ADVERTISING ETHICS AND REGULATION IN NIGERIA: THE CHALLENGES

ADVERTISING ETHICS AND REGULATION IN NIGERIA: THE CHALLENGES by Dr May Nzeribe

ADVERTISING ETHICS AND REGULATION IN NIGERIA: THE CHALLENGES by Dr May Nzeribe

Author: Dr May M. Nzeribe

Year of Publication: 2012

Publisher: Feathers and Ink,  Ibadan

ISBN: 978-978-50046-2-5

 

Reviewer: Mr Dele Adetiba

The dilemma of a book reviewer is always how much to reveal. Should the review summarise the book chapter by chapter and risk boring the listeners to sleep? In any case, that approach is not doing authors any favours as there may be no further need to read the book. The other extreme is a general summation which is therefore brief but may not contain enough specifics to let prospective readers have a “taste of the pudding”. I have chosen a mid course. In the first place, the book’s rather academic treatment will not lend itself to a chapter by chapter approach even if I wanted to subject you to that ordeal. I plan to give you enough exposure to May’s mindset and therefore his approach to the subject. That way you get enough, but not too much.

In the introduction to the book, the author laid the ground work for what the book is about – ethics. He felt that the code and practice of advertising calls for at the very minimum, a respect for the ideals of advertising which are truth, honesty, decency and legality.  Advertising should also show respect for cultural values and prepared with a high sense of social responsibility. Having been a member of Rotary International for years, he could not resist the temptation to depict Advertising Guidelines along the lines of the Rotary 4-Way Test thus:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it decent?
  3. Is it honest?
  4. Is it legal?

Under the heading, Understanding Advertising in the integrated marketing mix, the author correctly categorized advertising as a communication tool. He further broke down Marketing Communication into Journalism, Advertising, Public Relation Sales Promotions. He quoted Peter Davies definition of marketing as: “A series of activities, culminating in satisfying customer needs and doing so making a profit”. He went further to make the point that advertising can be appropriately employed to advance social causes.  Examples he gave are quite interesting

For instance in the US, there was this campaign: ‘5 Ways to Prevent Being Mugged’. Other examples given are campaigns to promote farming to strengthen the economy and another to promote low gasoline consumption. He summarised by saying advertising can be used to develop human resources, promote citizens awareness, preserve natural resources, and strengthen the economy.

In the section where the author discussed advertising law and ethics, he attempts to put advertising ethical violation into two components. Ethical dilemmas and ethical lapses according to: Advertising Excellence by Boree, Thill, Dovel and Wood. Ethical dilemmas are unresolved issues, such as:

–              Advertising un healthy products

–              Using puffery

–              Advertising to children

Out and out ethical lapses are about ads that are misleading, distasteful and socially irresponsible.

This chapter dealt with the birth of APCON through the enactment of Act No 55 of 1988, amended by Act No 93 of 1992 and Act No 116 of 1993. The enabling laws mandated APCON to control advertising in all its aspects. It had the obligation to watch over advertising by ensuring approval of advertising copy before publication, monitoring of advertising after publication developing codes of practice, publicizing the code, and handling complaints from the public.

 

Alcohol and Tobacco

The book reproduced the proceedings at a symposium on the ‘Advertising of Tobacco and Alcohol’. One of the speakers, a distinguished advertising practitioner urged authorities to clamp down heavily on the advertising of the two products, by being less forgiving particularly in the areas of sponsorship, encroachment into Sports, and use o f women as models. He said alcohol and tobacco posed serious threat to society at large with alcoholism costing the US more than 25 billion dollars yearly.

I was intrigued that the advertising body may be carrying self regulation as far as to affect industry’s profitability. I was quickly put at ease when I read the eventual conclusion. The communiqué at the end of the symposium read, among other points.

