My new book “Soldiers of Fortune: Nigerian Politics From Buhari to Babangida (1983-1993)” was released last week. The book is a sequel to my other book “Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)”. It continues where Oil, Politics and Violence stopped, and chronicles the Buhari and Babangida years in Nigeria.
I gave an interview last week to Anthea Gordon of the Africa is a Country website. In the interview, I answered questions and talked emotively about my motivations for writing the book, the challenges I faced, and what the book seeks to achieve. You can read the full interview at: http://africasacountry.com/nigerias-soldiers-of-fortune/
KEY EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
“I want to present Nigerian history as something more than a mechanical rendering of dates and facts.”
“My books have the feel of a fly on the wall reconstruction, or an action packed thriller. I do not just want the reader to know what happened. I also want to take the reader on a journey through the dizzying twists and turns, and cast of characters in Nigeria’s history: Ibrahim Babangida, Mamman Jiya Vatsa, Muhammedu Buhari, MKO Abiola, Dele Giwa, Gideon Orkar, Gani Fawehinmi, Ebitu Ukiwe, Sani Abacha etcetera. Many people also do not know the exploits of some of these familiar names before they entered the national limelight. There are also other people who are not as famous as them, but who the public do not realize made pivotal contributions to Nigeria’s history.
I want readers to feel as if they personally met these people, were physically present when crucial decisions and conversations took place, and experienced all of it.”
“Nigeria’s history reminds one of a Greek or Roman tragedy in multiple acts, with a revolving cast of characters. There is a lot of Caesar like back-stabbing.”
“The origins of, and answers to, many of Nigeria’s problems are buried in the graveyard of its past. Only by digging up those buried secrets can the country learn lessons from them, heal, and move on.”
“My intention is for Soldiers of Fortune to become a “one stop shop” compendium and ultimate reference point for Nigeria between 1984 and 1993. That is why I dotted the book with several tables and a massive “library” in the Appendices. For example, the Appendices contain an itemization of every single cabinet minister, military governor, and AFRC member that served in the Babangida government. I want Soldiers of Fortune to be the “go to” place for anyone that wants to check any prominent controversy, fact, event, person or date in Nigeria between 1984 and 1993.”
“Nigeria’s young generation did not create most of Nigeria’s problems, but they inherited them, and have to deal with them. “
“It is rare for Nigeria to go more than a few years without a “near death experience”. Most countries go through cliff-hanging and tense crises every decade or so. In contrast, Nigeria has cataclysmic hold your breath and close your eyes dramas every few years.”
“I am not sure that young Nigerians appreciate just how drama filled their history is. Hollywood script writers could not have written a more conspiratorial thriller with as many plot twists, friends turning on each other, corruption, gun battles in city centers, dazzling women, and rags to riches billionaires.”
After President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, army troop reinforcements have begun arriving in northern cities such as Maiduguri and Yola.
It is a long overdue move and I am surprised it took the President this long to declare a state of emergency. The state of emergency means that the army can take greater responsibility for security in those three states. Troops can occupy city centers, take over buildings, and arrest and detain suspects without trial. Two incidents seemed to have tipped the balance in favour of the state of emergency:
1) Boko Haram nonchalantly dismissed the President’s offer of an amnesty. By doing so, Boko Haram seemed to declare its intention to settle its scores with the government on the battlefield, rather than via dialogue. It seems that President dialogue is now ready to meet them on a battlefield rather than in a conference room.
2) The recent Baga attacks which left hundreds of people dead marked a new deadly escalation in the conflict with Boko Haram.
Although Boko Haram has launched attacks across the north and as far south as the capital in Abuja, the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in the Kanuri heartland, represent Boko Haram’s support base. It has taken over at least one-third of the local government areas in Borno state. Losing control of its own territory to a terrorist organisation seems to have been the last straw for the government. President Jonathan accused Boko Haram of declaring war against Nigeria.
Excerpts from the President’s national broadcast announcing the state of emergency:
Innocent civilians are likely to be caught in the inevitable shoot-outs between the army and Boko Haram. There are reports that Boko Haram has been forcefully conscripting new members, and threatening them with death if they do not kill in the group’s name within weeks of joining.
Nonetheless the state of emergency will be popular among the general Nigerian population. Many have accused the President of being weak and of treating Boko Haram with kid gloves. This state of emergency will boost his security credentials and demonstrate a willingness to forcefully confront Boko Haram.
Even if the troop surge proves successful, it would offer only temporary respite. Boko Haram can easily slip across the border into neighbouring countries, regroup, and return. Only a long term political and economic solution can permanently end Boko Haram’s violent insurgency.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God has turned into something of a phenomenon. It has grown massively and has churches in 160 countries. Its leader pastor Enoch Adeboye is a near celebrity, extremely wealthy and has a private jet. An inside look at one of their sermons…
Good video about the rebuilding of Nigeria’s railway lines between the north and south. There are (to be) three main north-south railway lines:
*Lagos-Kano (already re-opened).
*Port Harcourt in the south-east to Maiduguri in the north-east.
*Another line to be reconstructed by Chinese civil engineers to run from the former capital Lagos, to new capital Abuja, to Kano in the far north.
Great radio broadcast chronicling Chinua Achebe’s 2009 visit to Nigeria. That was his first visit to Nigeria in several years. Achebe was interviewed by the Royal African Society’s Richard Dowden. Achebe’s son Chidi was also interviewed.
The programme discusses Achebe’s horror road accident that left him paralysed from the waist down.
The legendary Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has died aged, 82. Achebe is most well known for his book “Things Fall Apart”. He died in Boston in the USA. Achebe’s death comes shortly after he wrote his memoirs on the Biafran war.
Sincerest condolences to his family. May he RIP.
Is Ansaru a splinter group from Boko Haram, or Boko Haram’s “international wing”?
Great BBC report about the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970. Ukpabi Asika assumed control as administrator of the East Central State at the war’s end. This video analyses the awesome challenges he faced in trying to reconstruct an area destroyed by war, and people impoverished by a food blockade. Instructive that he said that the people he governed were “not expected to behave as defeated people”.
Continuing with the theme of comparing Nigeria’s current President Goodluck Jonathan against his predecessors, here is a comparison of Jonathan against Nigeria’s first Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
GOODLUCK JONATHAN’S INTERVIEW:
ABUBAKAR TAFAWA BALEWA