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“He Walks you like a friend to a logical conclusion” – Reader Thoughts on Soldiers of Fortune


SOF Book Cover

 

I am letting readers tell the story of their “experience” with Soldiers of Fortune in their own words. Some readers have been kindly submitting reviews of their emotions and thoughts after reading the book. Here is the latest review, written kindly by reader Nnenna Muo:

 

Soldiers of Fortune, My Personal Journey, by Nnenna Muo

 

 

“This book is the story of Nigeria’s political journey between January 1, 1984 and August 27, 1993. This is the story of how things fell apart”

 

For most of us who were born after the defining  military regimes of Major-General Mohammadu Buhari and Major-General Ibrahim Babangida, it could be a little sketchy separating facts from fiction, as everybody seems to be biased in their analysis of both regimes. So, we take what we can and try to imagine what it must have been like. Time and time again however, we fail. Simply because we cannot imagine that which we have no concrete idea of… And so, we yearn to have a truthful, unbiased, creditable account of what our joint history must have looked like. Well, we would have to look further, but, Soldiers of Fortune is a good place to start.

 

You can not fully understand the simplicity that draws one to this book, until you have done it justice by reading it. There is no grandiose attempt to sound overly scholastic. It is an easy read, gets its points across without being unnecessarily verbose.

 

“He Walks you like a friend to a logical conclusion”

 

With research and facts from about 125 publications covering books, articles and legislation (yes, I counted), I dare say Mazi Max Siollun was very thorough with his research. He presents facts from different sources, and walks you like a friend, to a logical conclusion of the gray areas in Nigeria’s government from 1983 – 1993.

 

There are little facts in the book however, that would make one realise on reading, that oral literature also plays a huge role in getting acquainted with history, and Mr Siollun does not overlook this aspect at all.

How else would he have known that Maryam Babangida held her 6 month old daughter in her hands while IBB’s living quarters was attacked in 1990? How else would he have known that we had a Mary Antoinette-esque  “leader” in Dikko back in the days? These little seemingly unimportant facts helps one understand the quality of work one has on a platter.

 

This book simply exposes the nitty-gritty of the workings of governance in the time it covered, analyses these critically, fairly points out the failures and successes of those regimes and most importantly, piques your interest in Nigerian history. It just leaves in you a desire to start by reading all the books in the bibliography, to be very honest.

 

“You definitely can’t go wrong with SOF.”

Are you interested in the History of Nigeria? This is a good place to start right. Are you reading for pleasure? This is a good piece for your reading pleasure. Are you a curious mind? Just reading to gain some understanding? You definitely can’t go wrong with SOF.

 

The book comes packaged in a lovely shade of golden-yellow containing 3 newspaper clips of Babangida, Buhari and Abiola as its front cover. Its writing is very catchy as well, and its extensive use of dates cannot be faulted. It treats its topics profoundly and has very cohesive maps of the country. It comes with some picture spreads of the key players of the polity at the time, which is a very thoughtful addition (I must say).

 

In spite of the simple, factual approach to this work nonetheless, not all truths are pleasant, and one is bound to  realise this. There was obviously no other way to paint some of the pictures this book presented on a lighter note. I found a few truths rather depressing but educational. This is what the book offers. No beautified, white-washed facts. What the country saw in those years is what you get. Really.

 

 

Sadly, being a very critical reader/eye myself, I discovered that the 336 paged book has a single editorial mistake which could easily have been overlooked (but I can’t) on page 150. I do hope future editions correct this dot of imperfection on an otherwise perfectly, deeply satisfying read.

 

Finally, if the aim of Soldiers of Fortune by Max Siollun was to fill the void that our renewed interest in history has created as it postulates, then I must say this is a very good job, and I look forward to reading more works from this author.

 

*Curtsies*

 

 

 

“Soldiers of Fortune Reads Like a Novel, Like a Thriller”


 

http://telegraphng.com/2014/03/soldiers-fortune-review/

Soldiers of Fortune – A review

Author(s): Sylva Ifedigbo

March 20, 2014

History matters. It matters even more when it is about Africa’s most populous country- Nigeria, which celebrates the centenary of her existence this year, 2015. At this point when the younger crop of her over 160million strong population are contemplating the future of their country, a proper knowledge of the past, where the rain began to beat as a popular Igbo adage will say, is imperative to ensure that the future is a different story. And when history is well told, in an engaging manner devoid of academic encumbrance, it makes for a truly engaging read. Such are the accomplishments of the book ‘Soldiers of Fortune by brilliant historian, Max Siollun.

