Richard Bourne. 2015. Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century

By Magbadelo, John Olushola | African Studies Quarterly, March 2016 | Go to article overview

Richard Bourne. 2015. Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century


Magbadelo, John Olushola, African Studies Quarterly


Richard Bourne. 2015. Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century. London: Zed Books. 320 pp.

Nigeria's history is a complex subject which has often been exploited by some pedantic scholars and writers of different ilk and perspectives. The complexity of historical documentation of the country's political and socio-economic development has its roots in the diversity of sources of information that could be accessed by prospective historians or historiographers as well as the contrarieties in values and beliefs that they seek to project in their narratives. Thus, no historical rendition is value-neutral. Even the best of history has a measure or a modicum of values which are the underpinnings of any of such documentary accounts.

Richard Bourne's book is a detailed and sequential reportage of the historical development of Nigeria spanning a century since its evolution as a political entity beginning with periods preceding its amalgamation by the colonial administration in 1914 and up to 2015 when an opposition party successfully dislodged the ruling political party through an electoral contest for the first time in the country's history. The book currently stands as the most extensive documentation on Nigeria covering a century of its existence, thereby being more informative in outlook than other publications on the country. By giving an up-to-date account on Nigeria's development across different historical epochs, the book luridly presents the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial challenges of development, which together have helped in shaping the constitutional and political realities of the country. While the author did not claim to understand Nigeria because of its many ethnicities and perspectives coupled with its contested past and statistics, he is of the belief that his book would "elucidate, as fairly and readable as possible, a story that began with a colonial merger and bring it up to date."

The book is broadly divided into five sections with the first four sections having nineteen chapters while the fifth section is titled "Reflections." The author's "Afterword" contains concluding remarks. Section 1 (chapters one to six) analyzes the issues and events surrounding the 1914 amalgamation of the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria with the Lagos colony, the abolition of the independent Egba Kingdom, the gallant role of Nigerian soldiers in the First World War, the struggles of Governor Lugard with opponents, the effects of the Second World War on the global economy and the growth of assertive nationalism in Nigeria as the country was progressively acquiring a new importance in the strategic global scheme of Britain in the war years.

Section 2 (chapters seven to eleven) highlights the series of political processes that were thrown up by certain key and impactful events from 1939-1964 as they affected Nigeria's domestic and international politics. This section elaborates on the strategic importance of Nigeria in the war years, the consequent political change that was complicated by the emergent divisive regionalism and subsequently, the establishment of regional governments which were both precursors of political independence in 1960 as well as the post -independence crises that followed thereafter. Section 3 (chapters twelve to fifteen) is a narration of the political crises from 1964 to 1989 in post-independent Nigeria including military coups, civil war, the failure and fall of the second republic, and the inception of a new military era in the country. Section 4 (chapters sixteen to nineteen) covers political events from 1989 to 2014, which include the botched attempt at democratization under Babangida's military administration, the disastrous Abacha years, the return of democracy and Obasanjo, the ascension of Yar'Adua, Jonathan, and threats in the Niger Delta coupled with the terrorist onslaught in the northeast of the country. …

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