I have been asked to recommend books on Nigerian history.
So here’s a list of books that will enhance your understanding of Nigeria’s past (and very likely its present).
The list is by no means exhaustive and there are many good books not on this list. So here goes:
1.Just Before Dawn – Kole Omotosho
Kole Omotoso’s brilliant reconstruction of Nigerian history from the colonial era to the 1980s is the foremost example of Nigerian “faction” writing. A very good read.
2. Dare Babarinsa – House of War
Babarinsa’s tour de force is probably the best treatment of the travails of Obafemi Awolowo and his political movement during the Second Republic. It is also an objective take on the opposition politics of the Second Republic as essayed by the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
3. Richard A. Joseph – The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic
Richard Joseph, like the recently departed Anthony Kirk-Green, is one of the keenest scholars of Nigeria. In this indepth study, he shows how prebendalism led to the collapse of the Second Republic and continues to haunt Nigerian governance.
4. Toyin Falola – The Violence in Nigeria (The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies)
Toyin Falola offers a masterly, detailed and rigorously researched history of religious violence in Nigeria during the period spanning the late 1970s and the late 1980s.
5. Africa in Ebullition – Honourable Adegoke Adelabu
Apart from Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Renascent Africa, Adelabu offers the best insight into the idealism that animated the anti colonial movement. Written in an inimitable and distinctively extravagant prose style.
6. Instability and Political Order – Billy Dudley
Billy Dudley belongs in the pantheon of Nigeria’s greatest political scientists along with Claude Ake and Bala Usman. Here’s his authoritative take on the crises that defined Nigeria’s early years and which led to the implosion of the First Republic.
7. Ethnic Politics in Nigeria – Okwudiba Nnoli
The foremost examination of the history and construction of ethnic identity and identity politics in Nigeria by a scholar who must be in his 80s now but is still going strong.
8. Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War: Facing The Future – Raph Uwechue
Arguably the most nuanced take on the complex dynamics of the civil war by a participant observer. Raph Uwechue’s reflections on the subject are studied, rigorously thought through and well considered.
9. For The liberation of Nigeria – Yusufu Bala Usman
Bala Usman, one of Nigeria’s greatest ideological thinkers delivers a searing critique of Nigerian foreign policy in the 1970s&an examination of Nigeria’s place in the world.
10. Soldiers of Fortune (Nigerian Politics from Buhari to Babangida) 1983 – 1993 –
For those that missed the military era of the 1980s and 1990s, delivers the best rendition of the events of that period in living colour and with uncommon nuance.
11. June 12 1993: Annulment – Abraham Oshoko
Abraham Oshoko’s Graphic historical trilogy of books about the June 12 crisis is one of the best treatments of the subject there is. A bold creative take on history backed up with solid research.
12. The Trouble With Nigeria – Chinua Achebe
Written in 1983, Achebe’s classic critique of the Nigerian condition possesses a currency that makes it both disturbing and prophetic. It’s still essential reading.
13. The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria (1977 -1987) – Yusufu Bala Usman
Bala Usman exposes the sordid underbelly of religious populism essayed by religious and political charlatans in the Second Republic. Nigerian Politicians have been manipulating religious sensibilities for a long time. This is an early diagnostic of their nefarious methods.
14. Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966 -1976)
– Max Siollun
again delivers a sobering and nuanced portrayal of a turbulent and bloody period of Nigerian history. Clinical, incisive and even tempered without the histrionics that often undermines other treatments of the subject.
15. Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria – Matthew Hassan Kukah
A fascinating exploration of the power dynamics of Northern Nigeria by one of Nigeria’s foremost public intellectuals.
16. The Misrepresentation of Nigeria – Yusufu Bala Usman
A brilliant polemic by Bala Usman and Alkasum Abba that deconstructs ethnic (and religious) irredentism in Nigeria and exposes the political opportunism of identity entrepreneurs.
17. One Nigeria: The Birth and Evolution of an Idea – Dike-Ogu Chukwumerije
A clinical and dispassionate examination of the roots of Nigerian nationalism and the national question by . A top top read.
18. The Northern Elements Progressive Union and the Politics of Radical Nationalism in Nigeria (1938 – 1960) – Alkasum Abba
The compelling and dramatic history of one of the greatest political movements in Nigeria.
19. History of West Africa since 1800 – Elizabeth Isichei
Elizabeth Isichei is in the exalted league of historians including JF Ade-Ajayi, Kenneth Dike, Peter Ekeh and Obaro Ikime (who’s Groundwork of Nigerian History is also recommended). Her sweeping portrait of two centuries of change in West Africa is a worthwhile read.
20. Writing the Wrong – Chidi Amuta
Along with Stanley Macebuh, Nosa Osaigbovo and Adebayo Williams, Chidi Amuta belongs to a tradition of excellent essayists and op-Ed columnists. This 1000-page tome is a collection of his essays spanning nearly three decades and brimming with insight on various topical issues over the years.
PS: For now. As I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list and there are many great books that aren’t on it. I personally recommend these. The key is to read widely, broadly and deeply. History, like all human experience is many-sided. Truth is often the golden mean.
CREDIT: This thread is developed by Chris Ngwodo, an Analyst, Thinker, Writer, Public Speaker and Consultant. You can follow him on Twitter via @chrisngwodo