Max Siollun’s “Oil, Politics And Violence”: Reflections Of An Ordinary Reader/

Oil, Politics and Violence is a thoroughly comprehensive investigation into Nigeria’s military coup culture. The book solely focuses on a decade now renowned in infamy for sowing much of the seeds of discord and dysfunction in Nigeria today; 1966-1976. The extent of detail is evidently meticulous and the author painstakingly outlines the events of that period, painting a holistic portrait that allows for better understanding of the events in particular and of Nigeria as a whole.

The book starts off by briefing us on the political atmosphere pre January 1966 and describes the tensions and maneuvers of our “founding fathers” so called. It explains the corruption of the first republic and how the power tussle between Akintola and Awolowo eventually lead to the decent of the then western region into near anarchy. It then gives us insight into the Nigerian army, pre January 1966, and the backgrounds and training of many of the pioneering officers including Maimalari, Ademulegun, Aguyi Ironsi amongst others.

The narrative then switches gears and introduces us to the key players in the Nzeogwu coup of January 1966, the events that led up the execution of the plot, the details of how the plot eventually failed (with only Nzeogwu fully achieving his objectives), how General Aguyi Ironsi was able to mobilize and put down the insurrection, the final capitulation of the first republic and the eventual handover of political power to the military headed by General Aguyi Ironsi. The turbulent 6 month rule of Ironsi is also explained and the efforts by the general to stabilize the country.

Mass hysteria, misinformation, paranoia and anger are said to have fueled a northern led counter insurrection. This did not only terminate the life and regime of Ironsi, it also led to enthronement of General Yakubu Gowon, the mass murder of easterners and eventually to civil the war. Gowon’s government was also interrupted by another coup which enthroned Murtala Mohamed, Who six months latter was also assassinated in events that led to the enthronement of General Olusegun Obasanjo as head of state.

Max Siollun’s in-depth knowledge of history and extensive access to scarce (sometimes classified) materials really makes this title a read like none other. His ability to connect the dots and draw your attention to (what would probably have been overlooked) details puts this title in a class of its own. The author manages to babysit the reader through the most intricate complexities with an admirable composure and a steady ease, ensuring that the reader not only understands the issues discussed but also appreciates the consequences on the eventual outcome of Nigeria today.

As an ordinary reader, I will say this title is a must for anybody interested in Nigerian history or understanding the origins of the political and socioeconomic quagmire that we find ourselves today. The final line in the book leaves us with a chilling warning: “THOSE WHO DO NOT HEED HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT”!!!!!!!!