“The decisions that we make now will decide our future place in the history of our continent, our race, and in the history of the world. We can be counted amongst giants, or become dwarfs. We can be men or we can easily become eunuchs. The choice is for all of us to make”

The author’s purpose was to act as a gadfly, to upset the status quo, to raise issues that many consciously choose to ignore, to debate the hard truth we all pretend not to know, to unmask the contradictions that exist between our norms and our laws, like the concept of “indigene” as against the concept of “citizenship”. In the end, the book achieved these and many more.

“Because I am Involved” is a book written by one of the most notable Nigeria military leaders, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who is most renowned for his prominent role in the Nigerian Civil war. The book was first published in the first half of 1989 by Spectrum books, after which it was subsequently reprinted twice in July and thrice in August of the same year. In 1991, a revised edition was published and it was further reprinted in 2005 and 2011. The book is made up of 17 sub-headings which are divided among the four broad parts that constitute the entire book, spread across its 208 pages.

Ojuwkwu, in the book, gave a sketchy account of his post-civil war activities beginning from his days of seeking asylum in C’ote d’Ivoire to the days of his return to Nigeria. his primary focus was however on his thoughts and ideas about Nigeria, about how the country kept plunging downhill economically, socially and politically, about how the average Nigerian perceives the country, about peace, unity and progress for Nigeria and Nigerians. Making use of historical and comparative analysis of Nigeria’s socio political and cultural landscape, Ojuwku goes beyond merely noting the problems that confronted Nigeria in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, many of which are still relevant today, he goes further to prescribe probable solutions.

As an ex-major player in the Nigerian political, military and economic scene, Ojuwku utilized his practical experience, knowledge and relationship with other major actors in Nigeria’s socio political and economic scene to give a detailed evaluation of The Nigerian State. Among many of his conclusions, he noted that as a country, “We suffer from selective amnesia, selective myopia and selective hyperopia” all of which were duly explained in his book. In page 109, he hypothesized that “Nigeria is crippled by four fears – fear of change, fear of truth, fear of unity and fear of man.”

Perhaps the most recurring theme of Ojukwu’s “Because I am Involved” is his emphasises on Peace and Unity as a prerequisite for nation building and development. In his introduction, he stated expressly that “Nigeria needs unity” and then goes further to state in part one that “Nigeria can only be great if she can maintain peace within her borders”. Elsewhere he goes on to opine that “The search for and installation of, peace within Nigeria is without doubt the fulcrum upon which the entire weight of our national aspiration balances” On Nigeria’s unity and diversity, the author expressed that “the problem today is that we are neither united nor diverse. We are in limbo.”

While the book is well written, replete with thought provoking ideas for debates and discussions, and contains a few poems that readers can enjoy. It however has a few pitfalls. Firstly, the sympathetic glorification of one of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups in Part Three of the book is in contrast to the book’s advocacy against ethnicity.

Secondly, in the beginning of Part Four of the book, the author wrote about a few prominent Nigerians, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, among others, but excluded Tafawa Balewa who in association with the previously mentioned past leaders was at the forefront of Nigerian Politics during the country’s first republic. Lastly, in sub heading 12, the author laid emphasis on his religion as part of the solution to Nigeria’s maladies, which many might find disapproving and illogical, especially those of other religious beliefs.

In conclusion, “Because I am Involved” is a compendium of thought provoking ideas, it is a book for every Nigerian that seeks to not only be acquainted with Nigeria’s complex history and how this history has plunged the country into various socio economic and political malaise that we see today, but also a philosophical book that aims at providing probable solutions to cogent issues relating to nation building and development. It is a book for critical thinkers, change makers, philosophers and lovers of good books.

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