The inherent contradictions in contemporary Nigeria have consistently evoked acrimonious discussions among scholars and analysts. Many Nigerians today spend countless sleepless nights pondering why the world’s tenth most populous country, a country so richly endowed has inescapably trapped itself in an intricate web of social and economic maladies that are resulting to monologues which are increasingly becoming violent across the land. The great Nigerian writer of all times, Chinua Achebe once said it is important to go back and find out where the rain started to beat us before we understand why we are drenched in this rain. This is exactly what The Ills in Contemporary Nigeria by Joseph Bem Targema aspires to achieve. It is a painstaking diagnosis performed on the sick patient, Nigeria to bring out what constitute the illness for proper medication to be provided. The book has the capacity to educate readers in Nigeria on the various roles they play as leaders or followers in either developing or under-developing the country. It naturally addresses the negative factors that have retarded Nigeria’s development over the years.
Written in a lucid innovative style, combined with concise presentation of the issues, this tiny book with a huge message does not come to us inform of the conventional chapters that we know. The ills in Nigeria are presented in 39 cases which accurately mirrors the socio-political and economic realities of present day Nigeria in a consultable form.
In case one, the author dissects with clinical precision the lack of patriotism amongst Nigerians which is often demonstrated in the manner in which citizens treat the national symbols or emblems created to inspire feelings of nationalism; for example, the national pledge. For patriotism to be entrenched in Nigeria, the central argument here is that leaders and followers should stop placing personal and selfish interest above national interest. The main thrust of case two is the lingering problem of abuse of fundamental human rights occasioned by the absence of freedom of the press, brazen subversion of the people’s will during elections among others which tend to dwarf the stature of our democracy. Case three talks about voting and electoral malpractices, rigging of elections, thuggery, violence as well as the need for positive change of behaviour. There is also the case of tribalism and inter-tribal wars which leads to retrogression in our national posturing (case 4). Some of the cases discussed in this book include, Unemployment (case 5), Bribery (case 6) and the Boko Haram menace which has continued to make peace and stability a scarce commodity in Nigeria on a daily bases (case 7).
Case 8 talks about the endemic corruption which has caused the country more harm than good even as much is wasted on EFCC and ICPC to fight corruption. Other issues are the case of insecurity (case 9), political instability (case 10) and that of religious crises (case 11). The author laments that it is strange for religion which should be our unifying factor to ironically become the bases for our disunity. Other cases include the culture of Nudity which has taken over our youths especially in higher institutions of learning (case 12). Case 13 has its take on the issue of prostitution and women trafficking which has assumed an alarming proportion in our country. Case 14 looks at the question of Greed while case 15 is concerned with cyber crime. Other issues in the book include illiteracy rate which is on the increase (case 16) as well as the problem of child abuse with its attendant consequences (case 17). There are also the vices of Defamation of Character (case 18), Drug Abuse and Trafficking (case 19) as well as the challenges of a poor educational system (case 20), Piracy (case 21), Abortion (case 22), Indiscipline (case 23), Jealousy (case 24), Lack of respect for constitution (case 25), Injustice (case 26), Economic sabotage (case 27), Gender Discrimination (case 28), Homosexuality (case 29), Pornography (case 30), Cultism (case 31), Food Insecurity (case 32), HIV/AIDS (case 33), Kidnapping (case 34), Lack of Accountability (case 35), Examination Malpractice (case 36), Poverty (case 37), Politicization of Traditional Institution (case 38) and the case of restriction of free information flow (case 39).
Although, the issues in this book are many, what the author seems to be saying in his analysis of these cases is essentially that Nigeria is not working, but for the country to work, the attitudes of everyone, especially the leaders, must also change, Nigeria does not need to remain forever a by word for chaos and corruption, poverty and drug trafficking as well as the rapidly rising religious and ethnic tensions which threatens the country’s survival. In fact, the submission of Bem Targema in this book is so much in line with Okey Ndibe, the author of Arrows of Rain who sees Nigeria as a nation conceived in hope but nurtured – mostly by its own leaders into hopelessness. The unfortunate reality highlighted in this book is a reflection of the symptoms of serious illness confronting a flawed social order that need redemption through genuine attitudinal change. The author’s pen has indeed done an incisive operation on the conscience of those who have to read this book.
Despite the few grammatical issues which can be corrected in the next edition, the simplicity of style and wide spectrum of issues treated as well as their timeliness makes this book an important addition to book shelves in our homes, schools and offices.
Maik Ortserga is an Executive Editor with Aboki Publishers, Makurdi as well as Secretary, Benue Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).