Chinua Achebe's the Education of A British-Protected Child

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Chinua Achebe's The Education of A British-Protected Child A review of The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe (London: Penguin Books, 2009, pp.172. ISBN: 978-1846-14259-8) by Uzoechi Nwagbara (uzoechin@yahoo.com) of the University of Wales, United Kingdom. The Education of a British-Protected Child is a conversation that continues from where Chinua Achebe's The Trouble with Nigeria (1983) stops (see Achebe's remarks in this regard, p.138-9). While Achebe's other critical essay collections: Morning yet on Creation Day (1975), Hopes and Impediments (1988), and Home and Exile (2000) primarily deal with literature and efforts to decolonise African literature and art, The Education of a British-Protected Child is about his experience of Nigeria and the world in general beyond the contours of literature. In the sixteen essays presented in the book excluding preface and notes, Achebe chronicles his experience of the world within and outside Ogidi, his native village in Eastern Nigeria; the antinomies of being British-protected and educated; the need for Nigeria to rise from her development ashes like the phoenix; the imperatives of restoring African heritage; the urgency to revamp Nigeria through the agency of ''university leadership''; and the discontents of ''resource curse'' hypothesis.

In attendance at the inaugural lecture of Audrey Richards Annual Lecture in November 2010 at Centre of African Studies at University of Cambridge, where I bought myself a copy of The Education of a British-Protected Child, Achebe, who was the guest lecturer touched on the legacy of colonialism and failure of Nigeria's leadership, which he said were central to the book's message. Talking on the subject matter ''Nigeria's Painful History'' at University of Cambridge, Achebe brought once again to the fore his usual mantra: Nigeria's leadership failure and its attendant woes. Similarly, How to solve Nigeria's political leadership issue percolates Achebe's writings as an artist, philosopher and public intellectual. This is basically the main thrust of this book. Achebe confirms this:

So the question of leadership was and is pre-eminent, in my mind, among Nigeria's numerous problems such as tribalism, corruption, indiscipline, social injustice, indulgence for mediocrity, et cetera. My thesis is that without good leadership none of the other problems stands a chance of being tackled, let alone solves (139).

The Education of a British-Protected Child is a panoramic snapshot of Achebe's journey for over eighty decades on planet earth; it is about his contemplations on Nigeria's state of siege; it is also about his personal experience regarding family, recognition, friendship, travel, African heritage, education and politics. The chapters in the book were written at different times and represent a pot-pourri of Achebe's intellectual musings on postcolonial Nigeria, the paradox inherent in acquiring Western education and his views from outside - but they all coalesce to address one theme: Nigeria's leadership conundrum as well as Africa (Nigeria) being in the shadow of the West given the pressure of leadership malaise. The style of the book is more of story-telling that is characteristic of Achebe, a novelist of repute. The stories range from his childhood days at Ogidi, his village in Eastern Nigeria to the present - his self-exile to the United States of America.

The narratological style is a melange of foreshadowing, flashback and stream of consciousness. It is not actually an academic book, but not lacking in scholarship. As a gifted narrator, Achebe takes us on a journey of Nigeria's independence and the attendant disillusionment that greeted this nation thereafter, which he stated is about failure of leadership. …