When I got this book, I was terrified. The two hundred and fifty-five pages, the title of the book (Oil, Politics, and Violence), and what seemed like a smaller than normal font that hugged the white pages, it all terrified me. When will I finish this book? The book wasn’t about fictional characters with dynamic personalities. It wasn’t a book with a plot full of suspense or drama. It was a book based on facts. Political facts. Nigerian political facts. Nigerian political facts on its military coups. Great. Could it get any worse?
But then I convinced myself that perhaps, I needed to read such a book. Maybe I needed to learn a bit about this beloved country of mine. Maybe I did need to know just a bit about the military coup culture. That’s what I told myself. I don’t know how much of it I believed, but I managed to convince myself that believed what I told myself. And so, the reading the began.
To say that this book is like nothing I have ever read would be a gross understatement. Everything I sought in a fiction novel – the drama, suspense, etc – were in this book, too. The only difference is that this was a true account. What was it, if not drama, when Mr. E. O. Oke shamelessly flung a chair during the Region House of Assembly meeting? And Mr. F. Ebubeduike, God bless him, followed suit by grabbing the speaker’s mace AND trying to club the speaker with it. This was in 1962 (two years after our independence). Clearly, our problems started a long time ago.
In Nigeria, it turns out that the best way our leaders could think of dealing with a coup – whether it succeeded or failed – was to plan a counter coup. Yes, and look what mighty favor it has done us. Did you know that before the British people decided to “form” Nigeria, we (the people of Nigeria) couldn’t be any more different from each other? We were a ticking time bomb, and I don’t know if we have gone off yet. Culturally and religiously, we couldn’t be more different.
From the distrust among the Igbos, Yorubas, and Hausas for one another, it is evident that the issues we have today started a long, long time ago. But I did not know this prior to reading this book. For someone who almost did not give a hoot about Nigerian politics (or the coups that preceded it), this book has had quite an effect on me. It left me with a strange feeling of nostalgia, irritation, regret, anger, and enlightenment. I’ve even secretly pictured myself running for office! Sure, I’m pissed at the things that have happened, how they happened, why the happened, and the fact that they would have been avoided. But I now know more than I did.
I’ll sum it up: Max Siollun did an excellent job of delivering the happenings of Nigeria’s infancy in my mind’s eye and in my heart’s head. He has written the book in such a way that you cannot help but be flooded with some type of emotion, wishing and hoping that you were there because maybe, you would have made a difference. This book exposes our primitive thinking way(s). While we have evolved, started having better cell phone reception and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lagos, we’re still just that – primitive.
Get the book. Read it. You’re going to love it.
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