A Quiet Revolution

Some Social and Religious Perspectives on the Nigerian Crisis

by Joseph F. Mali (Author)
©2014 Monographs XII, 138 Pages
Series: Religion and Society in Africa, Volume 1


In A Quiet Revolution: Some Social and Religious Perspectives on the Nigerian Crisis, Joseph F. Mali argues that contrary to popular belief, corruption and failed leadership are not at the heart of the Nigerian crisis. Corruption and misrule, though they have done a terrible harm to the Nigerian society, are in fact byproducts of something much more sinister in the same way that smoke is the byproduct of fire. The real trouble with Nigeria, Mali puts it bluntly, is a lifestyle of profound selfishness, which the people and their leaders have in common. The nation is still bleeding because of this evil. Unless Nigerians cure this «disease», Mali maintains, no system of government is likely to succeed in Nigeria. In vain do Nigerians seek political solutions as long as selfishness remains their credo! Since Nigeria’s problem is moral in nature, Mali insists, the remedy must also be ethical in character. Accordingly, he proposes «A Quiet Revolution» as a cure for Nigeria’s ailment. This revolution is not a silent coup to overthrow the Nigerian government. It is not «a French-styled rebellion in which the masses on the streets, and peasants in the country put an end to centuries of absolute monarchy». Rather, the «Quiet Revolution» is an interior change; an individual transformation. As long as this change has not taken place, Mali declares, it will be difficult to repair and restore Nigeria.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Origin of Nigeria’s Problems
  • Chapter 2. The Real Problem of Nigeria
  • Chapter 3. Crisis as Judgment
  • Chapter 4. The Paradox of Religion
  • Chapter 5. A Quiet Revolution
  • Chapter 6. A Unifying Ideology for Nigeria
  • Chapter 7. A New Way of Being Nigerian
  • Chapter 8. Saving the Next Generation
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Origin of Nigeria’s Problems
  • Chapter 2: The Real Problem of Nigeria
  • Chapter 3: Crisis as Judgment
  • Chapter 4: The Paradox of Religion
  • Chapter 5: A Quiet Revolution
  • Chapter 6: A Unifying Ideology for Nigeria
  • Chapter 7: A New Way of Being Nigerian
  • Chapter 8: Saving the Next Generation
  • Epilogue
  • Selected Bibliography
  • General Index
  • Series index

← x | xi → PREFACE

I wrote this book out of deep concern for the anguish of Nigerians. My purpose is to define the real problem of Nigeria, as I perceive it, and offer a solution. I am drawing on more than thirty years of living and working in the country. One can view Nigeria from top down or bottom up. From top down reality is one thing. From bottom up it is quite another. “In our own way,” said General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida at the African Leadership Forum,1 “we in Nigeria over the past three years have been pursuing our tripartite goals of economic recovery, self-reliance, and social justice.”2

Not everyone in Nigeria saw things Babangida’s way. Some had doubts about his government. Aware of the wall that separated him from the vast majority of Nigerians, Babangida himself made this candid admission, after recounting his tripartite pursuits at the African Leadership Forum: “We cannot claim to have always been understood by our countrymen and the world in general.”3 As Commander-in-Chief and head of state, Babangida was in an exalted office, and from there he assessed himself, believing he was working for “economic recovery, self-reliance, and social justice.” Those at the bottom of the social scale looked at their situation and saw a different reality, leading to their cynicism about his efforts.

← xi | xii → What a person sees depends on where he or she stands. I do not belong to the ranks and class of General Babangida, nor have I ever held any political office in Nigeria. I have not even been involved with those in government or the country’s politicians. Therefore, I have written this book from a bottom-up perspective, not top-down. That is to say, I will analyze the current crisis in Nigeria from the point of view of an ordinary citizen. Unlike some scholarly works on Nigeria that tend to emphasize mainly big names and major events, this book will focus on the Nigerian men and women in the streets and their practical concerns. However, I will not ignore the key players and historic moments in the Nigerian drama. Overlooking the essential events and people would only discredit my labor. By focusing on the streets of Nigeria, I shall provide examples of the issues and names of people that do not usually make the headlines or resonate with many Nigerians because those individuals are nonentities. But those common people are also Nigerians. Their experiences are real and reflect what is actually happening in the country.