  1. The advertising industry deplores any attempt to make advertising the scapegoat for any shortcomings in government efforts to control the consumption of tobacco and alcoholic products.
  2. The industry vehemently opposes any attempt to restrict in any way, the use of advertising to promote any product so long as the production, importation and sale of the product is legal within the context of the Nigerian law.
  3. The industry calls on any government in the country, state or local, that has restricted advertising in areas where the Federal Government has not placed any restriction to repeal those restrictions promptly.

Manpower

The book also dealt with manpower development in the industry. It lamented the paucity of specifically structured courses in advertising in institutions of higher learning which therefore placed a lot more responsibilities on the Educational Committee of AAAN. According to the author, Dr. Christopher Kolade, as a keynote speaker at an AGM of AAAN, touched on the subject of manpower development. He made an interesting observation.

“Well trained and “brighter lights” of the broadcasting industry being prime candidates for the “talent drain” into advertising agencies”.

I must admit the observation was spot on particularly in the 60’s and the 70’s. I readily recall well known broadcasters who answered the call to become leading lights in advertising such as Chief Olu Falomo, Femi Williams (Chief), Kehinde Adeosun, Biodun Sobanjo. I also plead guilty to the charge, having crossed over myself from broadcasting.

The author took issue with the advertiser companies – the marketing organisations for not doing more for the development of advertising man power. After all they were the main consumers of the eventual product. The book reviewed the effort made by AAAN to establish an Advertising Academy and Governments’ involvement in the initiative. The book did not elaborate on how successful the move has been.

 

Advertising and Religion

Chapter 7 dealt with advertising and religion. From the references quoted by the author, you had a fair idea of his attitude to the proliferation of churches. He said Dr. Schunfielld (author of Those incredible Christians) referred to Christianity as “a movement originally Jewish and Messianic, struggling within a pagan environment, and became transformed into a faith”. I should warn him he is fishing in troubled waters and he may catch a queer fish. Some will consider his comment the equivalent of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses which may deserve the issuance of a fatwa. The point he is making though is that the exploitation of testimonials in religious advertising was so successful it became so controversial. His thrust on the subject is that there should be a balance between the need to promote the virtues of religion and the unfettered advertised promise of miracles.

The book has 12 Chapters listed as:

  1. Understanding Advertising in the Integrated Marketing Communication Mix.
  2. Towards Self Regulation.
  3. Options and imperatives in Nigeria’s Advertising scene.
  4. Manpower Development: Are we doing enough?
  5. Protecting Advertising Standards through Self-Regulation and Partnerships.
  6. Collaboration towards Growth and Development of the Advertising Media industry in Nigeria.
  7. Advertising and Religion: Striking a balance.
  8. Trado-Medical Broadcasts: The path to acceptable national standards.
  9. Advertising Standards and Control: Need to streamline the process.
  10. Ethics and professionalism in advertising as tools to National Integration
  11. Political Advertising: The role of the media.
  12. Do it differently: The 2002 Media Summit Revisited.

 

Appendix

The book also included many written papers at various seminars, and workshops of APCON, AAAN or the International advertising body, IAA. Among the papers included was one by Alhaji Maitama Sule, that erudite Minister of the First Republic. I am fascinated that he has something to say about advertising. He was of the view that it is imperative to scrutinize and develop advertising as the main instrument for integrating the African market of the future. According to the Dan Mosani Kano, advertising is very important in modern times, for we live in a world where one has to blow his trumpet, as no one will blow it for him. In all, there are about 14 papers by professionals making it a rich harvest for advertising students.

There are very few typographical errors in the book. One or two sentences I would have cast differently for easy understanding. I may have preferred that the various papers reproduced from past seminars were not sandwiched between narratives. As it is they seem to be buried in places. The narrative would have flowed better while the papers would be prominent in a reference section.

One other fact I felt was left out is situating advertising in its place in the overall Marketing mix. The author broke down the various aspects to marketing communication – which is Advertising, Public Relations, Publicity, etc. But the most misunderstood aspect of advertising is the tendency to almost exclusively relate the success or otherwise of a product or brand directly to the effect of advertising. I felt the author missed an opportunity to stress the fact that advertising is just a tool in an overall marketing mix that includes the product itself, how it is packaged, the price, distribution of the product etc. If one or two of these went wrong, the product would be unsuccessful however good the advertising is.

