Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Renegotiating The Nigerian Project

By Dan Amor
A two hundred and thirty-six page book written by Dr. Amanze Obi, literary scholar, critic and journalist, who until recently was chairman of the Editorial Board of the Sun Group of Newspapers and published in 2013, is an engrossing tapestry of the Nigerian condition. Drawing afflatus from history, politics, philosophy, culture and every day experience, Delicate Distress: An Interpreter’s Account of the Nigerian Dilemmanavigates the beleaguered contours of a nation, interrogates her chequered post colonial heritage and protean existential predicaments defined by recrudescent, fratricidal debacles, military misadventure, institutionalized corruption and prostrate economies as well as a loud poverty, disease, willful inexplicable deaths, amnesia, and gleeful self negation. 

As a renowned editorialist and distinguished newspaper columnist, Obi, in this book, harmonizes a robust stalking style with a penetrating apocalyptic deconstruction of Nigeria as a failing state. It is written with a fresh, pulsating, stark and chillingly unsentimental prose style.

Divided into five unequal parts, Delicate Distress is truly a delicate intermeshing of the congealed monumental tragedies and other emerging contemporary realities in the Nigerian historical continuum which have conspired to drive the country to the precincts of a yawning precipice. In refracting these prismatic realities, the essayist generously benefits from variegated trajectories that have yielded a heaving intellectual harvest. Obi impressively combines lyrical lightsomeness and rhythmic richness with abiding patriotism and perspicacity of cultural thought and insight. The result is a bold and visceral gnawing at a nation’s soul and psychology and the rankling of the weeping sores of a mortally wounded nation at odds with itself.  

Amanze Obi’s reservoir of literary resources and reportorial experience has interlaced all the essays in this collection.
Part One: Tales Unpleasant, which begins with a critical introduction, distills the hydra-headed Nigerian society with such precarious equilibrium that facilitates the paradox of happiness in a shrinking federalism. It circulates the anti-intellectual politics that heralds the perils of disunity and the challenge of constitution-making in a country in which inequity has been elevated to state policy. 

Part two: North-South Divide, appraises an elusive rapprochement that has failed to balance the regional agenda between East and North but rather aggravates regional war even at the Confab. In gloating and fretting over oil, Northern leaders who misruled Nigeria for 39 years out of her 53 years of post independence experience have succeeded in creating a dangerous class of youth in the North who agitate amidst excruciating poverty. While remaining divided by the advocacy for state police, Northern governors and their Southern counterparts are still swimming in the illusion of politics of number.

*Amanze Obi
Part Three: Agitation, Militancy and Terrorism, investigates the seed of agitation and the corruption of the legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa on the Niger Delta question. From a summit for the Niger Delta, the advent of NDDC, the rise of separatists and the emergence of Boko Haram, a barren nation still fiddles in the face of terror. But hypocrisy still parades in stark nakedness as terrorism when Christianity is under attack. It also spotlights America and the politics of terrorism.
Part Four: The Absurd and the Ridiculous, reports the once ridiculously absurd life presidency or Third Term project of the Obasanjo days. It begins with kite-flying to test the waters, the substantive phase when money did the bidding and the roles or reactions of the geo-political zones in/to the whole charade.

And finally, Part Five: Overcoming the Dilemma, ingeniously recreates the search for consensus amidst the controversy of the 2007 elections. This part examines an umpire’s force of conviction as the court pleases even as it does not yet please, giving a red eye for the judiciary when the safety valve or sole arbiter of the common man becomes agent of tenure elongation.

The part also publishes the Igbo question and crisis of reintegration into the failing Nigeria project. Beaming its searchlight on the jostle for the Presidency, the dilemma of a fleeing race, the part concludes with an overview beyond the cleavages. The book ends in an optimistic note: that despite the paroxysms of crises, a lean and blighted future, there is still hope for Nigeria. Despite the fact that Nigeria is seen as an estate, an exclusive preserve of the elect who have perfidiously appropriated it for themselves courtesy of the military and their collaborators in agbada and the instrumentality of  belching and roaring guns and ballot robbery, the rest of us can go to the gallows if we feel agitated and unhappy.

One huge lesson from Delicate Distress is that we should not delude ourselves in this well orchestrated and celebrated season of paradoxes and confusion. The real casualties are the rest of us whose souls have been gouged out of us like splintered snail shells. The real victims are the majority who do not have any means of survival and their future is their shameful present. The real casualties in this unconscionable tissue of confusion are and will remain those whose resources have been misappropriated by the powerful rich while they have been alienated and left in the murky waters of poverty, want, oppression, repression, disease and death.

It pains that the fate of this nation is still in the clutches and vice stranglehold of those who have tied us in these adamantine chains, driven us to this cheerless lurch and tied us in this cumbersome yoke on our delicate neck thereby subjecting us to a state of permanent distress.

The book which was presented to the public on August 27, 2013 in Abuja, makes a compelling read. In this season of confusion when almost everybody is crying of marginalization, when threats of self-determination rend the air, Nigerians would benefit immensely from this book. Go for it, grab it, savour it, and keep a copy in your family library for generations yet unborn. It is a collector’s item.
*Dan Amor is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst (

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