ON A PLATTER OF GOLD, BY BOLAJI ABDULLAHI – A BOOK REVIEW BY AISHAT ABIRI
The world has evolved and with it, the tool that is storytelling. A campaign to end violence is laced in a film, political ideologies are sung in songs, the history of a president is narrated in a political thriller.
“On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria” ends as matter-of-factly as it begins, much like the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Unlike the GEJ administration, however, it does not belabor the reader with thrown apologies and pointed fingers, as is common with the general Nigerian political atmosphere. It simply asks a question, what went wrong? And in twelve chapters of political analysis and storytelling, this body of non-fiction attempts to help the reader find an answer.
For those of us who have for a long time, looked at politics in Nigeria as a mirror that fogs up the more you look into it, this book is a much welcome move to wipe, at least, a layer off this mirror. A brave insight into Nigerian politics in general, it also shows us that indeed, we are not alone in the fog, as time and change have seen even politicians on our side of things, tossed this way and that, never fully comprehending this game that seems to enter into autopilot once activated. Unlike what is characteristic of many political accounts, Bolaji Abdullahi’s “On a Platter of Gold” employs neither personal sentiment nor sensationalism in the delivery of events. The author shows a skilled level of objectivity in the analysis of Jonathan’s leadership.
Having learned from the political trend in Nigeria, however, it is only logical to approach the book with a sense of caution, considering the author’s history with the Jonathan leadership and his present relationship with Buhari’s. But Bolaji Abdullahi manages to assuage these concerns as the narrative unfolds. With a strong insider vantage point, thorough, inquisitive research and a distinct style of language, the book explores all aspects of Jonathan’s political journey, good, bad and ugly—the religious sentiments, ethnic tensions, corruption, incompetence, international approvals and disapprovals and more. The author, in the process, reveals (and sometimes clarifies) the highly convoluted processes that make up power play in Nigeria. From big promises to forced resignations, missing funds to missing people, a peaceful entry to a peaceful exit, the reader can easily navigate through time and politics, arriving at conclusions on one’s own terms. Even though the book does not set out to impose emotions on us, it is far from being a stark record of numbers and events. The author wields a strong grasp of Nigeria’s history, in combination with wit to deliver a story that creates room for you to independently access your emotions.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the author’s narrative is how he is able to efficiently move back and forth through time, drawing lines and patterns between events of history—distant and not so distant, pointing out cause and effect. In an attempt to tell as much as possible, not only about Jonathan’s leadership but about leaderships as far back as the days of coups and counter-coups, I worry however, that some information might have become careless and unnecessary if not slightly irregular. They nonetheless make the book an interesting read and a significant political crash course, so to speak.
As with all books on politics, we find some questions answered and others unanswered, while even more arise. Perhaps, this is just the general principle of life and existence playing out on a larger, more concentrated scale. In the end, I think this book is a task that required journalistic and political experience, and the author pulled it off.
Aishat Abiri is a writer and researcher for Mnet. She has written for stage, television and print, including the Abuja Times and Ake Review. Currently, she consults for YIAGA-CLE as a writer on the Not Too Young To Run project. She is a Farafina 2016 alumnus.
“On A Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria”, by Bolaji Abdullahi, is available from the following bookshops:
– Jed Bookstore, The Palms Mall, Lekki Lagos
– Terrakulture, VI, Lagos
– Patabah Bookstore, Surulere, Lagos
– Quintessence, Ikoyi, Lagos
– Glendora Bookstore, Ikeja, Lagos
– The Booksellers, Abuja, Abeokuta, and Ibadan
– Boldoz Bookshop, Uyo
– Salamander Café, Aminu Kano Crescent, Abuja
– Bookville World, Port Harcourt
– Online at Roving Height (Rovingheight.ng)
– Online at Jumia and Konga
– Page Books, Allen Avenue, Lagos
– Lara Bookshop, Ilorin
– Gumba Bay, Shoprite Mall, Sangotedo
– Abuja Airport Bookstore
– Glendora Bookstore, Lagos Airport
– Prince Ebeano Supermarket, Lekki, Lagos