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Dreaming a proper country into being

RevolutionNIGERIA is certainly ripe for a revolution. But what kind of revolution should it be? Who spearheads the revolution that will usher the country into an era of infinite possibilities and opportunities it has missed so far since independence in 1960? These are some pertinent socio-political and economic questions a writer poses and provides answers in the quest for a new Nigeria that is the dream of a majority of the citizenry.

But is this revolution mere utopia in the fictive imagination of its author, Mr. Anene Nwuzor? His novel, Revolution in Wazobia (Ann’s Indulgence Limited, Lagos) published in 2013 provides futuristic vision of a fictional country called Wazobia and events leading to its election in 2019. It is politics of ‘change’ envisioned long before All Progressives Congress (APC) ‘change’ mantra came into popular imagination. But Nwuzor anchors his visionary politics of change on two cardinal points – a cultural revolution championed by a woman!

Nwuzor’s fictive country, Wazobia, is, in every respect, the Nigeria of today with all its dysfunctionality, a place where nothing works and corruption a byword for governance. Indeed, the current government looks every inch like the past administration of Goodluck Jonathan. For Nzuwor, lack of ethical values and moral turpitude are the hallmark of Wazobia’s failings. Efforts to change, as envisioned by the change agent, a woman, Andora Addoh-Ochakpam (simply known as Andora), can only come through a cultural revolution in which Wazobians must imbibe a new mindset and a new way of being from its corrupt past, a country where things are done correctly and properly.

Having summed up all the problems besetting her country before like minds in a meeting she convenes, Andora unveils the Cultural Revolution association that will reverse the negatives her country has become infamous.

She argues that there are no real heroes of worth for young people to emulate, as she affirms, “My dear colleagues, we are now at the real crux of our gathering here, and that is, our role in the regeneration of our very sick country. After carefully considering everything involved, including what I consider is within our ken – our understanding and ability – I think our role is to take up a crusade, a mission of Cultural Revolution in our society”.

A university teacher, Andora embarks on a course of action that will rescue her country from the cabals that hold her hostage and put it on the path of recovery. But it is no easy task, as Andora and her soul mates come face to face with the antics of those for whom change is anathema. To further amplify her regenerative crusade of values’ reorientation in Wazobia, Andora launches a seminal book Up for Cultural Revolution in Wazobia both to raise awareness and raise funds to run her organisation.

The central thesis of the book is “to tackle the basic issues of national values, the neglect or absence of which has left our country a sick society,” and Andora assures all, “We shall walk what we talk, to be models of our nation’s cultural values, based on patriotism and loyalty to our nation, in a transparent show of integrity, financial probity and selflessness”.

Although premised on apolitical foundation, Andora’s Cultural Revolution couldn’t avoid joining the political fray when it seems obvious that Wazobia would slide farther into anomie if good people and organisations like Andora and her group sat back and merely watched. Gradually, the tenets of Andora’s Cultural Revolution – integrity, values and patriotism – seeped into the fabric of society – especially among the youths who seem more at the receiving end of the misrule that characterize leadership of Wazobia.

MEANWHILE, the president of the country is having serious crisis of leadership and internal rebellion in his party. He is perceived to be weak; the electoral umpire has planned to introduce an innovative nanotechnology machine that would make election rigging a thing of the past and Mr. President’s party members are up in arms against it. Rigging has been the ruling party’s byword, and members feel threatened. The electoral umpire is being hectored into giving it up, but he is adamant. Unknown to the party members, Mr. President will not seek a second term and wants to leave a legacy of a strong electoral reform which the nanotechnology machine would guarantee.

So, although the old political rogues are against Andora and her Cultural Revolution, they fear the popularity it has begun to gain among the populace. Ten years down the line, Andora’s organisation gains immense ground and rumour of it becoming a political party sends jitters down the spines of the old politicians in the other parties. The reality of those fears becomes palpable soon enough at the launch of Andora’s New Age Democracy Party (NADP). She wins at the general elections and begins the task of engineering a new a Wazobia.

Revolution in Wazobia plies a thin line between dredging up real-time socio-political issues plaguing Nigeria and Wazobia’s imaginary ones. The line is so thin that it a fictional rereading of what is generally known. However, Nwuzor introduces a new element into his narrative. He places a woman at the heart of the ‘change’ that seeps through Wazobia society; it somewhat echoes Achebe’s ‘mother is supreme’ maxim when mothers come to the rescue of society when men have failed irredeemably.

The values Andora entrenches in society are those that ordinary Wazobia citizens desire, but which its high and mighty politicians reject for their personal gains. When illiterate motor park union godfathers like Chief Ononikpo support a former killer like Etoh Ikenga for political office, surely such a country is doomed. They fight dirty to retain their lavish lifestyles gained at the expense of the poor. But unwittingly, they provide a fertile soil for a revolution to happen like it does in Wazobia.

Is such revolution in the making in Nigeria as Nwuzor’s fictive narrative forecasts? Who is Andora’s equivalent that will spearhead the needed cultural revolution? When will the electoral body be firm enough to rid the country of electoral fraud? Does Nwuzor’s fictional narration approximate Achebe’s A Man of the People that presaged change of government back in 1966, with a ballot revolution come 2019 election?

Clearly, Nwuzor narrative threads on a thin ice in separating fiction from reality, sometimes blurred with striking resemblances too close to call. Trending on contemporary issues sometimes makes it tedious, with the faction not being too cleverly, subtly subsumed in fictive narration. For most of the time, Revolution in Wazobia reads as though one is reading the day’s newspapers headlines in today’s Nigeria. Perhaps, allegorical characterization and setting might just have served Nwuzor’s narrative much better than the linear equivalent.

Nevertheless, Nwuzor’s Revolution in Wazobia is a fine attempt at polemical fiction that is clearly lacking in the country. It provides a fine starting point for writers to explore polemic fictional in Nigeria.

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