In the preparation of this book, I have enjoyed the support of friends and colleagues who read the manuscript in its earliest version and made some helpful comments. I am indebted to Marinus Iwuchukwu of the theology department of Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, for his constructive criticism and advice. Special thanks to Hussaini Anthony Makun of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria, for his encouragement and helpful insights. Zeverin Emagalit, my colleague in the office, has been helpful in giving shape to the ideas expressed in this volume. Sandy Guido and Loretta Schumacher Carlson have provided much-needed editorial assistance.

A special gratitude is owed to Bitrus Vandy Yohanna, Minister, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, New York, for reading the entire manuscript and offering advice to give the work a universal outlook. I have also benefited from the library of Arewa House, Kaduna, Nigeria, and those at Fordham University and Saint John’s University, New York. I truly appreciate the kindness of the staff members of those libraries for granting me free access to their books. My gratitude goes to Joseph and Lanayre Liggera for their support.

Before I submitted the manuscript of this work to Professor Knut Holter’s Peter Lang Series, Religion and Society in Africa, I attended the 2013 Global Change Agents program at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, where I benefited immensely from the insights of the faculty and participants. I am thankful to all of them.

← xii | xiii → It was a pleasure working with Heidi Burns, my literary agent, who played a vital role in bringing the manuscript to the publishers. Thanks are due to the series editor, Knut Holter, who accepted the manuscript and made it into a book. To the staff of the Pastoral Care Department of Saint Francis Hospital, Poughkeepsie, New York, I am thankful for their support, encouragement, and friendship.

The views expressed here are my own reading of history and the events happening now in Nigeria. In other words, this work is an interpretive essay. Any errors or misstatements are my sole responsibility. It is hoped that this volume, addressed primarily to Nigerians, will shed light on the country’s predicament and provide the nation with tools to find a cure for its self-inflicted wounds. ← xiv | 1 →

← xiv | 1 → INTRODUCTION

As the crises in Nigeria worsen, foreign writers are alerting the international community to the country’s rich endowment of natural resources and its key position as a founding member of the African Union. Two of these foreign authors deserve particular attention. They are Karl Maier, with his book This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis (2002), and John Campbell, with his work Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink (2011). Against the international media’s tendency to shun Nigeria because of its complexities, Maier insists, “Nigeria truly matters.”1 The outside world, he warns, ignores Nigeria at its own peril.2

Maier sees very clearly the necessity of saving Nigeria, but his reasons are inadequate. They are tailored for the profit of the outside world. In brief, Maier argues as follows: In Africa, Nigeria is the biggest trading partner of the United States. It is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the U.S. market. Nigeria can provide trade opportunities for North American and European companies. If Nigeria fails, he cautions, it could cost American taxpayers millions of dollars.3

John Campbell’s logic is similar to that of Maier.4 Campbell acknowledges the importance of Nigeria to the international community. He refers to Nigeria as the most important African strategic partner to the administration of President George W. Bush.5 But he has no illusions about the complexities ← 1 | 2 → of Nigeria. The country, he notes, is riddled with complex challenges that are difficult for Western nations to fully comprehend. At the same time, he wants U.S. policy makers to pay more attention to Nigeria’s internal progress.6 He has even made modest policy recommendations to the Obama administration on how to assist Nigerians working for democracy and the rule of law.


XII, 138
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (March)
misrule selfishness corruption
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 152 pp.

Biographical notes

Joseph F. Mali (Author)

Joseph F. Mali, a Nigerian Catholic priest, is the Director of Pastoral Care and Mission Effectiveness at Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York. He is also the Catholic Chaplain of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Mali has a diploma in religious studies from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, a Bachelor of Divinity in theology from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, a Master of Arts in biblical studies from Saint John’s University in Jamaica, New York, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in theology, with specialization in the New Testament, from Fordham University in Bronx, New York. He is the author of The Christian Gospel and Its Jewish Roots: A Redaction-Critical Study of Mark 2:21–22 in Context (2009) and A Time to Break Silence: To the Catholic Bishops of Northern Nigeria (2012).


Title: A Quiet Revolution
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152 pages