Siollun satisfies in this book, the yearning of Nigerians and non Nigerians alike who have long sought an insight into what really went down during what were undoubtedly Nigerians most important years. The 300 page book captures essentially, the major political events in the country from 1983 to 1993, an uninterrupted period of military rule characterized by coups, rumours of coups and reckless decisions some of whose consequences the country still grapples with.

As many historians have identified, the foundation for Nigeria’s under development was laid in its colonial history. What the British handed over at independence was an administrative liability, a country which was expected to fail. After the euphoria of Independence had died down, the task of fostering development in the country fell squarely on the shoulders of leaders who were in many ways representatives of regional interests. The internal disarticulation and disunity which colonial rule promoted created problematic imbalances and engendered a situation where ethnic domination became an obsession even from the very inception of the country.

 

 

It was not long before the young nation came crashing with the 1966 coup. A counter coup followed the same year and a series of events that led to a bitter civil war (1967-1970) in which over a million people mostly Igbo’s from the south east of the country are said to have lost their lives. A brief period of democracy was experienced between 1979 and 1983, a period during which Siollun noted, the military essentially acted as a government in waiting. Populated at its top echelon by the same persons who had been members of the last military government and indeed the core team of officers mostly of Northern Nigerian origin who had executed the counter coup of 1966 and fought the civil war, the military was already too politicized that it found it difficult to stay away from civil affairs. For example, Siollun noted that during this period, some senior military officers drafted a list of government ministers they wanted President Shagari to sack accompanied by a list of their own as replacement.

The politicians on their part helped create an atmosphere that justified the return of the military to power for the ten years stretch of military dictatorship that ‘Soldiers of Fortune’ covers. General Babangida is quoted in the book to have claimed that every coup fed on the frustration of the people with the current government. His claims find merit in the events of 31 December 1983 when following the nationwide disquiet evoked by the general elections that held earlier that year, the Military staged a comeback bringing in General Muhammadu Buhari and later Ibrahim Babangida (who ousted Buhari from power in 1985 and ruled until 1993.) They would remain in control until 1999 when a conclusive democratic transition to civilian rule was effected.

This book, a sequel to his ‘Oil Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)’ by the same author captures the downward slide Nigeria witnessed in all spheres of her national life under the leadership of the duo of Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida. The book captured on the one hand, the defining element of Buhari’s regime, a draconian approach to anti corruption which in the process muzzled the press, promoted inhuman decrees and failed ultimately in bettering the economy which was the most important yearning of the people. Babangida’s reign on the other hand witnessed the glorification of corruption which reached a level Siollun described as ‘spectacular’, the creation of a power cartel some of who continue to enjoy massive influence even in retirement today and a long expensive but inconclusive transition programme.

Soldiers of Fortune reads like a novel, like a thriller with familiar characters some of whose actions you are already familiar with and others which you might scream out in disbelief about. The way Siollun builds his plot and narrative, unraveling the intrigues associated with coups and the tensed drama that defines the success or failures of same, leaves you feeling as though you had a Robert Ludlum or a David Baldacci book in your hand. Readers are sure to pause and wonder at various points at how a handful of gun toting rascals to whom not much intelligence can be credited to, held and decided the fate of an entire country for so long a period, with very little resistance.

While the narration is not academic, there is no doubt a scholarly attention to the detail and judicious backing up of claims with verifiable facts. This combines to make the book a refreshing and engaging read. Siollun’s well researched analysis provides interesting details on the inside story behind most of the critical happenings during the period under review including many of which the absence of information over the years have made to appear like myth. Among this is the way Babangida quelled the Dimka coup, the Diplomatic Baggage story involving ex Minister Umaru Dikko, the Vatsa coup story and the circumstances surrounding the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections.

Soldiers of Fortune reveals that the Nigerian military was not as united as most of the people assumed, that the actors were not as powerful as we believed they were, that they had their moments of fear and insecurity like other mortals, that the people, the media and notable personalities alike were accomplices in whatever harm the military succeeded in imparting on the country during their reign.

Importantly, Siollun in this book confirms what undoubtedly is an accepted fact, that military rule in Nigeria embodied everything that is antithetical to development and should never be allowed to happen again. A renewed appreciation of this fact I hope, will ensure that the younger generation who are today aspiring to positions of leadership, will guard her democracy jealously and lead the country back to the prosperity envisioned by her founding fathers at Independence. The book is thus a recommended read for every Nigerian and all those who love Nigeria.

