The book, "A History of Nigeria" by Toyin Falola and Mathew Heaton is generally informative, especially for those who want a quick understanding of Nigeria's origins, its very diverse social and ethnic make up, and the causes of existing internal tensions and its seeming inability to move from a mere political space created by external forces to a true nation state, and the lingering problem of resolving the so-called "national question", i.e. the recurring issues of national identity, cohesion, economic viability and political stability which have led to endemic underperformance and poverty. However, there are a number of oversights and errors that detract from its value and give the impression that not enough vetting was done in the final draft. For instance, the military officer who was the minister of education during the violent student riots of 1978 was Col. Ahmadu Ali (later to become the chairman of the ruling PDP party) and not 'Ambrose' Ali who was the civilian governor of the old Bendel State between 1979 and 1983. Also, it was not the fiery Beko Ransome Kuti, the doctor who led the medical association's strike against Buhari's government in 1984 that was appointed into Babangida's cabinet as health minister, but rather the oldest of the Kuti male siblings, the moderate and less political Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti, and who wss responsible for much of the advancements in primary health care at that time. This is to me a grievous error. Again, it is quite surprising the dismissive manner in which the authors treated the role of the Benin Kingdom in Nigeria's pre-colonial affairs and the complete lack of discussion on Benin's primacy as a powerful city state that had established diplomatic and trade relations with Portugal as far back as the 16th century, had hired Dutch and Danish mercenaries in its wars of expansion in the 16th to 18th centuries and whose relations with and final brutal conquest by Britain certainly deserved more than the few lines devoted to it. In discussing the impact of Nigeria and Nigerians on world history no mention was made of the impact of Benin art, the most coveted artistic items to have come out of Nigeria. It appears that Mr. Falola is burdened by the age-long dispute between the Benin and the Yoruba over which civilisation predated and even spawned the other. This attitude robs the book of much of its validity. Again I find it strange that in discussing Babangida's long and tortuous transition program, the authors ommitted to use the phrase "newbreed politicians", the most bandied about phrase of the regime as its basis for banning certain categories of old and seemingly discredited politicians. Again, in speaking about the brain drain of the 1980s and 1990s, the authors ommitted to point out that apart from the drain to Europe and America, a huge number of Nigerian professionals, especially doctors and nurses, moved to Saudi Arabia to work in their modern but largely understaffed hospitals and research centers. I hope the book will be reviewed to correct these and many other omissions and misconceptions and that the next edition will update readers and bring them up to speed with recent political developments, especially the election for the first time, and through a greatly improved electoral process, of a minority southerner as president in the person of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, an Ijaw from Bayelsa State. Apart from the above however, the authors must be commended for a fairly good effort.
This book contains a very interesting point of view and a well researched history of Nigeria. I strongly recommend it for people who are interested in this very important federal republic located in West Africa.