It is always a trip for me to be reminded of the thoughts of great men of yore. For instance the book had among others, this quotation from former American President Franklin Roosevelt.

If I were starting life over again, I am inclined to think that I would go into Advertising business in preference to almost any other. This is because Advertising had come to cover the whole range of human needs and also because it combines real imagination with a deep study of human psychology.”

Quite interesting. Well I have spent a substantial part of my life in advertising, but I think I would gladly give it all up to be the President of the United States.

One other quote that I rather liked is one by Winston Churchill, the late British Prime Minister. He said: “Advertising nourishes the consuming passion of a person”. I imagine he meant that advertising nourishes the passion for consumption in a person. Now that is splitting hairs, and with the legendary reputation of Churchill for the spoken word, I better keep my thoughts to myself.

Let me end with a story ascribed to Winston Churchill when he was Prime Minister. He was in the loo of the House of Commons, when the Leader of Opposition also came in to use the convenience; Churchill quickly zipped up and practically ran out. The opposing Labour Leader, caught up with Churchill in the recreation area of the house and asked why he departed in such frenzy. Churchill said: “I was only playing safe. It is well known that your wish is to nationalize everything you see that is big. I was afraid for my personal asset”.

The book has 278 pages and is quite readable particularly by those in advertising or those who want an insight into advertising ethics, and the enforcement mechanism. The author’s practical experience of the subject makes the book an essential and invaluable read for all students of the communication art. The reference page at the end is detailed and accurate, thus you can easily trace any subject or person in the book.

I cannot guarantee that on reading the book, you would wish to drop everything else like Franklin Roosevelt and become an advertising man. But I guarantee you would enjoy it, and learn from the master himself.

Mr Dele Adetiba, the former Managing Director of Lowe Lintas Nigeria (a leading Advertising Agency) was the reviewer at the public presentation of Advertising Ethics and Regulation in Nigeria: the Challenges on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at The CLUB, Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria.

Cultural Identity and New Communication Technologies: Political, Ethnic and Ideological Implications

New and Upcoming Book


I do think that this work is invaluable for those interested in New Media Communication studies. More especially as it collates a perspective that is global but with an African bias.

Cultural Identity and New Communications. Culled from IGI Global Website

Editor: D. Ndirangu Wachanga (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, USA)

Copyright: 2011

Publisher: IGI Global, USA
The intersection of new communication technologies and the ideological hegemony is one area that has not been adequately examined. Existing literature on (New Communication Technologies) NCTs shows that most studies have been focusing on NCTs’ potential to alter existing social-political categories that border on economic class, social status, race, gender, and ethnicity.
Cultural Identity and New Communication Technologies: Political, Ethnic and Ideological Implications presents a careful blend of conceptual, theoretical and applied research in NCTs. This book examines content that places new communication technologies in a context that recognizes their seamless co-option into the designs of politics and culture, as well as the ideological hegemony of non-Western societies and interrogates the diagnostic degree to which the use of new communication technologies is demonstrative of the users’ imaginary relations to imaginary reality, their thoughts and perceptions. The role NCTs play is significant in so far as they are avenues through which the progression towards the hegemonic (or nationalistic) normative can be catalyzed.
This book comprises of  18 chapters and yours sincerely contributed the 10th chapter:
Here’s the abstract:
Malaria is endemic in the tropics and is responsible for a very high infant mortality, killing more than 3,000 children in Africa daily. The Nigerian government’s control measures are targeted at nursing mothers and children. However, a significant portion of the population–the youth–are also very vulnerable. The new media are gradually gaining ground as a dependable channel of meeting the communication needs of young Nigerians. This chapter discusses how the potential associated with the Internet and social networks can be incorporated in the campaign for the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) by Nigerian youth. It also proffers solutions and recommendations based on the concept of participatory development communications.
Click here  for other chapter details.

Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection

New & Upcoming Book


Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection is the follow up to Pope Benedict XVI’s best-selling book, Jesus Of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.

In this new work, Benedict challenges readers to contemplate the meaning and impact of Jesus’ life. He looks at the days from Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem — to the herald of followers — to his suffering and death a few days later . . . and his resurrection and appearances to his apostles and disciples for another 40 days.

The book is being published in seven languages – German, Italian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Polish – and has nine chapters and an epilogue.

Chapter one deals with “The Entrance into Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple “. Chapter two, which focuses on “Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse”, is subdivided into three sections: “The End of the Temple “, “The Times of the Gentiles” and “Prophecy and Apocalyptic in the Eschatological Discourse”. Chapter three has as its subject “The Washing of the Feet” and contains the following six subheadings: “The hour of Jesus”, “You are clean”, ” Sacramentum and exemplum – gift and task: The ‘new commandment'”, “The mystery of the betrayer”, “Two conversations with Peter” and “Washing of feet and confession of sin”.

Chapter four has as its title “Jesus’ High-Priestly Prayer” and is subdivided as follows: “The Jewish Feast of Atonement as Biblical Background to the High-Priestly Prayer”, “Four Major Themes of the Prayer: (‘This is eternal life…’, ‘ Sanctify them in the truth…’, ‘ I have made your name known to them…’, ‘ That they may all be one…’)”.

Chapter five is entirely dedicated to “The Last Supper” which is analysed under the headings: “The Dating of the Last Supper”, “The Institution of the Eucharist”, “The Theology of the Words of Institution”, and “From the Last Supper to the Sunday Morning Eucharist”.

“Gethsemane”, the tile of chapter six, includes sections on: “On the Way to the Mount of Olives”, “The Prayer of Jesus”, “Jesus’ Will and the Will of the Father” and “Jesus’ Prayer on the Mount of Olives in the Letter to the Hebrews”.

Chapter seven, “The Trial of Jesus”, includes sections on “Preliminary Discussion in the Sanhedrin”, “Jesus before the Sanhedrin” and “Jesus before Pilate”. Chapter eight, on the “Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus”, begins with a reflection on “Word and Event in the Passion Narrative”, then continues with “Jesus on the Cross: (‘The first of Jesus’ words from the Cross: Father, forgive them’, ‘Jesus is mocked’, ‘Jesus’ cry of abandonment’, ‘The casting of lots for Jesus’ garments’, ‘I thirst’, ‘The women at the foot of the Cross – the Mother of Jesus’, ‘Jesus dies on the Cross’, and ‘ Jesus’ burial’)”. The chapter concludes with “Jesus’ Death as Reconciliation (Atonement) and Salvation”.

The ninth and final chapter is entitled “Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead” and is subdivided as follows: “What Is the Resurrection of Jesus?”, “The Two Different Types of Resurrection Testimony”, “The Confessional Tradition: (‘Jesus’ death’, ‘The question of the empty tomb’, ‘The third day’, ‘The witnesses’)”, “The Narrative Tradition (‘Jesus’ appearances to Paul’, ‘The appearances of Jesus in the Gospels’, ‘Summary: The Nature of Jesus’ Resurrection and Its Historical Significance’)”.

The Holy Father’s book concludes with an epilogue entitled: “He Ascended into Heaven – He Is Seated at the Right Hand of the Father, and He Will Come Again in Glory”.