Soldiers of Fortune is published by Cassava Republic Press and can be purchased from:

http://www.buyam.com.ng/catalog/soldiers-of-fortune-nigerian-politics-from-buhari-to-babangida-1983-1993

 

http://www.konga.com/soldiers-of-fortune-1

 

http://www.fortunesoldiers.com/where-to-buy/

There are also autographed copies for sale. Available here:

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151630836522572&set=gm.547047158687760&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf

 

Regular non-autographed copies can be bought from:

 

  • The Hub Media Stores in Shoprite, The Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki

 

  • Patabah Bookstore, Shop B18, Adeniran Ogunsanya mall, Surulere

 

http://www.konga.com/soldiers-of-fortune-1

 

Readers with their Copy of Soldiers of Fortune – Number 18


Many of you have been posting images of yourselves with your copy of my book Soldiers of Fortune. To say thanks to you, I have been posting “shout outs” to say thanks to you for  buying and reading the book.

The 18th shout out goes to Foghi Batarhe (@batarhe on Twitter).

https://twitter.com/batarhe/status/375273901615771649/photo/1

There are also autographed copies for sale. Available here:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151630836522572&set=gm.547047158687760&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf

Regular non-autographed copies can be bought from:

  • The Hub Media Stores in Shoprite, The Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki

 

“His Writing is Free from the Jargon of Political Sociologists, Which Makes the Book a Pleasure For Readers”


Another Review of Soldiers of Fortune – this time by Kaye Whiteman (former Editor of West Africa) in Business Day:

Reviewer: Kaye Whitman

Book Title: “Soldiers Of Fortune: Nigerian Politics from Buhari to Babangida (1983 – 1993)”

Author: Max Siollun

Publisher:  Cassava Republic Press

Publication date: July 15th, 2013

Pages:  336pp

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 978-978-50238-2-4

Price: N2,500

 

Soldiers of Fortune is the second major work by Max Siollun on the political history of the Nigerian military. It is a logical sequel to his first remarkable book of four years ago titled Oil, Politics and Violence (1966-76). The subtitle of Soldiers of Fortune is Nigerian Politics from Buhari to Babangidawhich gives a clue to his major preoccupation: the forcible taking of power by the military and how they preserve it. Siollun takes the story on to the second period of military rule, which began with the coup of December 31 1983 and concluded with the departure from power of President Babangida on August 27, 1993.

Apart from the coups of 1983 and 1985 and the failed Orkar putsch of 1990, he takes in other events from this turbulent period such as the Dikko kidnap, Vatsa’s ‘plot’, the killing of Dele Giwa, the reason for Babangida’s long survival in power, the still enigmatic annulment of the June 12 election and the eventual temporary end of military rule. With a skilful inter-weaving of reporting and analysis, Siollun gets closer to understanding the inside story of Nigeria’s military rule and its graphically-described cast of personalities than other literature that I know of on the subject.

It is a bold venture, of a kind that others have shied away from, and on which published literature is still patchy. In his own introduction Siollun acknowledges that little is known of Nigeria’s military and political history “due to an almost mafia-like code of silence by its leading figures.” This book Soldiers of Fortune is a serious attempt to redress the balance, although he himself recognises there is a great deal that is still speculative, and may indeed never be known. Still, his painstakingly acquired inside knowledge and scrupulous attention to detail make this book essential reading for anyone interested in trying to comprehend the complex scope of Nigerian politics both civilian and military, and answer some of its riddles.

Siollun’s particular flair is in the forensic deconstruction of coups. One found this skill on show in his first book, and here the highlights are undoubtedly the panoramic mechanics of the coup of December 31 1983, and to a lesser extent that of August 27, 1985 (which was in fact a much simpler and entirely bloodless exercise). One must also commend the difficult piecing together of the Orkar coup of 1990, although this is still highly opaque, and also the way in which he traces the unravelling of Babangida’s power between June and August 1993. This was a kind of coup in reverse, and contains several different layers of fact that even now can only be dealt with by different forms of conjecture. One of the main players, General Abacha, is no longer with us, and probably would not have divulged his exact motivation in any case.

