Home » Fiction » Book Reviews » THE TRAGIC YEARS: Nigeria in Crisis (1966-1970) by Ola Balogun| Book Review

THE TRAGIC YEARS: Nigeria in Crisis (1966-1970) by Ola Balogun| Book Review

TITLE: THE TRAGIC YEARS: Nigeria in Crisis (1966-1970)
AUTHOR: Ola Balogun

In The Tragic Years, Balogun sought to analyze and define the major factors that led to the Nigerian Civil War and dictated it’s course. He has also tried to set out an analysis of what can be considered to be a crucial period in Nigerian and African history, as seen by one who, as press attache in the Nigerian Embassy in Paros, took an active part in opposing secession, but was nonetheless very keenly aware of the deep human tragedy underlying the political events of the Nigerian crisis and civil war.

In The Tragic Years, Ola Balogun takes us through the Nigerian Civil War as it happened. He shows us the truth: The who, what, where, when and why of the civil war.

According to him, “All wars are tragic occurences. it has bevome somewhat of a truism to state that civil wars are even more so. Yet, the full horror of the recent Nigerian Civil War cannot be entirely grasped if one does not bear in mind that this was a war between brothers, between people inimately linked by many common experiences and by close bonds. It becomes even more tragic in view of the fact that one suspects that ut all need never have happened at all, that the Nigerian community might have escaped this terrible nightmare.”

Ola Balogun has declared a twist to the way the civil war is told in history. There are a lot of things that traditional media or history books may not tell you. You’re never really sure who to believe or who’s telling you the truth. I’ve read accounts of the Nigerian Civil War, but none have come close to the tunes Ola Balogun played in his book.

He didn’t just show us the skin, but everything including the blood and gore of war between brothers and sisters.
He stripped those years and inner workings of Nigerian politics down to the bone. He left Nigerians pants down by showing us one thing, Experience isn’t always the best teacher! Especially in Nigeria’s case. The problems we had then, we still have them now.


While reading the book, there were some themes that I realized were evident at the time of the civil war and are still evident now. From letting our sense of ethnicity triumph over country, to corruption, to foreign interference, and others, it seems Nigerians are yet to learn from their past mistakes.

Tribe over Country:

Right from the beginning, Nigerians have divided the country down tribal and ethnic lines. Our major poilital parties are still run with tribal undertones. In the book, we’re shown how we wanted ‘our brothers’ on those seats as opposed to ‘anyone who had the sense and brain to effectively lead a country’. We are still blinded by ethnicity instead of realizing the beauty in our diversity and looking for the ways these could work together to form one united body. People pushed their brothers to power because they wanted contracts from the government.

Greed and Corruption:

During the tragic years, it had always been about having a slice of the national cake that wasn’t replenished as fast as it is depleted. Elections were rigged and are still being rigged at every level of elections. Governments made promises to run corruption out of the country. Promises we still hear today, almost sixty years later.

Democracy For a Few: The definition of democracy was changed to government of the people, for the few and by the few. It was heart breaking to find that we have always let people who had less than stellar atributes to lead us. We have easily aided a greedy and selfish few to decide our fate and defended them with our sweat and blood.

That was 1966, this is 2019. Today was the general elections. There isn’t much of a difference.

Foreign Interference:

During the civil war, foreign ‘aid’ was granted to Biafra to help win the war. They enouraged the war to go on. They wanted Nigeria divided regardless of the cost, because they knew something Nierians hadn’t figured out and may have still not figured out: A small country like Biafra would desperately need them to ‘help’. A small and unstable country would be easier to subtly colonize and rule from the outside.

It isn’t news that the majority of Nigeria’s oil would have followed Biafra if they were successful in Secession.

The foreigners wanted free oil and Nigeria NEEDED the oil to stay afloat. The Civil War became a tug of war between two sides. The government knew that if they let Biafra stand, the other warring ethnic groups would see enough reason to demand for secession. Nigeria would seize to exist.

Foreign media had rained heaps and heaps of fake news upon the eyes and ears of people. They deceived people into donating money to biafra to purchase weapons to fight a bloody war under the guise of foreign aid that would feed hungry childen and prevent them from dying of hunger.

Post War:

Of particular interest to me was what happened after the war and the easterners were welcomed back to Nigeria. I read General Yakubu Gowon’s speech that was quoted in the book, and I literally cried. Excerpts of the speech are on my Instagram page (www.instagram.com/thecreatorspen). The most notable thing about the way the way ended was the fact that the Federal government made sure that the easterners weren’t victimized or sentenced to death for treason. Rather, they were welcome with open arms.

“It is remarkable indeed that even though the Federal side had won total military victory, nothing was done to victimize or humiliate the vanquished side, and that immediate steps were taken both by military and civilian authorities to alleviate the suffering as much as possible.” – Page 113

“When one remembers how the Spanish Civil War or even the American Civil war ended, there is every reason to be proud that an African nation has thus set an outstanding example to the rest of the world… The end of the Nigerian civil war brought with it an almost immediate nation-wide reconcilliation. Biafra had indeed come and gone.” – Page 114.


The Tragic Years: Nigeria in Crisis(1966-1970) is HIGHLY recommend to get Nigerians in better perspective. If you need a deeper understanding on how Nigeria has gotten here and what went down during the Civil War, this is your book. The way Ola Balogun presents history, The Tragic Years is a fine combination of fictional non-fiction and history. It’s the perfect combo for lovers of fiction and history.

Have you read any book about the Nigerian Civil War?

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