by Uche Briggs
When Chude Jideonwo began his leadership series some years ago, I was his student. I earnestly waited each day to study and learn at his feet. Through his work, I exposed my mind to the wave of change driving the new Nigeria. I impressed upon him to publish them in a book, an anthology of sorts. He gave his word. Today, ‘Are We The Turning Point Generation’ is the fulfilment of that promise.
The book is divided into five parts based, not on chronology nor authorial intention, but on its thematic leanings. This review will discuss briefly the different parts.
Part 1 Losing It: How Not to Run A Nation
Aided by anecdotal references, albeit sparingly, the author strenuously makes the point for competence and character as elixirs for good governance. He argues that widespread change can only come from within, driven by an understanding of the peculiarities that define Nigeria. In light of the recent #BringBackOurGirls fiasco, it is instructive to note that as far back as 2011, traits of President Goodluck Jonathan’s insipid behaviour towards the safety of Nigerians have been documented. One has to wonder how GEJ being the first president from one of the sides that suffered during the civil war impacted upon his style of governance. But I digress.
Part 2: ‘On Life and Leadership’
The author draws from a repository of experiences; real and mediated, to interrogate the nature of the Nigerian leadership. He highlights the high and the low, the compromised and the untainted, juxtaposing it with the opportunities that present itself in the new generation of Nigerians. Brutal and uncompromising, Chude refuses to pander to popular pedestrianism; espousing his arguments with simple dictums like: “Government in Nigeria is not a matter solely of good intentions.” My favourite essay here however remains “Open Letter to My Pastor.” Raised by the teaching of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, I understand the guts it must have taken to right that. Understanding that inaction was damaging, Chude pens a beautiful piece stirring his leader, teacher and father to action.
Part 3: Fighting Together: The Power of A Single Voice
Chude begins this section with an article that brought tears to my eyes. It is that iconic rally, the one with young Nigerians challenging the tyranny of governance. I followed it will all my strength at the time. I remember that epic picture of Audu Maikori, mentor and leader, faced with the possibility of a gunshot, shouting the police man down, demanding (as he should) that Enough is Enough. This part touches on the advocacy struggle in Nigeria, our challenges, failings and opportunities. Indeed, this is the time to kick out indifference.
Part 4: Online Nigeria: Social Media and the New Age of Governance
As the title suggests this part explicates the impact of social media on advocacy, governance and business. The absence of boundaries and the spontaneity makes for a very powerful tool. And of course, Chude stops for a while to quench our ‘online thirsting’. Such a killjoy.
Part 5: Killing Apathy
My all time favourite anti-apathy address was delivered by Ellie Wiesel: The Perils of Indifference. Chude achieves quite the impact with the last part of this book. This section is quite fitting – a call to action for young Nigerians. The charge can be quite uncomfortable and challenging but within them are the small incremental changes that can usher in the new Nigeria.
On the quest to find the future, Chude burrows into the annals of history – ours and that of countries around the world – to search for the crucial answers. The book however raises more questions than answers; it stirs the curious mind and deposits some residue of uneasiness.
Chude approaches the great complexity that is Nigeria with a fair understanding of the travails and the myriad of forces tugging in different directions. At the core of his interrogation is a key demography – seemingly laden with more promise than purpose; more sensationalism than substance. For its ability to challenge norms and unabashedly inspire thought, this book remains a key resource material for every young person in Nigeria.
I disagree with the author’s assertions that the book is for young people desirous of entering leadership positions in Nigeria. My belief is that the book is for every young person – for as it is crucial to build our leadership – in every sphere, it is even more important to construct the character of our followership.
One thing, however, is abundantly clear from this book – For a new Nigeria, there are no quick fixes. The painstaking process of statecraft must be undergone. Nigeria would need thinkers, builders, strategists and patriots to add layer after layer, brick after brick. The onus lies with the young generation given the exigency of the task ahead.