The whole thrust of the book contains a consistent message – the disastrous role of the military in this period of Nigeria’s current political history – and the narrative is a compulsive one. Overshadowing the whole period is the dominating figure of Babangida, generally known to have been the main architect of the Buhari coup as a precursor to his own 1985 exercise. The involvement of Babangida in every Nigerian coup since independence is well substantiated by Siollun, who has been especially skilful at picking out gems from the various public statements of IBB, mostly newspaper interviews, as in (of 1983) “we found the coup easier when there was frustration in the land” and later, in a 2009 interview, the Machiavellian observation “successful coups are not illegal.”

Siollun’s own comments complement these aphorisms, with a number of thoughtfully turned phrases such as “the military doctor became infected by the ills it came to cure,” or “if Shagari had analysed previous coups he would have noticed that they had almost always been carried out by the same group of military officers”. The author’s investigations are illustrated by complicated lists of office-holders, essential for those trying to understand the chemistry of military action, although it is fair to say that this book does not suffer from the problem of some academic books on Nigeria, which drown in long lists of acronyms and titles. Siollun’s lists are always organised and relevant.

His writing is also free from the jargon of political sociologists, which makes the book a pleasure for readers, who can pick their way through the intricate plots almost like a detective story. One is sometimes suspicious of over-embellished footnotes, but in this case researchers will also treasure his endnotes and his index, if only to look up the illuminating references to individuals in the cast of characters.

There is a chapter on the Dikko affair, which marshals most of the known evidence, including some particular insights on Nigeria-Israel relations from Gordon Thomas’s secret history of Mossad called Gideon’s Spies. The Israeli involvement is clearly spelt out.  There are one or two sources that Siollun has missed, and although he accurately names Elisha Cohen of the Israeli construction firm Solel Boneh, I looked without result for the identity of the mysterious Mr Big, the reputed financier of the operation who was mentioned at the 1985 Old Bailey trial (I know because I was in the courtroom when it was mentioned).

There is also a long and detailed section on the circumstances around Vatsa’s ‘plot’ of late 1985. Although the extent to which it had been cooked up by Babangida to help consolidate his power does not seem to be quite proven, Vatsa’s own real involvement is still questioned, and remains a subject of controversy in Nigeria.

Likewise, on the Dele Giwa affair Siollun goes very thoroughly through the known evidence, with some particular insights offered from his own sources, but the guilt of any perpetrators is implied rather than spelt out. The accounts of both the Vatsa and Giwa episodes will form an essential part of any documentation on what are still enormously sensitive subjects that are again the subjects of a certain omerta (this mafia-type silence Siollun has found). And if Babangida is the over-riding presence, the self-described ‘evil genius’, Abacha is there working away below the surface like a canker-worm, eating at Babangida’s elaborate structure of self-preservation. Siollun thus will be obliged to give us a third and final volume on the most horrendous years of military rule, from 1993-1999, in order to complete this tragic continuum.

Specialists in the turbulent moments of Nigeria’s recent history will also want to turn to the chapter Siollun calls ‘The Niger Delta Coup’ which deals with the bloody but unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Babangida on April 22 1990. There are still many outstanding issues around this event, not least because the vexed agenda of excising far north Islamic states from the federation raises the famous ‘Nigerian question,’ which has so troubled those trying to analyse the country’s survival. Here again one has to admire Siollun’s ability to put together potted biographies of the leading players, such as Gideon Orkar and Great Ogboru, as well as taking due account of vital connections of peer groups. The section on the 1990 coup attempt is one of the most detailed and informative accounts existing of an event that many Nigerians would prefer to forget, although it anticipated the ‘resource struggle’ that came in after civilian rule in 1999 with the militants’ struggle in the Delta.

Orkar’s broadcast after taking the radio station makes compelling, even shocking, reading. After saying it was not just another coup, the broadcast went on to describe the action as “a well-conceived and executed revolution for the marginalised, oppressed and enslaved peoples of the Middle Belt and the South”. This in fact gives the clue as to its shortcomings and why it failed. Siollun posits here the failure to eliminate the top brass (such as Abacha), the failure to neutralise communications and above all the lack of political sophistication.

The idea that five states should be cut out of the federation called into question the finely balanced federal character which lies at the heart of the famous  ‘Nigerian question.’  Siollun comments: “To announce the excision of five northern states at a time when the coup was still in progress was stupendously naïve. That announcement immediately dissipated any potential sympathy or cooperation that soldiers from the excised states might have offered the mutineers.”

