Why we are no Longer at Ease

simple, made fantastic

…let us dream a simple dream made fantastic…

Here is the text of an open letter released by over 40 Nigerian writers in reaction to the political situation in Nigeria in January, 2010. Add your own signature, and support, in the comment box.   You can also listen to and download an audio version by clicking on this link:  Audio

An Open Letter from Nigerian Writers

Nigeria’s failure to make the progress commensurate with 50 years of nation-building is not just a failure of leadership. It is first and most catastrophically, a failure of followership.

As ordinary Nigerians, we have failed to create an environment where good leadership can thrive. By glamorising fraud and ineptitude, we have created a country hostile to probity. Our expectation from Government House is mediocrity, so that good government surprises us pleasantly and excellence continues to amaze us. Instead of an environment of accountability, we have fostered sycophancy. We have been content to follow every stripe of leader, from the thief to the buffoon. The consequence is that for months we have been happy to be ruled even in absentia.

Today, we say, no more.

Protest is not a dirty word. Even babies have a voice, long before they learn language or discernment. The child that is too docile to cry when it hungers or ails might die in the hands of the most benevolent mother. A leadership, however benevolent, requires an intelligent, demanding, and courageous followership to excel.

It is the responsibility of every Nigerian to voice the legitimate expectations of nation and to establish the standards to which our leaders must be held. We must expect great things from this country, so we must look for the leaders who can deliver. There is an acceptable standard of leadership, and then there is an unacceptable standard. We must honour leaders who excel, and censure leaders – at every level, and in every arm of government – who betray our trust.

If failure is not censured, there is no incentive in pursuing excellence. If sacrificial leadership is not recognised, then leaders of merit will not come forward, and the heroes in our cenotaphs will be the very architects of our failure as a nation. Although we are justly famous for our generosity of spirit, for our ability to forgive and forget the gravest transgressions, Nigerians must also now boldly condemn the errors of leadership, and end the complacency that has brought us so low as a country. The only reason for the existence of political leaders is to offer service to nation.  Leadership is not an end in itself. It is a privilege to serve your country; leadership is not a right to be served by your country.

Today, Nigeria stands on a precipice. Behind us is a history that can push us, irrevocably, over the brink. Yet, we are writers. If we bring anything collectively to society, it must be the imagination and the inspiration to bridge impossible gulfs. Today, we must plumb our history, not to evoke despair, but to inspire resolve. Today, we call on Nigerians to hold hands across the trenches of our deep divisions and, somehow, find the resolution to dream again. Let us, as ordinary Nigerians, reject the ethnic fictions that local despots have used to colonise this country over the past five decades.

Let us dream a simple dream made fantastic by our present circumstances. Let us dream of a Nigeria that works, that evokes pride, and that inspires faith. Let us dream of a Nigeria of servant-leaders and sacrificial statesmen, a Nigeria which calls the best characteristics out of ordinary men and women. Let us call on that capacity for renewal to bring opportunity out of this crisis.

Let us recreate the excitement – and the possibilities – with which we approached the Independence Day of 1960. In 50 years, the resources and destiny of this great country have been hijacked by private carpetbaggers and adventurers. Let us take back the sanctity of our polls. Let us rejuvenate the recall process. Let us police our resources, our leadership. We must liberate Nigeria anew. Today, we must take back our country.

As writers, the past and the future are fertile fields for the work of our imagination. Today, in this love-letter to our nation, we call on all Nigerians to take authorship of our nation’s next 50 years. Our destiny is in our own hands. Shall we write into it a bigger civil war? Another half-century of mediocrity and international disgrace? Then we need do nothing.

But if we, the people of Nigeria, must write an inspirational epic of a humbled nation on her knees, who, breaking free of bondage, soars into the keep of eagles, we must begin by demanding only the best of our leaders. In the days and months to come, we the people must find our voice, our votes, and our true values. And we must make them count.

Thank you.

Chuma Nwokolo  •  Abdul Mahmud  •  Afam Akeh  •  Helon Habila  •  Paul Onovoh   •  Chika Unigwe  •  Jude Dibia  •  Okey Ndibe  •  Chilo Zona Eze  •  EC Osondu  •  Tade Ipadeola  •  Unoma Azuah  •  Shola Adenekan  •  Amatoritsero Ede •  Lola Shoneyin  •  Uzor Maxim Uzoatu  •  Ikhide Ikheloa  •  Uche Peter Umez   •  Nnorom Azuonye  •  Richard Mammah  •  Chike Ofili  •  Obiwu  •  Uche Nduka  •  Ogaga Ifowodo  •  Richard Ugbede Ali  •  Maik Nwosu  •  Akin Adesokan  •  Obi Nwakanma  •  Kachi A. Ozumba  •  Odili Ujubuonu  •  Emman Shehu •  Ibrahim Sheme  •  Tanure Ojaide  • Emmanuel Iduma  •  Sylva Nze Ifedigbo  •  Sarah Manyika  •  Ogo Ogbata  •  Kola Tubosun  •  Damilola Ajayi  •  Tolu Ogunlesi  •  Toyin Adewale-Gabriel  •  Mike Ekunno

21 thoughts on “Why we are no Longer at Ease”

  1. Yes…while chief priests are the oracles of gods, writers are the oracles of men…their written words are the unspoken words lurking in the inner recesses of the minds of men. 50 days of the CEO’s unexplained absence without media coverage?..it just shows that Nigeria is still in the commodious pocket of a few cabal…we cant take it any longer. I join the learned vanguard of writers to subscribe to the letter.

