A review of Christine Umoekereka’s Our Collective Contribution to the Decadence in Nigeria.
MOST Nigerians believe that the country’s main problem is poor leadership. That callous and corrupt leaders who have systematically plundered her over the years and left her dysfunctional, insecure and debt-ridden are our bane. The tendency is to point the fingers at leaders for Nigeria’s woes and inability to fulfil its potentials almost 62 years after Independence.
But Christine Umoekereka, a Nigerian born healthcare professional based in Canada, argues otherwise in her new book, ‘Our Collective Contribution to the Decadence in Nigeria’. She notes that citizens make up a state alongside government and are jointly responsible for a nation’s fall.
“None of us is entirely blameless in this matter. The truth is that no building can stand without a firm foundation; neither can a nation. It is time to stop the blame game and face the reality that is our collective guilt. We will not be able to get it right as a nation until we understand that our personal lives shape and control our national life, and therefore, our attitudes determine our collective growth”, the author notes in the introduction.
She adds that what Nigerians need “to stop pointing fingers because this is a collective problem that requires a collective solution,” having all lost our morals.
This sets the tone in the 11-chapter work as the author painstakingly illustrates how Nigerians enable the rot and are as guilty as leaders they accuse of running the country aground.
The central question the author seeks to ask in this book and which serves as a kicker to the title is: “how did we collectively lose our ethical, moral, and cultural values that are presently causing the entire nation pain, suffering, underdevelopment and pauperisation.?
In the first chapter, where she examines ‘Family Systems’, the author notes that family socialises children to be materialistic. She says that parental behaviour has a strong effect on the social, cultural and psychological aspects of child development, and sadly parents are not setting the right examples with the way they glorify wealth above morals. The quest for instant gratification, she further notes, has stunted our growth and earned us bad names abroad. The answer to all these, she notes further in the chapter is a change in homes, communities and society. “We are the problem and the cause of our Nigerian predicament today. Hence, I make an emotional appeal to all to reflect on yourself and the consequences your actions have caused,” she wrote.
In the second chapter, ‘Citizens’ attitude towards national development,’ the author further continues her thesis of critical self-appraisal before blaming public officials for our retrogression. She calls for more patriotism from everyone, noting that “one of the major reasons Nigeria has fallen behind is due to the unpatriotic alignment of the citizens to a national priority. Our fingers are all on the government without realising that we are collectively the government.” She also encourages people to have the right attitude to work and that together, we can restore Nigeria to her former status of the pride of the black race.
The third, fourth and fifth chapters of ‘Our Collective Contribution to the Decadence in Nigeria’ examine the place of religion in individual and national affairs, lopsided federalism and mismanagement of public funds. She laments the religiosity of Nigerians and condemns religious leaders who use their platforms to amass wealth with soul-winning an afterthought. “Our religious houses are supposed to be a place of refuge for the rejected, a place of strength for the weak, the eyes for the blind and a place where those who mourn can be comforted. But we have diverted and polluted the true doctrines and morality handed us to us by true, old-time religion,” writes Umoekereka who also condemns religious intolerance and fake teachings.
On the mismanagement of public funds and endemic corruption, the author says we are all to blame and need to rise collectively against it. “Check the extent of your corruptive behaviour in your jurisdiction and how these characteristics have impacted us all at large,” she notes.
Chapters six and seven of ‘Our Collective Contribution to the Decadence in Nigeria’ examines political structure and organisation and the lack of enabling environment for industrial growth and development. She embarks on a thorough analysis of our federal structure and how over-centralisation have stifled states and local councils who, in turn, shirk their responsibilities to citizens. The parlous state of power and its effect on industrialisation does not escape the author’s attention. She laments the closure of industries that would have otherwise provided gainful employment to people across the country and why we also need to look in the direction of a service dominated and network-based economy.
The last four chapters of the book focus on selfish ambitions, political violence, ingratitude and discontentment and accountability. All these, of course, are bad for a nation interested in growth, and the author affirms it. “Let us all understand that selfish ambitions lead to the teaching of fables instead of truth, dishonest gains and exploitation,” she writes, adding that our democracy won’t grow if political violence continues to be condoned.
Lack of contentment, she further “has radically pushed our moral ethos, norms and ethical values beyond the precipice.” It is, she says, “a moral value-add that all citizens of a nation must possess. It is a good characteristic that will help develop a nation, leaving a legacy for generations yet unborn.” It’s the same for accountability.
Reading through ‘Our Collective Contribution to the Decadence in Nigeria’, Umoekereka’s passion ad heartbreak for the country shines through. Though a nurse in Canada for over 20 years, she remains attuned to ongoings in her fatherland and wishes all would be well with her. That’s why she has written this book, begging Nigerians to change our attitudes so that we can take our rightful place in the comity of nations. Her message echoes that of polemicist and poet, Odia Ofeimun who still believes Nigeria is saveable despite the rots. All it needs is a change of attitude and commitment to doing the right things.