Reviewer: Solomon Williams Obotetukudo, PhD.
Title of Book: DEAREST NIGERIA (For My Beloved Country).
Author: Daniel Inyang, Jr.
Publisher: Di Brains Media, Uyo. Nigeria.
Year of Publication: 2013
Number of Pages: 240pp + xvi
I had started this review last year. I suspended it for 2023 national elections because the book is dedicated “with a prayer to my beloved country, Nigeria.”
Indeed, the Foreword to the book by Professor Segun Adekoya of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, provides the synthesis for the thrust of ideas contained between the covers.
Quite normal for an apprehensive youth corper beaming with enthusiasm and great expectations, to be exposed to the realities of Nigeria on the streets in one’s non-native environment. I can relate. I did mine in Maiduguri, whereas a Lagos boy, I had the taste of culture shock; but I loved it because of my idealism as a freshly minted degreed Nigerian.
But this corper is a father. He is distraught. So, this a how-to manual to his daughter, a symbol of Nigeria’s hope, and innocence; yet immersed in a corrupt, debased, and egregiously dysfunctional edifice called Nigeria.
But I’m interested in Daniel Inyang’s choice of epistolary as a method to relay his anxieties to his daughter of the social media generation in 2013.
Letter writing is an antiquated artform in the age of internet. Yet, the author cherishes this mode over the electronic options available to him and his daughter.
Letter writing as a literary genre has many sub-genres—personal letters, thank you notes, e-mails, text messages, business letters, letters to the editors, letters of appeals, or petitions, and letters of intent that accompany vitae.
As a genre in literature, it comes as an epistolary novel. Generally, it is a work of fiction, written in a letter form. But Daniel Inyang writes a non-fiction letter to his daughter. I’m curious to know why.
My quick explanation is that Inyang has intimate details he wants to share with his lovely daughter. And that is a premonitory note to his loving daughter about the place Wole Soyinka in his Foreword to the 2013 book, Honour For Sale, described as “an intriguing, often instructive piece in the overall edifice.” So, Daniel Inyang is instructing as well as warning Daniella, his daughter, about the vagaries that is Nigeria.
Daniel is breaking the culture of absolute silence and amnesia. It is noteworthy that letter writing generally takes five types: expository, descriptive, persuasive, narrative, and journaling letter writing. I think in his anxiety and exposures to the impunities and recklessness of ethnicity, Daniel Inyang is in his epistle, exposing, describing, persuading and narrating. He narrates acts of despairs and impunities that have humbled and hobbled the country to its knees. He warns Daniella to be aware of the impending disillusionment that her generation would face, as they will be incapacitated by constitution issues, judiciary challenges, service doldrums, perennial themes of unity, self- sacrifices, same-sex marriages, destruction of public properties, terrorism, religious fanatism and fundamentalism, and so on. But change, according to the book is unavoidable. But he laments the colossal impact of hypocrisy among followers and leaders alike.
The entire book has a didactic tone to it. As true of fatherly sermons, the book sometimes sounded preachy and pushy. But as a father- parent with a passionate care for the future of his daughter, he may be culturally permitted; but may not be so welcoming intellectually.
“My dear, you’re more than this. They know it; you’re inheritance is rich. But I’m sorry that you only afford this mediocrity now.
“When I look into your eyes, I see the same dreams that your great grand father’s and mother’s had; dreams that died at the place of dreams…dreams that were not a reality until they bade this transit place farewell…dreams that I had prayed ever since I was a little above your age to be real, but I keep waiting through one face of ugly experience to the other on end… dreams that you too have inherited today. They were part of the dreams that your forebears had which galvanized them into a formidable entity against that far-away strange woman colonizer” (pp. 23-24).
On structure, the book has no content table. A table of contents serves as a guide to readers; to document and organize ideas; disciplines the writer-author to think, sift through multiple options, to encapsulate dominant themes in each chapter.
The table of contents forces a correspondence with pagination and organization, thereby giving readers the powers of selectivity and specificity, as to interests, thought processes, among others.
Table of contents speaks to the quality of the work.
Contrastingly, a non-table of contents letter writing format, in a non-fiction genre invites the readers to import own organizing schemes to the text, which may not be what the author intended.
Yet, the non-labelling and naming of the chapters, while may be acceptable in ordinary letter writing, makes it cumbersome in a 240-paged book.
Tables of content are usually in the inner front page of the book. I was compelled to name the chapters, to correspond with the named parts of the book.
Daniel labelled the letter writing in the form of paragraphs. There are twelve paragraphs, as I noted earlier, that are not labelled or named. He is blunt. He is naming the evil. Even where his proselytizing, as in his vehement opposition to same-sex marriages, and his aversions to secularism, he is uncommonly polite in evoking caveats to the rescue.
He is a traditionalist; yet with sensibilities of a tamed evangelist. Daniel Inyang writes to his daughter out of the fear of a father, and the love of a father who refuses to see his community wiped away, and his golden parachute to an enduring future and legacy swept with it.
Overall, this is a compassionate book that every Nigerian should read.
Most particularly, in this season of abnormality and suspenseful expectations, this book is an importunate voice for change in an inherited polity waiting for re-structuration, in the midst of confusion and permanent impunity and marginalization of the many by a few.