“Reading is a conversation. All books talk, but a good book listens well.”
– Matt Haddon
Hello value squad! How’s it going? I’ve finally gotten round to writing a book review as mentioned sometime ago in my January review here.
Though I actually prefer having book discussions to writing reviews, I’m extra pumped to start with this really good one from Niyi Osundare. Let me warn you beforehand, this doesn’t really follow all the conventional book review rules, and this is all strictly my own opinion. That said, let’s jump in, shall we?
Title: Dialogue With My Country
Selections from the Newswatch Column (1986-2003)
Author : Niyi Osundare
Publisher/Date published: Bookcraft/ 2011
ISBN: 978 978 8135 76 0
Page count: 377
Dialogue With My Country is a rich collection of selected pieces from Niyi Osundare’s monthly column in the Newswatch newspaper. These columns span from 1986 to 2003, so it gives a good peep into some aspects of Nigerian socio-political history through the eyes of a keen observer, bold patriot and informed critic who provides thoughtful commentary on a wide range of social issues.
Armed with impressive use of the English Language, allusions, stories, proverbs, slangs, wit, humor and lots of intelligent sarcasm, the author, Niyi Osundare (an award-winning poet, author and Professor of English), speaks to the nation, sharing experiences, speaking uncomfortable truths and boldly challenging wrong leadership, poor systems and policies, docility in citizens, etc., all the while calling out individuals and groups who need to be called out as well as praising and paying tributes to those who are deserving among public officers, citizens and the media, all without fear or favor.
One thing that stands out throughout is his strong hope and believe in the future of Nigeria, which is why he keeps having this dialogue with her.
In his words: “No, Nigeria is not deaf. This is why my dialogue with her in the past two and a half decades is something close to an argument that never pales, something close to an endless exchange.”
Dialogue With My Country features themes of patriotism, tribalism, power and politics, international relations, justice, unionism, democracy, education and also explores art and culture. It’s one that reaches across various aspects of life.
The book is divided into 7 Chapters, each focusing on different aspects which are:
1. Social/Environmental issues
6. Politics and Governance
7. Miscellaneous/ International Affairs
First off, I must state the obvious: Niyi Osundare is an excellent writer who deserves all the accolades! This is my first time reading a non-poetry piece from him and as usual, he delivers.
It’s a great idea to collate his writings from as far back as 1986 up till 2003 as it provides some insight into the past for young people like me and in an interesting manner at that. If you think history and social commentary is boring, this book will make you have a rethink.
What I love:
1. Arrangement: I love the grouping into chapters based on different areas he’s addressing. This makes for proper indexing and easy referencing later on. Also, you can just decide to pick a particular part you want to focus on and go straight there.
2. Communication style: Effective communication is key and Professor Osundare achieves that perfectly. He has a way with words, but I’m not that surprised, since he’s a poet. Though he uses big, uncommon English words at times, he still makes sure the message hits you exactly where it should using satire, rhetorical questions, high level of intelligence and rich sarcasm. I laughed more than a few times, albeit sadly.
Also, he uses descriptions and stories which carries the reader along and sparks imagination. I flowed really well like I was in those scenarios with him, such as that time he lost his air ticket in New Year Gift (Pages 368-372). I could relate, knowing how frenzied I can get when looking for things, so I found myself heaving a sigh of relief when he eventually found it.
3. Emotions : This book evoked a lot of emotions from me. Anger and sadness at the past and for our current state since we seem not to have learnt or changed much, but also joy and pride in our heroes past, both sung and unsung, those who dared stand for the right thing and above all, hope for this generation and others to come. And of course, I’m challenged and spurred to keep doing my part build a better nation and world.
I picked a lot of lessons but I’ll share just five:
1. Patriotism is not blind acquiescence: Being patriotic citizens does not mean we have to accept everything handed to us and not speak up and challenge what is wrong. No matter who says it, let’s face reality and work on the problem. We owe ourselves and coming generations a better nation.
2. We need good maintenance culture: Nigeria doesn’t necessarily lack resources, but we lack proper management and maintenance culture. A lot of facilities like schools, public buses, roads, etc. are in deplorable states because we and our leaders can’t be bothered to maintain them properly. We’d rather abandon and build or import new ones. Little wonder there’s so much wastage!
3. Indifference is not an option: We can’t afford to be indifferent towards issues around as. It doesn’t matter whether or not they affect us directly, it’s only a matter of time. Let’s speak up and do what we can. I have an earlier article on the importance of everyone getting involved. Check it out here.
4. Unity is key: Isn’t it funny how when it comes to embezzling and sharing loots, the corrupt leaders are always unified irrespective of differing tribes, languages, religions, etc? Meanwhile, we the masses are tearing one another apart over our differences. For progress, it’s important that we unite and work together.
5. History is important : To enlighten and guide us so we can learn from mistakes and check our progress (or lack of) so far.
1. It’s a Read, Stop and Reflect kind of book. It’s designed to make you learn, think and ask questions, so don’t get carried away by the fine writing.
2. You might want to take some jottings down. The rich proverbs, quotes, first hand accounts and punchlines must not waste, lol. They might come in handy later for a speech or essay. A dictionary would help too. You will definitely pick up more than a few new words to add to your vocabulary.
3. Finally, keep an objective mind and enjoy!
Who’s this for?
Maybe it’s just me, but this is one of those books I feel like the whole world must read. So I recommend it for everyone, particularly Nigerian youths.
Where to get it
This is a Book Craft publication so you can get it at any Book craft office nationwide or simply visit their website here to order directly.
Any good bookstore around too should carry it. I got mine at Booksellers’ display stand during an event at the American corner, Jericho, Ibadan for 1500 naira as at February. Their bookstore is right beside there too.
That’s all beautiful people!
- What do you think of the review?
- Have you read this book or any other publication from Niyi Osundare before and if not, would you?
- What are you currently reading?
- Which book(s) do you recommend?
My comments are open! Share your thoughts and recommendations below and don’t forget to like, share and subscribe if you haven’t. Thanks!
– The Value Adder™