Sources:

1. Vatican Information Service

2. Igantius Press

Reporting Business and Economy: A Handbook for Analysts and Journalists

New & Upcoming Book

Author: Vincent Nwanma (2011)

Published by: Nevsin, Lagos

ISBN: 978-978-900-051-7

Nwanma’s Reporting Business and Economy is a kind of DIY of economic reporting. A text that the general reader can understand; but it also empowers any journalist to communicate business and economic content competently. -Emevwo Biakolo

This book simplifies business and financial reporting, stripping the subject of its cultish aura. – Azubuike Ishiekwene

Nothing beats the writer who writes from experience. Nwanma has deftly brought his experience as an economist and business correspondent in Nigeria, Ghana, and the United States to bear so loudly on this book. – Herbert Batta

Reporting Business and Economy, is unlike any other book on the subject; it is one of the few written from the point of view of the Nigerian business environment, and written by a practising professional still active in the daily business of reporting news. – Richard O. Ikiebe

Reporting Business and Economy: A Handbook for Analysts and Journalists provides a guide to journalists and other professionals reporting business and economic issues in Africa. The continuing search for answers to man’s quest for improved efficiency in the allocation of resources is what business and the economy are all about. Telling the stories behind these activities in the most compelling form, is the challenge facing the journalist. This landmark book will help analysts and communicators respond appropriately to this unique task.

VINCENT NWANMA has practised economics and business journalism for over two decades. He graduated in economics from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, and later studied journalism at Columbia University, New York, as a World Bank Scholar.

Strategic Marketing of Financial Services in Nigeria

Strategic Marketing of Financial Services in Nigeria

New & Upcoming Book

Author: Chris Ogbechie (2011)

Published by: Feathers and Ink, Ibadan, Nigeria

ISBN (Limp):    978-978-50046-0-1
ISBN (Cased):   978-978-50046-1-8

If I were a student, lecturer or practitioner of financial services I would definitely buy Strategic Marketing of Financial Services in Nigeria and read it through. If I owned a bank, I will make this book a compulsory read for all my employees. Although I am neither of these, I have enjoyed reading the book, and I am giving notice to the few banks that I have shares in to watch out for me in their AGMs. I could be there asking very difficult questions. The answers to my questions will definitely be in this book. – Ekwunife Okoli

Strategic Marketing of Financial Services in Nigeria was motivated by a concern to help improve the effectiveness of the marketing practice, especially in the financial sector. The Nigerian business environment is undoubtly increasing in its complexity, and competition has sharpened in virtually every sector and industry. Power has shifted from producers towards the consumers. Today’s consumers are more articulate and more informed about what they want to purchase than ever before. Producers/service providers have not only to satisfy their requirements, they also have to be sensitive to them. Effective marketing especially in the conservative area of banking involves providing a coherent and well-thought out strategy as well as tactical flexibility and clarity for a complete all round company performance – the triple bottom-line.

Chris Ogbechie has a first class honours degree in mechanical engineering from Manchester University and an MBA from Manchester Business School. He has wide experience in marketing and strategy derived from his work as Head of Marketing/Sales at Nestle Nigeria, Xerox and from his consulting work with Nigerian firms over the years. While in Nestle he had wide international exposure in Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland. He has been involved with several start-ups and he is on the board of several companies, private and public. He teaches strategy and corporate governance in Lagos Business School, Pan African University, Lekki, Lagos. He is currently doing his PhD work in corporate governance in Brunel University, UK. Ogbechie’s research interests are in strategic planning, corporate governance and board effectiveness. He has several publications in financial services marketing, strategic planning, corporate social responsibility and corporate governance. The author is currently working on another book: Re-engineering the Nigerian Society through Social Marketing.

Christianity: A Concise History

“Whoever closes his eyes to the past becomes blind to the present.” – Louis Bickford

Reviewer: Nwachukwu Egbunike

The story of the Son of Man, who broke human history into two – before (BC) and after (AD) – is not just a matter of intellectual introspection but above all the history of salvation. Tons of literature abounds on His-story and the reality of the religion Christ founded, yet many have sadly left Africa at the margin. It was therefore elating to read Christianity: A Concise History (Kraft Books Ltd, Ibadan/ 2010). The author, David Jowitt – a historian and professor of English language – uncovers the history of Christianity from the global perspective, yet chronicles the continent’s side with solipsism; not as an appendage but as an organic part of the story.

