Thoughts on building new Africa

RESPECTED Nigerian diplomat, Dr G.B. Igali’s newly published book, Perspectives on Nation-State formation in Contemporary Africa, published by Trafford publishing, adds to the ever growing narrative on the complexities that have shaped the current political realities on the African continent.  Considering the continent’s changing social and political dynamics and the consequent global interest, Igali’s work is relevant to the prevailing discourse that has been borne out of the need to build political systems that would ensure the sustenance of current economic gains.

Ambassador Igali’s profile in academics and diplomacy makes him an authority on the subject he covers in this work. A Nigerian diplomat cum public servant since 1980, Ambassador Igali served as ambassador to the Nordic countries and Consul General to Cameroon. He played a key role in the resolution of Nigeria’s border disputes with Cameroon over the Bakassi peninsula. He is currently the Permanent Secretary in Nigeria’s Ministry of Power. 

The research efforts, lucidity, and attention to detail in this work are quite impressive and comprehensive in scope. Apart from its academic depth, which is established by an admirable grasp of the prevailing issues, the book demonstrates the inherent possibilities of the scholastic contribution to Africa’s political discourse. Quite complex in its examination of predominant concepts and themes, it holds its own in identifying the exigencies that have bedevilled governance in many African nations of the post-colonial era.

In Chapter One, the author’s grasp of the intrinsic elements that have shaped state formation in Africa is evident in his diagnosis of the complexities and challenges that have supported the formation of national identity and that continue to shape this discourse. In the author’s evaluation, the relevance of diachronic development to understanding development patterns on the African continent is succinct. His juxtaposition of the South American experience with that of African states is hinged on certain obviously similar factors: the forcible acquisition of political power and the insistence of holding on to it; and the phenomenon of dwarfed growth, a consequence of plundering by foreign companies and the culture of dependency that it bred and still breeds.

However, the author’s opinion that “the plethora of left wing political fronts, which sprang up in the midst of the political and social quandary to offer alternative blueprints, are still around to continue the pitfalls of destabilisation” might be hotly contested by many for several reasons. For one in particular, some of these groups have been able to reshape the social dynamics of some key states, entrenching visible elements of an increasingly egalitarian social system.

Igali’s attention to detail resonates in his examination of the origins of statehood in Africa. In his assessment of the Hamitic hypothesis, Igali echoes pertinent objections raised by African scholars, who have long held that the denial of the possibility of an indigenously evolved civilisation within the African continent clearly speaks to a neglect of the ingenuity of the African mind and consequently denigrates the continent. 

The author enchants with his cerebral grasp of the prevailing issues as much as his incisive criticisms of superfluous arguments provokes deep reflection. His critique of prejudiced European narratives such as the works of Charles Darwin, E.B Taylor, and Emile Durkheim, exposes the deliberate misrepresentations in these works. He goes on to examine the emergence of various African political states to show clear evidence of home grown political systems. The evidence clearly contradicts the position held by these Eurocentric scholars. In Chapter Three, the author evaluates the different stages of the relationship between Europe and Africa, starting from the earliest contacts with the Hamitic cultures before 1500 AD. The author explains, correctly, that the relationship had gradually shifted from one of mutual respect and trade to one of forced servitude incited by avarice.

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