For this chapter alone this book has to be read, but the whole work contains much essential information in a similar vein.  It is a combination of contemporary history with analysis at its best. And any future Nigerian Shakespeare would find here enough classic drama of tragedy and intrigue to provide background material for a whole sequence of plays.

Soldiers of Fortune is published by Cassava Republic press in July 2013.  For more information, go to http://www.fortunesoldiers.com.

 

Where to Buy Soldiers of Fortune


SOF banner

I have been frequently asked (daily!) where my books can be bought. Here is the list:

SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE”

http://www.fortunesoldiers.com/where-to-buy/

ONLINE SALES OUTLETS:

http://cassava-republic.konga.com/products/soldiers-of-fortune-1

http://www.buyam.com.ng/shop/Cassava/product/29290-soldiers-of-fortune-nigerian-politics-from-buhari-to-babangida-1983-1993

http://www.konga.com/soldiers-of-fortune-1

http://www.cassavarepublic.biz/products/soldiers-of-fortune

http://iqrabooks.com.ng/details.php?code=1373994648

http://www.jumia.com.ng/Soldiers-Of-Fortune–Paperback-71264.html

 

 

There are also autographed copies for sale. Available here:

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151630836522572&set=gm.547047158687760&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf

 

NIGERIAN BOOKSHOPS:

However, if you wish to buy from a physical book shop, you can currently buy from:

Abuja

The Bookseller, Unity Plaza (by Biobak Restaurant), Area 11.

Cassava Republic bookshop, 62B Arts and Crafts village (opposite the Sheraton hotel)

Chapter Books, Omega Centre, Wuse II

Readers and Leaders bookshop, Ceddi Plaza

Salamander Cafe, Bujumbura Street, Wuse II

Call Silas on 0818 580 2634 if you wish to make a bulk order in Abuja or northern Nigeria.

 

Ibadan

Booksellers, Jericho Road.

 

Ilorin

Iqra Books, 14 Umaru Audi Road, GRA, Ilorin. 0803 382 4014

Kaduna

Hafiz Bookshop
Post office frontage, Yakubu Gowon Way, Kaduna.
Shop 17, A.O 1 Junction Road, Kaduna
08034040412

 

Lagos

Best in Books, 190 Awolowo Way, Ikeja

Glendora, Awolowo Road, South-West Ikoyi

Jazzhole in Lagos, at 168 Awolowo Road, Lagos, Nigeria
+234 1 480 5222

The Hub Media Stores in Shoprite, The Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki

Naks Supermarket, 3 Karimu Kotun, Victoria Island

Patabah Bookstore, Shop B18, Adeniran Ogunsanya mall, Surulere

Quintessence, Block 13, Plot 44, Park View Estate, Ikoyi

Terrakulture, Plot 1379, Tiamiyu Savage, Victoria Island

 

Port Harcourt

Books on the Loose (call 0814 872 6637)

Call Kofo on 0818 580 1657 if you wish to make a bulk order Lagos or in southern Nigeria.

 

 

WHERE TO BUY OIL, POLITICS, AND VIOLENCE:

Book Cover

http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Politics-Violence-Nigerias-1966-1976/dp/0875867081/ref=tmm_pap_title_0 (U.S. paperback)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/087586709X (U.S. hardback)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/books/dp/0875867081 (UK paperback)

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Max_Siollun_Oil_Politics_and_Violence?id=t5Q78sVbLakC (hardcopy AND e-book)

http://iqrabooks.com.ng/details.php?code=1328463779 (hard copy from Nigeria)

Brilliant Video on Cassava Republic Press – African Book Publisher


This is a great video on Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic Press. Cassava is run by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf and her husband Jeremy Weate. They have done a lot of tremendous work in promoting Nigerian (and African) literature, and against all obstacles and odds, have made huge strides in promoting a reading culture in Nigeria.

 

I must also give them tremendous credit for their amazing hard work and hustle in publishing my book “Soldiers of Fortune”, and continually striving to promote the book via every conceivable avenue. Both of them are stars.

 

http://nigerianstories.com/

http://vimeo.com/72215628

 

Excellent Review of “Oil, Politics and Violence”


http://sentinelnigeria.org/online/issue4/max-siolluns-oil-politics-violence-nigeria%E2%80%99s-military-coup-culture-1966-1976/

Here is another excellent review of “Oil, Politics and Violence”. This review was written by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo and was pubished in Issue 4 of Sentinel magazine.