Man is the only member of the kingdom Animalia that is amazingly good at regurgitating history. Munoz in his book on tradition was daring to state that the difference between men and lower animals was not just rationality but tradition. Only men transmit a living memory of the past and present to their offspring. Being also wired to be religious, Christians then have a duty to study their religion. Asides the gift of faith, it is essential that believers and non-believers alike have an intellectual grasp of Christianity.

Christianity: A Concise History has fifteen chapters: the Ancient World; Life and Teachings of Jesus; the New Testament Church; the Age of Persecution and from Constantine to Chalcedo. It continues with the Rise of Christendom; the Mediaeval Church – High and Late Middle Ages. Before delving into the Age of Reason, the book tackles both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. The last four chapters discusses: Western Christianity in the 19th Century; the Early 20th Century and the Contemporary Era.

Africa has been sadly referred as the Dark Continent because of “Europeans’ ignorance of the interior” (p. 221).  Nonetheless, that “Africa turned out to embrace the Gospel as it did,” Jowitt insists, “must be counted as the greatest miracles of Christian history.” I must add that even a more profound wonder is that Africa not only exports missionaries to Europe and America, but takes the lead in the re-evangelisation of the West.

Samuel Ajayi Crowther stands shoulders tall in the CMS mission to West Africa. Taking advantage of the adventure of Mungo Park and the Lander Brothers, two CMS missionaries set sail for the Niger in 1841. Hope Waddell leading the Scottish Presbyterians found a home in Calabar. In the east, Crowther and John Taylor of the CMS established in 1857, the first mission in Igboland.

Mid 19th century, the Catholic mission came back on a second missionary journey to West Africa, with Fr Francis Libermann – a French convert from Judaism leading the pack. In Nigeria, the Society for African Mission (SMA) arrived in Lagos. The mission field of Nigeria was partitioned by Rome as follows: the “SMA should operate in the area west of the Niger, the Holy Ghost Fathers (CSSp) east of it” (p. 225). The CSSp arrived Onitsha in 1885 and prominent among them – “a builder of many schools, was Fr (later Bishop) Joseph Shanahan” p. 225.

It is not surprising that Jowitt starts Christianity: A Concise History with annals of the Ancient World – the Greeks, Romans and Hebrews. Particularly striking is the account of the Jewish people the ‘elder brothers’ or ‘fathers’ of Christians. Benedict XVI, in Light of the World, however prefers the latter expression because in the Jewish mindset, the elder brother is the one that is rejected. Remember Esau and Jacob? And as Scott Hann, an American theologian explains, the Covenant of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New.

The history of Christianity is necessarily a pilgrimage of the Catholic Church. Jowitt asserts that, “the study of Christian history supports a Catholic understanding of the divinely sanctioned role of the Catholic Church in proclaiming the Gospel. It will be regrettable if this statement caused some readers to stop reading forthwith.” For being politically incorrect, Jowitt merits praise. John Henry Newman – Englishman and recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI – was however more blunt; “to be deep in history is to cease to be protestant.” Nonetheless, an unbiased study of voyage of the Christian religion objectively supports the authors claim. Besides, faith and reason should not contradict each other since they both proceed from God.

Yet it has been a tough and torturous ride: an odyssey that is littered with both mystery and misery. What Igboaja captures in his book as saints and sinners. The history of the Christianity however points to one logical fact, if the Church were not divinely inspired it would have ceased to exist. Not so much due to enemies without but most times, from those within her bosom.

The flow of time either etches or erases memory. However, this ability does not necessary morph to the ability to learn from events gone by. If that were so, then Mathew Kukah would have no business admonishing Nigerians – “not to fail to remember” in his work on the Oputa Panel. As such Jowitt has fulfilled his greatest wish in writing Christianity: A Concise History, which is the “conviction that Christians ought to know something of the history of their religion.”

