What happened to Nigeria? The acclaimed writer Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, a stable of pre-collegiate reading lists, explains:
“There was enough talent, enough education in Nigeria for us to have been able to arrange our affairs more efficiently, more meticulously, even if not completely independently, than we were doing. . . . Nigeria had people of great quality, and what befell us — the corruption, the political ineptitude, the war — was a great disappointment and truly devastating to those of us who witnessed it,” he says. Writers faced political repression and “found that the independence their country was supposed to have won was totally without content. . . . Like the head of John the Baptist, this gift to Nigeria proved most unlucky.”
Worse, after the end of civil war, “a new era of great decadence and decline was born. It continues to this day,” he laments. The country is a “laughingstock.” His disappointment fortifies his belief that “the British governed their colony of Nigeria with considerable care.” Achebe is careful to say that he is “not justifying colonialism.” But this partially rose-tinted view of the colonial past — a view one sometimes hears from other elderly Nigerians confronting the chaos of daily life — surely has much to do with the favored status enjoyed by Her Majesty’s onetime brilliant subject.