 

Max Siollun’s Oil Politics & Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)

Book Review

By Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

In a recent piece in NEXT ‘Making the Next 50 Count’ (http://bit.ly/bThmiw) I noted a seemingly conscious effort to erase parts of our national history by making it seem like they never happened, letting them fizzle out of memory. In that piece, I argued; for us to make the most of the next fifty years of Nigeria’s life as a nation, we must go back to our history and for once take seriously the lessons of the past. If we accept that the last fifty years of nationhood has been more or less wasted, then, we must make a conscious effort to appreciate what made it a waste so we can understand how to correct the wrongs. All this is a function of history and that is what Max Siollun offers us in his book “Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)”.

Besides the dearth of books on our national history and the near complete erosion of History as a subject of importance in our universities, it is saddening to note that most of the few materials available are mediocre and poorly researched, often betraying either an academic seeking to move up the ranks or a roadside hustler eager to make a quick buck selling books to “History students” equally eager to pass exams. It is in these two respects, standing against them, that Max Siollun establishes the credence of his work.

With evident objectivity, every page of the 268-page book exudes detailed research and is presented as a free flowing blow-by-blow account of events; Siollun carefully separates speculation from fact and myth from actual happenings. This book, a detailed expose on the first four coups and the Nigerian civil war, helps bring to fore what really happened in those years, who were involved and why they did what they did. Siollun packs his work with dates and names – all easily verifiable.

Popular for his many history laced political essays in Nigerian news forums both online and off, Siollun, who writes Nigerian history almost from an outsiders point of view, comes across as free from the ethnic chauvinism which limits the work of other Nigerian Historians. Siollun traces the history of the Nation before independence, particularly that of the military, and sequentially leads the reader on to the events leading up to the first coup, the counter coup, the Civil War and then traces the discussion further on to the two post-Civil War coups. The writer shows the relationship between all four coups. He highlights, in particular, the recurrent involvement of certain names, such as Babangida, Abacha, Yaradua and Buhari, in Nigeria’s coup plotting history and touches on the fact that for many years, coup plotting seemed to be the main agenda in the country’s military, quite like a culture, and how the failure to punish coup plotters helped to sustain the tradition and how this, in turn, led to instability in the polity and attendant underdevelopment which still stares Nigeria in the face today.

Siollun’s book presents new insights into widely held opinions, revealing what was hitherto not known in the public space about the working of the military and the inner happenings within its ranks, especially as they concerned the coups. It reveals that the January 15th 1966 coup, seen largely as an “Igbo Coup”, was essentially instigated by southern politicians working behind the curtain to unseat their Northern rivals and change the power equation. It also reveals the personal emotions, reactions and idiosyncrasies of the popular officers of the time and helps us understand them better, shedding light on why they did what they did then as well as their contemporary posturing.

It is generally held that there is always more than one angle to a story; therefore, many people would disagree with Siollun’s arguments or explanations on some of the events discussed in the book. This is expected and indeed the author does not pretend to have written an infallible history but has rather, simply, opened an avenue for reflection and knowledge sharing on our history. Another obvious inadequacy of the book is the fact that it covers just ten of our fifty years of national existence, this again highlights the need for other historians to rise to the challenge and tell the story after 1976.

This book is a good read, made even more easily readable by Max Siollun’s fantastic prose and use of simple language in a manner which takes away the oft complained at drabness of history books. I would recommend this to all writers, political commentators and indeed all persons who love Nigeria. We can not make the next fifty years of our life as a nation worth the while if we don’t appreciate where we are coming from.
____________________________________________________________
Ifedigbo, an award winning writer, is the ‘Features and Reviews’ editor for the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine
____________________________________________________________

Oil Politics & Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)
Max Siollun
Algora Publishing, New York; 2009
268pp

http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Politics-Violence-Nigerias-1966-1976/dp/0875867081/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1286780632&sr=8-2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Oil-Politics-Violence-Nigerias-1966-1976/dp/0875867081/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1291582807&sr=8-1

19 Year Old Nigerian Author Gets Deal with UK Publisher


It seems that the future of African literature is very bright. With Achebe and Soyinka ageing, more and more young writers keep emerging from Africa. We’ve already seen the marvels of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Oyeyemi, Tricia Adaobi Nwaubani…..

the latest addition is 19 year old student Chibubundu Onuzo who has landed a two book deal with UK publisher Faber. See an interview with her on CNN below.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/09/21/nigerian.authors/index.html?hpt=C2