  2. I fail not because I riseth not and history sleepeth on as if I never existed! Its closer,Mau Mau!!!

  3. This write-up touches me on a personal level. As a published author with a debut novel (Feddie Girl) targeted to Nigerian readers, I’m honored to join in this purpose. Writers need to bring forth the best in their work and turn towards a brighter hope for the future.

    PS: Feddie Girl: the Hilarious Adventures of an American Teen in a Nigerian Federal School

  4. I am a writer but not Nigerian. The sentiments expressed in this letter should make any progressive African wether Nigerian or otherwise think of which way Africa. Nigeria with its educated leaders and abundant natural resources should have been a model of development in Africa. What we have seen as observers from other African countries is unbridled corruption, mediocre leadership and directionless guidance which would make one agree with pessimistic writers like VS Naipaul’s comment that ‘Africa has no future.’ If Nigeria had had good leadership by now it could have joined the first world in development and focused leadership but alas ! Nigeria is now making us feel that there is no hope for other African countries who consider the failure of leadership and corruption which seems to be in the DNA of leaders of that ‘blessed’ country. As Mr Nwokolo rightly states in his letter, the leaders have played the ethnic card as one of the major reason for not making progress. With good leadership, development can be achieved even with a multitude of tribes. Having many tribes is not synonymous with tribal clashes. Somali has one tribe but there are wars based on clans. There will always be tension between different tribes, races, countries or regions. What is important is for leaders to create an environment to lessen such conflicts instead of fanning them as has been the case with Nigeria. In Africa, leaders have a wrong notion that they are masters over the people they govern instead of the people being masters as is the case in most European countries. One classic example in Britain is when the former Prime Minister Tony Blair was questioned by the Police over the cash for honours scandal. I don’t think that would happen in Nigeria or any African country south of the Sahara. As Africans we are not cursed to be doomed to leaders-manufactured suffering when citizens can change things. I have just been reading a book on how slaves themselves contributed in the abolition of slavery. The citizens of any nation under bad governance are responsible to stop the abuse of their rights. We look to Nigeria as an African Super power which will act as a litmus paper for hope in the most insulted continent.

  5. very powerful letter, particularly moved by

    ‘Although we are justly famous for our generosity of spirit, for our ability to forgive and forget the gravest transgressions, Nigerians must also now boldly condemn the errors of leadership, and end the complacency that has brought us so low as a country.’

    We must, each in our own way.

  6. We must give Nigerians a voice; a voice that cuts through the navel of the Nigerian society . This piece is a typical example of that voice. I hope the concerned people are going to listen to it.

  7. I feel proud to be part of this effort. Nigeria is not what it should be for now but there’s no giving up on efforts to make it what we want. The TOUGHEST BIT WILL BE WORKING ON OURSELVES. Criticism is cheap. What’s not is speaking out even when we or our group is at advantage; resolving not to benefit from others’ injustice or misfortune and judging right and wrong based on first principles not waiting to know which tribe, faith, region, gender or whatever is at stake. Peace and may God bless Naija

  8. @Mike, you are spot on. It comes down to integrity. The ability to stay on message from campaign into government. That is what separates larcenous politicians from statesmen.

  9. Its poor really that a country as big as ours will be mute in the face of all this outright mediocrity.
    Its even sadder that instead of acting as a check for their excesses, we the followers keep glorifying the ignominy.
    Yes, I sign to this movement that will put fire beneath our leaders. That will draw them back to reason whenever they want to go anomie.
    Yes I sign today!

  10. Hi Chuma,
    We’re enjoying dipping into your blog. We’d like to list you on our blogroll and be listed among your links if possible.
    I’m writing from Tamarind, a children’s book publisher. To give you a little background on us: Tamarind has been publishing multicultural children’s books since 1987, in order to redress the balance in book publishing. We produce books that all children can engage with, and that reflect black children positively in the books they read. Our books have featured on the UK National Curriculum and BBC children’s television. After focusing on picture books and biographies for 23 years, we now also publish teen novels.
    We are online at http://www.tamarindbooks.co.uk , on Twitter and Facebook . If you have any questions please get in touch on info@tamarindbooks.co.uk.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Best wishes
    Alice Murphy

  11. Hello Mr Nwokolo,
    I share your thougths completely and you speak my mind eloquently. I am not a writer and I am not a politicain but
    the quality of my followership has for years caused me serious disquiet.
    I am no-longer at ease and I can no-longer sit down and do nothing. So, for now, I humbly request your permission to share this letter on my Facebook page, more practical action will follow as the Lord leads.
    Regards,
    Esther.

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