By Tola Adeniyi

It is a delight to introduce any literary work that oozes out of Anthony Kila’s fertile brain and versatile mind; especially considering the fact that his writing exhibits uniqueness not only in stylistics but in its philosophical, classical, ideological, Aristotelian pedagogy and pragmatism, originality and sequential layout with the artistry and aesthetics of Italian architecture.

Epistles, sub-titled Reflections on Nigeria touches on virtually all aspects of life and living and is categorised, compartmentalized and departmentalised in 13 broad-based parts viz: Aviation, Business and Economics, Covid-19, Education, Environment, Ethnic Nationality, Health, Law & Corruption, Monarchy, Politics, Religion, Security, social media, Youth and is concluded with a chapter on EndSARS. {#EndSARS was added to Nigeria’s lexicon by angry Nigerian Youths who dared to massively demonstrate for a stop to police brutality and malfeasance.}

Epistle (/ɪˈpɪsəl/; Greek: ἐπιστολή, epistle, “letter”) is defined as a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. Kila, a scholar of classics and pedagogue remains faithful to this broad definition in all the articles in this rich and engaging collection.

The close to 400-page volume is a compilation of some of Anthony Kila’s essays on national issues. Essay after essay, readers are treated to factual chronicles and considerations based on his world view and positions in forms of letters sometimes to readers and, other times, to specific individuals who are protagonists of the topic being treated. The book tries to convey important questions in simple and clear language and always proffers a solution on every issue treated. The teacher in Kila rears its head and runs through all the articles in the brilliant collection.

As to be expected the opening chapter which chronicles personal experiences and observations on the country’s aviation sector is written in the classical tradition of Travelogue with its rich vividness and descriptive flavour while in the same breath the author seeks to teach the operators of the sector what to do and what not to do. “Time to rethink and reset Aviation”, he wrote matter-of-factly.

Chapters on Politics and Religion occupy prominent portions of the collection for obvious reasons: politics, political economy and the hues and cries generated by political acts of commission and omission, including wars, sanctions and threats the world over are the most commonly discussed and debated subjects in the media. And for a developing economy like Nigeria, it is more vociferous. The same is the issue of religion in a country which parades more Churches and Mosques than factories and where people are more addicted to prayers and fasting than working.

Any attempt to critique or even summarise each article in this collection will amount to writing another book, and any attempt to do a literary portrait of the author, a master of witticism and syllogism, may also end up in a fat book because Kila; his thoughts, his art and style, is a subject by itself.

In keeping with the tradition of Epistles, Anthony Kila writes directly to his audiences, which may be personal, collective, professional, governmental or which-ever, whatever, whom-so-ever.

“Dear Noemi Kila, Today’s epistle is addressed to you partly because generally speaking charity begins at home and it doesn’t get homelier than with you;’

“What do you think is the main problem facing Nigeria? Yes, you are not the only one that thinks so.” Direct conversation approach.

The Epistle is rich in samples of Kila’s authoritative style of conveying his thoughts to the reader and by addressing them directly, Anthony Kila makes each and every one of them a captive listener who must hear him out even if he or she disagrees with his views.

On the issue of engaging non-education graduate members of the National Youths Corps in teaching, Kila, a scholar and educationist charges “it is one thing to know maths, economics, biology or literature, it is another thing to know how to teach it. The fact that we do not consider this simple fact is a grave indictment of our consideration for education and one of the strong reasons why our educational system is failing’’.

His intervention in the prolonged tussle between a Pro-Chancellor and a Vice-Chancellor, Kila again, magisterially declares “in a citadel that wants to produce impactful ideas and great minds, a Pro- Chancellor does not exert power, the Pro-Chancellor exerts influence.”

On the country’s 49-year-old National Youths Service Corps, Kila opines, with his usual punctilious authority “The easiest thing to do is to scrap the scheme. We have 2 years to think of what to do with it. If we do not want to disband the NYSC here is an option: Let us make NYSC optional and specialised”.

On the absurdity of elected politicians being bosses to traditional rulers in Nigeria “there is something shockingly wrong intellectually, and morally flawed in a system wherein someone elected to an office for a maximum of eight years, if everything goes well, has the power and duty of installing, funding and maybe even sanctioning someone that is meant to be in power for life”.

Epistles is rich in aphorisms, oxymoron, onomatopoeia and ecstatic play on words which, combined, makes the book rich in quotable quotes: “History has shown that regions that have always had someone in power have little to show for their presence there”. “Unchristian Christianity of our Christian Association” and “collective consciousness for constructive confrontation’ are few examples of Kila’s dance with words.

Kila, a philosopher and writer in journalism, defines his audience; he does not write in a vacuum. ‘’Dear Spiritual fathers and mothers’’…He addresses his targeted audience, some of them he calls to debate, some he celebrates, and some he hurls bricks and stones at, depending on how deaf or dumb or blind the audience is. And when he hurls stones and bricks, he does it with refreshing refinement and elegance of language.

On Insecurity he pointedly tells Mr. President “In war, there are only two options: you can only fight or surrender there is no option for pretending not to know it is war”

He calls NCC’s ultimatum to Nigerians “a Nonsensical Nuisance Taken Too Far”

The Epistles is concluded with what Kila, a professor of Strategy and Development, calls an ‘appeal for the development of a collective consciousness for constructive confrontation which is aimed and directed mainly at the young people of this country and those elsewhere in the world.’

In summary, the beauty and flawlessness of Kila’s deployment of language is found in his tribute to MKO Abiola:

“As if to teach all a lesson about how nothing is absolutely certain and how everything is possible in life, MKO Abiola left the world as President that did not preside, a known winner that was not declared though after convincingly winning right in front of the whole world. To become such a winner, he ticked all the proverbial boxes, dinned and wined with all the right people and made friends in high and low places and his web of connection covered every corner of his country but alas his friendship and connection was not enough to give him his ultimate desire, rather he got death.”

As the co-founder of the prestigious League of Nigerian Columnists Anthony Kila lives up to his billing as a most thoughtful, incisive, courageous and unambiguous Opinion leader and Agenda Setter.

I wholeheartedly recommend this collection which opens a window to the heart and brain of one of Africa’s most engaging, refreshing, and enriching Minds. I applaud the quality and elegance of the book cover especially for its clarity and depth with its purity of Obatala motif and the outspokenness of Ayekooto in the plume, with a touch of Sango’s fiery flame.

*High Chief Tola Adeniyi, fnge. President, League of Nigerian Columnists

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