest, having good morals and the absence of hypocrisy, the author dwells on such others as courage, empathy and vision. She avers that Nigeria generally lacks men and women of courage and vision because oil boom has made our leaders to be greedy and clannish. Lack of empathy, the inability to share in the agonies of others, propels our leaders to attend weddings before sympathizing with the parents of 110 abducted schoolgirls.
There are many ideas to be gained from reading this book. As you follow Olateju’s twin themes of ‘for the love of country and the sermon on the political pulpit,’ you will readily imbibe her passion for justice and conviction for a better Nigeria.