One of the most important foundations of any civilised society is a good knowledge of its own history. I therefore believe that the regular contributions and accounts of Nigeria’s modern history which have been served in various books and essays by Max Siollun are not only vital but are also a credible and authoritative source of information and knowledge about our past.
What makes Siollun probably the most credible and intellectually honest historian of his generation is the fact that, unlike most Nigerian and indeed African writers, he remains objective in his various accounts and he distances himself from the prism of subjectivity, revisionism and emotion. He also does his homework very well and ensures that he has credible, identifiable and authoritative sources for every assertion that he makes and every historical fact and event that he writes about. Unlike many, he does not rely on folklore, myths or tales told under the moonlight by village elders as a credible or veritable source of history. Being the consummate professional that he is, Siollun goes much further than that and he indulges in something that is unusual for most Nigerian historians. That “something” is known as “painstaking research” and such effort is the lifeblood of his work and a testimony to his scholarship. That is why many of us that are historians, history buffs and students of history take his books very seriously indeed.
The latest of those books, titled “Soldiers Of Fortune- Nigerian Politics From Buhari To Babangida (1983-1993)”, is no different from the others in the sense that it is written in the same Siollunian tradition of excellence, courage, honesty and insight. The author carefully walks us through the complicated events that afflicted Nigeria between 1983 and 1993 with his usual accuracy and candour. He tells us who did what, who to and how many times. These are events that, till this day, few dare to write about in a forthright and honest manner simply because most of the principal players are still alive. The book gripped me from beginning to the end and my only regret is that Siollun stopped his account at 1993 and that he did not take it up to 1999.
“The truth is that this book needs to be read by every student of history, every politician, every political
scientist, every person that has an interest in our country and every individual that wishes to fully understand
Nigeria and the source and foundation of her many challenges.”
The truth is that this book needs to be read by every student of history, every politician, every political scientist, every person that has an interest in our country and every individual that wishes to fully understand Nigeria and the source and foundation of her many challenges. The role of the military in our history, their sheer perfidy and the damage that they did to our morale, our institutions, our national cohesion, our development, our economy, our future prospects and the evolution of our democratic processes cannot be underestimated, ignored or wished away. However this is merely my judgment and I am just one of Siollun’s many readers. When writing his books the author himself remains dispassionate, stays out of the politics of it all, offers no personal opinion, pronounces no judgment on anyone and blames no individual or institution for anything. He simply relays the facts in an orderly, professional, clear and concise manner and, most importantly, he tells us his sources. And that is good enough. That is all that historians are required to do. It is left for the reader to make his own judgments and proffer his own opinions about each event, each institution and each character that has been mentioned in the book.
Needless to say I am thrilled by Siollun’s deep knowledge of our affairs and our history, particularly the history of the Nigerian military and it’s role in the political development of our nation. I recommend this book to all institutions of higher learning in Nigeria and I pray that Siollun will continue to serve us many more books about the history of our beloved country. I also pray that more Nigerians will cultivate the habit of reading such books and thereby learn more about our history and what brought us to the sad impasse and monumental challenges that we are facing today as a nation. I have no doubt that this book, like all good history books and indeed all of Max Siollun’s other books, will outlive us all. It will be a first class reference point and a credible source of knowledge and history for future generations of Nigerians.
Review: ” Soldiers Of Fortune: Nigerian Politics from Buhari to Babangida (1983–1993) by Max Siollun” by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode
Author: Max Siollun
Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
Publication date: July, 2013
Soldiers of Fortune is published by Cassava Republic press in July 2013. For more information, go to www.fortunesoldiers.com.