A banana republic, her men, and people

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From time to time I engage in the ritual of going back to old time classic work by Nigerian authors and there are not many of them. Like our music, these days not many works of art could be classified as such…so as the year climaxes I picked up a work by the venerated Chinua Achebe.

Man of the People” is a novel written by the renowned Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. Published in 1966, it is a poignant exploration of post-colonial politics and the challenges faced by newly independent African nations. Set in an unnamed African country, the novel centers around the character of Odili Samalu, a young teacher who becomes embroiled in the political machinations of Chief Nanga, a charismatic and corrupt politician.

The novel is known for its incisive critique of the political landscape in Africa, particularly the issue of corruption and the betrayal of public trust by those in power. Chief Nanga, initially presented as a champion of the people, is revealed to be self-serving and manipulative, using his position for personal gain. Achebe skillfully portrays the disillusionment of the masses as they realize the stark contrast between Nanga’s promises and his actions.

Achebe’s narrative style is marked by a keen attention to detail and a mastery of language. He employs vivid imagery and rich descriptions to bring the setting to life, painting a vivid picture of the societal and political milieu. The dialogue in the novel is authentic and reflective of the linguistic diversity of Nigeria, adding an extra layer of realism to the narrative.

One of the strengths of “Man of the People” is Achebe’s ability to delve into the complexities of human nature. Through characters like Odili, who grapples with conflicting emotions of admiration and revulsion towards Nanga, Achebe explores the nuances of moral ambiguity and the grey areas that exist within individuals.

Moreover, the novel addresses broader themes of nation-building, identity, and the legacy of colonialism. Achebe underscores the challenges faced by African nations as they navigate the transition from colonial rule to self-governance. He highlights the enduring influence of colonial legacies and the struggle for true autonomy.

While “Man of the People” is a work of fiction, it serves as a powerful mirror reflecting the socio-political realities of its time. Achebe’s incisive critique of the political elite’s betrayal of public trust remains relevant not only in Nigeria but in many countries around the world.

In conclusion, Chinua Achebe’s “Man of the People” stands as a seminal work in African literature, offering a searing commentary on post-colonial politics and the complexities of human nature. Through its well-drawn characters and masterful storytelling, the novel remains a thought-provoking exploration of power, corruption, and the quest for genuine leadership in the face of immense challenges.

Sadly, it’s the end of 2023 and not much has changed, both for Africa and Nigeria, and in many cases, the larger part of the continent has remained dark and some form of banana Republic with men of the people littered everywhere.

A “banana republic” typically refers to a politically unstable and economically dependent country, often in a tropical or subtropical region, that relies heavily on a single export commodity (historically, bananas) for its economic sustenance. These nations tend to have fragile political institutions, high levels of corruption, and a significant influence of foreign corporations or governments in their affairs. The term is often used pejoratively to describe a country perceived as undemocratic, economically weak, and subject to exploitation.

While Nigeria has faced various challenges, it is a complex and diverse nation with a substantial economy, diverse natural resources, and a multifaceted political landscape.

Nigeria is not traditionally labeled as a banana republic. However, it has encountered issues such as political instability, corruption, and economic challenges. The term itself may oversimplify the complexities of Nigeria’s situation. It’s more accurate to analyze Nigeria’s circumstances using a broader perspective that considers its rich cultural diversity, economic potentials, and ongoing efforts to address various socio-economic and political issues. But try as hard as one wants to, it’s near impossible because our men and in some cases women run the show with the consent of one of the most docile followerships found anywhere.

In Nigeria, individuals are richer than their states, and they do nothing productive, in Nigeria success is not based on effort, not based on competence, nor integrity. Infact integrity is almost a strange word, it’s not about what you put in, but who you know or who you are related to…wave a wad of naira notes either in some religious or faith based function and the people worship you for impoverishing them.

We have millionaires and billionaires that produce nothing, leaders without vision, or ideological philosophy. Manifestos are mere handouts, campaign slogans are like song choruses without refrain chanted by the same people who are at the receiving end of poor governance.

In our republic, these men borrow money in millions and billions with nothing to show for it and no one held accountable for squandermania and yet again borrow some more. We lie about everything from subsidies to taxes, with millions unemployed, we threaten tax hikes for the poor at the expense of the thieving rich…

The republic lacks a corruption—free, clear, focused and dedicated people, we are a people constantly working against each at various levels, our energies are spent throwing things at each other all the time, when we are not fighting corruption, we are saddled with a large concentration of population that are innocent of integrity.

So, for example again, queues have resurfaced at banks as customers battle cash scarcity. There are troubling signs from many parts of the country that the cash crunch that grounded the economy at the start of this year is making a comeback as customers are finding it hard to get cash from banks. Yet men don’t have such problems…

A substantial increase of N2 million on 40ft containers, coupled with a hike of N350,000 in vehicle clearance charges, has become a pressing concern. Importers are now contemplating the redirection of shipments to alternative destinations, potentially leading to the inactivity of Nigeria’s ports. And the men and women care less!

Stakeholders express unease, foreseeing potential inflation and an increase in business closures. There is a growing alarm over the potential surge in drug prices, posing a significant threat to public health. A call for immediate intervention from the Federal Government is emphasized, urging the addressing of security issues, fostering shipping growth, and streamlining operations at the ports, but the men won’t listen to the people.

A nation with men and women who refuse to produce what they eat, a people with an insatiable taste for everything foreign has seen four import exchange rate in six months, the result a palpable upswing in commodity prices and an escalation in production costs, resulting in a discernible exodus of investors from the country.

This republic whether banana, coconut or cassava must contend with institutional corruption, and we must address the quest for genuine leadership in the face of immense challenges. Whether the current men and women of the people want to bring about real change, whether the people are ready to hold them accountable, all I want to say and desire is that may Nigeria win!

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