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A Quiet Revolution

Some Social and Religious Perspectives on the Nigerian Crisis


Joseph F. Mali

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.
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Chapter 2. The Real Problem of Nigeria


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It is customary to think of failed leadership as Nigeria’s curse.1 Chinua Achebe made this observation in 1983 in his slim and readable volume The Trouble with Nigeria.2 His assessment of the nation was based on the social and political realities of that time. Back then, one could actually blame Nigeria’s trials on the leadership. Those in power enjoyed the oil money while most other Nigerians languished in poverty. In those days, the masses could be described as innocent sufferers, like the biblical Job, or the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. In general, their character was good. Some even stayed out of politics in order to remain pure. They watched their leaders ruin the nation but could do nothing to stop them.

In 1999, many years after Achebe published his political polemic, he returned to Nigeria briefly after almost a decade overseas receiving treatment for a back injury sustained in an automobile accident. At his home in the East, Achebe met with Cunliffe-Jones to discuss the Nigerian crisis. Achebe’s view had not changed at all. He reiterated his old message: “If poor leadership was the cause of the problem then, it is still the case today.”3

More recently, some have identified the military as the national problem of Nigeria. In their view, the soldiers are not saviors, but oppressors who do not fix problems but create more problems for the nation. Supporters of this...

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