Tuesday, 19th October 2021
To guardian.ng
Breaking News:

In coming revolution, Hagher makes a clarion call to service, sacrifice

By Lindsay Barrett
06 January 2019   |   2:33 am
The first and probably most important thing that one should point out about this book is that it is the product of a profound and consistent sense of disenchantment and anger that the author makes no effort to conceal. He is disenchanted with the lack of probity and patriotic honesty that he says most of…

Professor Iyorwuese Hagher (left) with Senator Barnabas Gemade on the high table at the book launch in Abuja

The first and probably most important thing that one should point out about this book is that it is the product of a profound and consistent sense of disenchantment and anger that the author makes no effort to conceal. He is disenchanted with the lack of probity and patriotic honesty that he says most of the nation’s leaders have exhibited, especially since the Nigerian civil war. He is convinced that the trajectory on which the nation has been launched, through the misappropriation and misuse of its enormous resources by those entrusted with the stewardship of its patrimony, will lead to disaster unless reversed.

This argument is presented here in a series of carefully thought-out and erudite commentaries in the form of essays, lectures, and interviews that make up the 15 chapters of the main body of the work. As a result the message that the material anthologised here sets out to deliver to the average reader is rendered more immediately topical by the inclusion of two profoundly cautionary letters addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari as appendices to the publication.

The above description should make any reader aware that this book is a unique product of the political culture that has evolved in post-independence Nigeria. It should be read especially as a response to the consequences of the intervention of military authoritarianism and the multifarious attempts to correct the anomalies generated by this circumstance of history through the crafting of a democratic agenda. The advent of the democratic impulse in Nigeria’s historic journey towards effective and efficient nationhood is the major objective concern of Professor Hagher’s arguments. His consistent advocacy of transformative principles of governance over several decades of public service is on record because he has actually been one of Nigeria’s most prolific and articulate writers of political commentary, at the same time he has also been an active participant in competitive politics as well as a public servant in prestigious ministerial service and in the diplomatic corps. As a consequence Professor Hagher’s reputation as a credible critic as well as a technocrat whose advice is grounded in experience is impeccable and beyond reproach.

The above observations are offered as preliminary elements of this review because it is important to let those who might regard the book as an instrument of personal promotion for the author’s aspirations know right from the onset that it is much more than that. This book should be regarded as a completely honest instruction manual for the installation of transformational leadership in the various seats of power that comprise Nigeria’s national as well as regional councils of governance. In other words this work is a memorandum (or as the author calls it “a manifesto”) to all aspirants to leadership at any level of political aspiration in the nation. It is replete with expressions of general principles and moral objectives that can be interpreted as philosophical tenets held as personal standards of conduct and obligatory duty by the author. These are deployed and articulated in commentaries on a multiplicity of visionary scenarios and historical circumstances that reflect and illustrate Prof. Hagher’s emotional adherence to a central patriotic vision of Nigeria as a nation built to serve the most disenfranchised of its people.

It is interesting and enlightening, not to say revelatory, for the reader to contemplate the themes of social empowerment that are advocated over and over again in this book in spite of the variety of form and character of the contents. It must be remembered that the author’s core profession is that of a university professor. He is a seasoned academic who is also a prolific playwright. In fact his area of discipline and instruction is theatre arts and literature and so it is not surprising that this book is written in lively and attractively stylistic prose. Prof. Hagher is actually recognised and celebrated in academic circles for being both an innovative pedagogue as well as an adventurous administrator.

On the back of this professional foundation his career as a political appointee took wings. After serving as a Senator in the Second Republic he was twice appointed a Federal Minister and eventually represented his country as its Ambassador to both Mexico and Canada. With such an impeccably illustrious record the genuinely radical reformist zeal exhibited in this work might be a surprise but it is also grounded in solid domestic experience and global exposure.

Given the background of establishmentarian success to which Prof. Hagher can lay claim the profound commitment to reform and radical restructuring of the Nigerian state that this book advocates is surprising, While the author professes his anger and disenchantment over the deficiencies of national leadership in clear terms it is equally clear that he has made a success out of his own life in spite of these reservations.

The need for the holistic reform of the Nigerian educational system is one of the most persistent issues that he deals with in this book and he does so with such evident commitment that it soon emerges that his devotion to reform is based on personal experience. Prof. Hagher is a public rather than a elitist intellectual and this work belongs to a tradition of critical discourse that has served to keep the issues of transformational governance alive in more advanced democracies. Prof. Hagher is acutely aware of this tradition and his work as displayed here is an exemplary model of documentary research and contemplation made relevant to the life of the ordinary people of the Nigerian state.

The first four essays (or five if the author’s Preface is included) are expositions of, and deliberations on, the general ideas that provide the foundation on which the central argument for transformation of the profile of Nigerian governance is based. Each one of these comprehensive treatises, the titles of which are indicative of their objective purpose, contains detailed and effectively researched facts and opinions that are marshalled in expressive and stylish language that serves to enhance the author’s clear objective, which is to provoke the reader into supporting the prognosis for change that he is promoting. This general introductory section is followed by a selection of thematically specific reports and studies that are exciting to read as well as very reflective in their concerns. Notable among these are chapters five and seven in which he discusses ‘The Dilemma of Democracy’ and the ‘War on Corruption in Nigeria’, and ‘The Second Coming of Muhammadu Buhari’ respectively. These opinion pieces indicate that Prof. Hagher does not contemplate public issues or office from the perspective of his elite status in society but is instead able to identify with the interests and desires of the masses of ordinary people. He is at one and the same time both an intellectual analyst, and an impersonal observer, of the affairs of state.

This impression of Prof. Hagher’s ability to represent the profoundest concerns of the average citizen and articulate populist demands gains force as the book progresses. There are touching moments of narrative memory that serve to reveal the depth of his emotional involvement in the process of political transformation, such as when in an essay on educational imperatives for women and other disenfranchised elements in Northern Nigeria he recollects the circumstances under which his elder sister Ngivan was forced to halt her education.

His ability to show how bad practices in governance impact and influence the life of the ordinary citizen in various parts of the country eventually helps to strengthen the author’s credentials as a Nigerian nationalist. At the same time his role as a champion of regional autonomy within the Federal context is also very germane to the development of his vision for Nigeria’s future. He has the ability to present national issues in ways that can generate universal popular support and at the same time address specific concerns arising from the peculiar political conditions that have beset the Nigerian polity for decades.

One of the most important sections of this book and certainly one of the most enlightening political essays ever written about Nigeria appears here, entitled Middle Belt Consciousness and the Road to Social Justice in Nigeria, as Chapter Thirteen of the book. In a display of masterful historical erudition and local knowledge the author a, Tiv man from Benue State by origin, examines one of the most intransigent and sensitive historical imbroglios of ethnic rivalry that has been a source of political instability in Northern Nigeria at various periods of Nigerian history.

The way in which he relates some contemporary dilemmas that challenge the democratic impulses to the historic anomalies of the Nigerian journey towards nationhood makes this work an important document for all those who wish to lead or even to follow the political trajectory of the nation. The Coming Revolution of which the title speaks is encapsulated in Prof. Hagher’s hope that democracy will be allowed to thrive and serve as the instrument of change and unification that Nigeria needs to fulfil its potential as a safe haven of growth and progress for all its people. For this hope to be fulfilled the principles of service and sacrifice must become the main motivating factors of political leadership throughout the national polity. This book is a clarion call to all those who are ready to take that path to leadership in order to rebuild a new Nigeria.