Feel good story for the day. :-)

Another Glowing Review! “A BREATH TAKING NARRATIVE” :-)


I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Anote Ajeluorou and the Nigerian Guardian newspaper for this outstanding review that was published in Monday’s edition of the Guardian.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22892:oil-politics-and-violence-revisiting-military-adventurism-into-politics&catid=74:arts&Itemid=683

Oil, Politics and Violence: Revisiting Military Adventurism into Politics

Monday, 13 September 2010 00:00 By Anote Ajeluorou Art – Arts

MAX Siollun’s new book Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966 – 1976), (Algora Publishing, New York; 2009) is a historical treatise on military adventurism in Nigerian politics as the infant nation took its first tottering steps shortly after independence. That intervention was to last almost forever, and at a staggering cost to the nation and its quest for democracy.

“A BREATH TAKING NARRATIVE”

Himself a historian, Siollun takes his readers through a breath-taking narrative of the socio-political setting of 1960 to 1966, when the tables turned. The ouster of politicians who had behaved badly from power led to the enthronement of a military that was not prepared for the enormity and subtlety of political office. What was worse, the coup, which was led by the majors in the army, was perceived to be sectional because of those killed.

Then there was a counter-coup that led to retaliatory killings of one section within the army. The Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu’s first coup had failed because of several factors. His was purely an idealistic coup to give the reign of leadership to Obafemi Awolowo, who was imprisoned at the time following the corruption of the Abubakar Balewa-led government. His colleagues in Lagos had failed to execute their own part of the coup as he had done in Kaduna leading to Major-General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi rallying the army to squash the coup in Lagos. Aguyi-Ironsi assumes the office of head of state to stem the breakdown of law and order. But a counter-coup stops him dead in his track following some controversial decrees he promulgated, and the sectional slant to the coup. Northern soldiers go on the offensive and target Igbo soldiers. It spirals into the streets and the consequent infamous pogroms of 1966 that led to the civil war. Siollun also looks at the next nine years following the end of the war and how the military badly fared.

In providing the festering climate for the political logjam that led to the fall of the first republic, Siollun writes, “Underestimating the win-at-all-costs mentality of the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA), the UPGA unwisely decided to bycott the elections on the ground that the NNA was planning to rig it… Due to the widespread electoral malpractices, President Azikiwe refused to call Balewa to form a new government following the elections. For several days, Nigeria teetered on the edge of an abyss as the President and the Prime Minister tried to scheme each other out of power”.

Events in the Wild Wild West did not help matters with Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola locked in their own political struggles to warrant the declaration of a state of emergency in the region. And then onto the coup that was to unsettle Nigeria for most of its political life.
Siollun’s Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture is a well-researched book on Nigeria’s military experience.

“THE BOOK IS UNIQUE IN MANY WAYS”

The book is unique in many ways. The depth of research into the events, activities, personalities involved in the planning, execution, who did what, how and its implication is stunning.  The author meticulously accessed every record that needed to be accessed to bring to the reader a dense meal of military adventurism into the politics of the most populous black nation on earth.

“Siollun brings a measure of balance and accuracy that has eluded many a writer”


Also, Siollun brings a measure of balance and accuracy that has eluded many a writer on the touchy subject
to bear on his writing. A lot has been written on the subject but most of it with a given mindset to colour and taint the facts. Some writers on the subject have often contradicted themselves on points of facts and sequence of events or personalities involved. Siollun brings all these to bear on his writing as he harmonises them to create an authentic recreation of a critical period of Nigerian political history.

In a sense, Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture resituates the horrendous adventurism of the military and places it starkly for what it was: a political aberration that should never have been! The ills the military set out to cure sooner came to haunt them as the military soon compromised itself, and performed a lot badly than those they deposed from power.

“CLARITY OF NARRATIVE”

One point in favour of Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture is its pace of narrative. Although, it’s a historical account of what most readers already know, yet it turns out a fascinating read on account of its detailed and accurate reconstruction of events. With the planning, shootouts and executions and murders on such a large scale, it tends to read like a thriller of sorts. This indeed is its strength.

Indeed, but for the horrendous killings of real life persons that accompanied the coups, and the tragic loss of lives during the civil war with the distortion of the polity, the coups as detailed by Siollun would whet the palate of lovers of thrillers with the dexterity of narrative he employs. The book is well worth a rereading for its cinematic affect!

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