Nonetheless, it is startling that the author should swing from Her Majesty’s to American English. Perhaps the book editor should have done a better job. Nonetheless, this minor flaw does not diminish the profundity of Jowitt’s Christianity: A Concise History. It is simply a stunning précis that captures the human but divine texture of the Christian experience.

When Nwagwu’s Eyes Dance

Nwachukwu Egbunike

Blasting rhythms fill my veins

my face my limbs encounter

in the living waters

of that Tremendous Lover

who makes my eyes dance.

[Mark Nwagwu (2010) My Eyes Dance. Ibadan: BookBuilders, p 339]

My Eyes Dance! Not exactly, for they actually spin and wobble in the divine and mundane interlocking of Mark Nwagwu’s latest novel. Chioma Ijeoma in the real essence of her name is guided by her good chi (personal god). This great granddaughter of Akadike of Okosisi is propelled by Love in being and doing Opus Dei (Work of God).

Although My Eyes Dance is independently original, nonetheless this sequel to Forever Chimes (2007) by the same author captivates as well as enthrals. Using the mythical expression of the Igbo civilisation, Nwagwu weaves a story that breaks the bounds of space by crossing the Atlantic. Chioma the protagonist is the ideal fictitious character. She is an artist, a confidant of her great grandfather and the one who inherits the staff of her lineage – which was given the name Uzo.

Yet this same Chioma falls into the amazing web of teaching African Spirit in Georgetown University, US. In a play of events, this ‘Investigator without Bounds’ who had only wished to complete her thesis on The African Spirit: Unlimited in Time and Space, finds herself encumbered in developing a course from nothing. Totally petrified, Chioma warmed up for her first class, and unfortunately did not make a mess of it. Rather, it catalysed a chain of events that leaves the reader gasping for breath. Not only did she win the respect of her students, but also the admiration of the dean of faculty and president of her university. In time, her students wanted a trip to Okosisi in order to drink from the fount of Chioma’s chi which perennially featured in her lectures.

The details of the trip are better read than explained. Nonetheless, Chioma does not stop at being just another young woman, full of ideas and expounding gust. She suddenly calls off her engagement to Bia and dedicates herself to God as a numerary of Opus Dei (an institution of the Catholic Church). What makes her self-giving rather novel is that it does not fit the mould of the original ‘religious’ attire – for she’s no nun – yet has a full time job and still lives celibacy.

But in simple language, Nwagwu crafts out Chioma’s odyssey of love. She gets involved in the life of her friends. Her ex-boyfriend (Bia) puts her student (Nkemdi) in the family way. Chioma gets them to marry and by so doing, saves Nkemdi from the disgrace of being kicked out of the university. Her Opus Dei continues and thrives in the ordinary which is elevated to the supernatural. Ms Ijeoma abstracts the dense philosophical concept of Eros and teases it out. Or else, how can one explain the convoluting reconciliation of Chioma’s friend Suputa with her run-away husband, Mike. In a rare expression of the cruelty of infidelity, Mike has to re-establish a place in the memory of his wife, who can no longer recognise him.

What triggers the originality of My Eyes Dance is the beauty of African traditions. Using the Igbo of Okosisi, Chioma tells her own story. And by doing so, wins disciples who in turn get entangled in the love of the continent. Ms Ijeoma shows that there can be no contradiction in love for ones past and infusion into the present. For man is not just an accident of history but the portal of memory. Chioma’s work shows that in a globalised 21st century, the communion of saints can be better appreciated with communion with the ancestors.

This does not mean that My Eyes Dance is flawless. Perhaps the author could have made most of the explanations – religious and philosophical – brief. One often gets the impression of reading an academic journal and not a novel. Nonetheless, for anyone interested in savouring traditional philosophical thoughts of the Igbo’s, then this novel will certainly satisfy that craving. In addition, to catch a ‘true’ glimpse of what Opus Dei really is, then the amazing story of Chioma is worth the while. Though fiction, yet it is grounded in the truth. My eyes not only dance, but my spirit rises to the filament, for Nwagwu’s My Eyes Dance is simply sublime.