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Babangida1066 : January 28, 2013 10:30 am : right-column

Buy Soldiers of Fortune


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We’d like to encourage vigorous and open debate about the Buhari/Babangida years and about the book Soldiers of Fortune.  Once you’ve read the book, feel free to drop us an email with your thoughts, or even a full review of the book.  We’ll post the best reader reviews here. You can also leave your comment in the box below.

A short film featuring readers reading from the book:

On Friday, 9th August 2013, a live “twitterview” took place between Patrick Okigbo and Max Siollun, storified below:


  1. Ola
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    I can hardly wait to read this book. “Oil, Politics and Violence” was riveting and I’ve been longing for Max Siollun to produce a sequel. I lived in Nigeria between from ’75 to ’89 so this is living history to me and the first book chronicled the key events like no other that I have read before or since.

  2. Femi Adebajo
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink


    This book is a detailed chronicle of the military regimes that bestrode Nigeria between the second and fourth Republics with the harsh light of diligent inquiry cast on the power games and intrigues that went on during that period. Max Siollun has a well deserved reputation for diligence and incisive analysis and this tome continues where his previous work, OPV, left off. A minor quibble is the typo; ‘barrarks’ in the list of contents but that’s pretty minor indeed.

    The preface provides a good whistle-stop tour of Nigeria’s path from Independence to recent years and a precis of the major developments in the military juntas and civilian regimes of that period. That light introduction is a juicy appetiser for the bigger morsels of the Babangida years, for that is what this book is mostly about, despite the importance of the Buhari and Shonekan interregnums. The treatment of the Buhari regime is fairly light, perhaps in line with its short duration but Mr Siollun does illuminate the Ibrahim Bako and Umaru Dikko affairs with some material that would be unfamiliar to many observers. I would have loved to read some analysis of the economic philosophy of the Buhari regime especially as it stood in sharp contrast to the later Bretton Woods-inspired framework of the IBB regime. The unanswered question remains: Was the Buhari/Soleye economic philosophy remarkably astute and prescient or harebrained flight from reality, in the light of subsequent events around the world?

    The next chapter heralds the arrival of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida on the national stage and his evolution from a most welcome messiah to one of the three most controversial Nigerians in history. Most of the material here would be familiar to observers of Nigerian public life but Max Siollun provides reminders and refreshers and fills gaps in public knowledge with juicy details from his customarily detailed appraisal of primary and secondary source material and previously unpublished information. Thanks to this book, we know a lot more about the ‘Vatsa coup’ trial and the Dele Giwa murder but one gets the feeling that there is more to be discovered about these sagas, like many others on IBB’s watch. More fodder for memoir writers then.

    Subsequent chapters give detailed treatment of the political manoeuvrings of the IBB junta and the first Nigerian experience with a singular dictatorship by one soldier albeit backed by a large and flexible cabal of politically driven officers and a grasping political and economic elite. I was pleased to note the studied neutrality of the author in appraising a dictator that still arouses a range of emotions, from adulation to rabid loathing in most adult Nigerians despite employing some of our best brains in his government. There is much material here for several long philosophical pamphlets as we struggle to discern whether Nigeria made Babangida inevitable or Babangida remade Nigeria in his own image.

    The later chapters deal with the decline of IBB and his eventual ignominious ‘stepping aside’ after the June 12 annulment, regarded as the most spectacular own goal by our own Maradona, tossing away what many regard as his best chance at a respectable legacy. We read, if we didn’t know it already, that the apotheosis of IBB highlighted the extent to which he had become hostage to his own cabal, a coterie of politicised captains of armed gangs masquerading as ‘respectable’ military officers. There is enough material in this book to teach us that June 12 was variously a high point of ethnic ecumenism, a glorious endpoint to a thorn-ridden pathway, a resurrection of unfinished history, and an inevitably unwitting tragedy of its own contradictions as elite wrangling and socio-economic forces combined to bring Nigeria again close to disaster.

    This book is a delight to read and Max Siollun again delivers a labour of love and in my view, successfully manages a detailed objective analysis of events from our recent memory and in which most Nigerians would have an emotional investment. Soldiers of Fortune is a captivating, detailed and yet concise historical account of an important epoch in Nigerian history and should be read by all Nigerians and watchers or students of Nigerian politics.

  3. Gbenga Abosede
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I just finished reading this book “Soldiers of Fortune”. What a triumph! Max Siollun has managed to condense so much histroy into a delightful and engaging story. I would recommend the book for every Nigerian – perhaps it should become part of the school curriculum as an education in history, composition and thoroughness. Max’s comments on the evolution of corruption in Nigeria are particularly thought-provoking. If we’re ever going to solve the corruption problem, it probably helps to understand a bit about its origins and emergence. Thank you Max for capturing a key chunk of our history into this book. Very well done.

  4. Posted November 3, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Soldiers of Fortune has two outstanding qualities that any good book should have. It is informative and engaging. Aside from being a thoroughly researched work, it is further enriched by Max Siollun’s narrative skills. The details he provides are woven into a well organized plot that reveals and dissects the aberration that informs military rule. There is a huge lesson here for noisemakers, empty vessels at best, who have “much to say” about Nigeria’s history based on their ethnic biases and the “facts” they have gathered from gossip and street talk. There is also an important message here for so-called academics, particularly those of us in the humanities, who often talk flamboyantly without communicating.

    Though most of us would condemn military rule for its debauchery, we wouldn’t be able to offer the type of salient, well broken down details presented by Siollun. But, to me, one of the greatest lessons is that we, the self-righteous complaining masses, have been complicit in the highhandedness of military rule. We only complained about the system when we didn’t gain from it. But when we became beneficiaries, perhaps on account of a grand political appointment or overpriced contract, we went curiously silent. Many of us have utilized our devious acquisitions as participants in military rule to launch our political careers. To this day, do we not reward architects of this autocratic madness with national awards? Is one of our international airports not named after one of them? Is our current senate president not one of them? How many of our roads and bridges are named after them? Even our steadily devalued naira does not escape the discrepancy.

    The ultimate goal of Soldiers of Fortune is not to provoke the typical finger-pointing scenario that gives many of us the opportunity to uplift ourselves psychologically by slamming others. The ultimate goal is to compel us to objectively and widely examine (or re-examine ) ourselves and ask why we tend to celebrate the same malevolence that we claim to detest. Do we really abhor injustice, or are we more concerned about the inability to profit from its repulsive, though sweet-tasting turnovers?

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