If Nigeria must evolve into a capable state, providing robust, cradle to the grave services to its citizens and benefiting from their trust and hard work in return, a key duty of its men of thought is to imagine, reimagine and continue to reimagine how such a state could work.
Nigerian literary works of fiction and nonfiction have done exceedingly well as insightful reviews of the society’s state of affairs.
But is it enough for writers, thinkers and artists to be reviewers of trends towards anarchy?
The Lagos Book and Art Festival dedicated its 19th edition, in 2017, to a comprehensive evaluation of the dark, brooding period championed by the emergence of Donald Trump in the United States, the Brexit referendum in Britain, and the dizzying rise of the post truth media.
But this 20th edition is located smack in the lead up to the general elections, that short window of time that we collectively interrogate the fortunes and depredations of the polity. It is the fifth campaign season since 1999. And 2019, which is just a month and half away, marks the 20th year of the Fourth Republic.
We thought we should choose a theme that reflects a form of rebirth and create a Festival atmosphere that looks towards hope for the country.
This Festival is about Renewal: A World That Works for All.
The core books of this large Book Party are thus those whose concerns are in sync with its Upbeat theme.
THERE ARE SCORES OF NON FICTION works, all over the global bookshelf, that document the struggle towards the emergence of competent states in many countries, explain political experiments that have led to prosperity in some and track the rapid industrial transformation in others in yet several others.
Julian Zelizer’s The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society is described by several qualified people, as a big-picture narrative of how President Lyndon Johnson spearheaded the most transformative agenda in American politics since the New Deal.
Lee Kwan Yew’s Singapore: From Third World to First – is a first class manual of how to build a nation.
South Africa is clearly a work in progress. Here, a ruling Black Elite is trying to integrate tens of millions of people that had been denied their humanity for centuries, into the economic space. But it is human nature to replace one tyranny for another. Helen Zille’s autobiography, Not Without A Fight, is a startling account of the difficult choices, made everyday, in transforming Africa’s most industrialised economy into an egalitarian system.
Back home, Obafemi Awolowo’s several books on the National Question, fit the bill demanded by the Festival Theme. Of these, we have chosen to discuss The Strategies and Tactics of the People’s Republic.
A s a work of fiction, Eghosa Imasuen’s To St Patrick is an exception to the rule in Nigerian Literature. The author imagines a tremendously improved country, where the police force is thoroughly professional; the citizens are prosperous and the favourite car of the working class is Wazobia 306. The critic Carmen McCain describes the book as a picture of what Nigeria could have turned out to be if its leaders had been less greedy and more patriotic—what could have happened if corruption had been dealt with in the 1970s, if politicians followed the rules, and if a prosperous economy had undermined ethnic prejudices by which communities seek to scapegoat the other. It’s the reason why this book is appearing in LABAF for the third time since its publication in 2009.
People have asked why we have a Presidential aspirant in one of the several panels, and that question is a way of saying: Why are you being partial?
The answer is that Kingsley Moghalu has not only written two books, he has done the kind of books that speak to the theme.
The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, first appeared in LABAF in 2015 with Emerging Africa, How the Global Economy’s ‘Last Frontier’ Can Prosper and Matter –
And now he has followed up with Build, Innovate and Grow: My Vision for our Country
What have we always advocated for? We have a politician who has sat down to pour down his thoughts on how he wants his country to travel. He has provided material for engagement. And we have assembled a critical panel to interrogate these thoughts.
Welcome to the Lagos Book and Art Festival 2018.
Let us use the instrumentality of the published book to light our way out of the dark.
-Akinosho, Secretary, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA)
Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF)
Lagos, November 2018