On the 60th anniversary of Independence, a new non-fiction novel from Cassava Republic revisits our colonialist past


In a few months, Nigerians in the country and across the world will gather to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our Independence from British Rule. This has become a significant period of reflection and a time that holds significance for politicians and citizens alike. It marks the pivotal moment when Nigerians were finally returned their autonomy after nearly five centuries of colonial interference from the Portuguese, The French, the Germans, the English and The Fulani Jihadists of the Sahel. Nigeria hasn’t done a very good job of documenting and revisiting its history. History has been purged as a subject from our secondary schools, films and shows that seek to show an unvarnished account of our history pre-independence and post-Independence are suppressed or outrightly banned. The only medium that has managed to largely evade the censorial eye of the Nigerian government is literature, with books like Max Siollun’s Soldiers of Fortune and Chinua Achebe’s ‘There Was A Country’ sharing unpopular and painful truths.

Cassava Republic is joining this hallowed canon of revolutionary publishers by releasing Formation; The Making Of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation to co-incide with our country’s 60th Independence anniversary. The non-fiction book has been meticulously researched and written by authors Fola Fagbule and Feyi Fawehinmi. The book will be released first in Nigeria, before US and UK imprints will follow in 2021.

Formation will be the first non-fiction historical book which draws a straight line between the Jihadist crusade of the 19th Century, which saw the forceful assimilation of indigenous Hausa and Northern tribes into the culture we now call Hausa/Fulani. By putting the Jihadist revolution on the same level of inter-cultural conquest as the subsequent invasions by the Portuguese, English and French, the book forces us to acknowledge that the entire country, not just the South was colonized, the North was twice colonized, a legacy that continues to haunt the region today.  Formation sheds light on an increasingly forgotten and largely mythologised period of Nigeria’s history; revealing an incredibly complicated portrait of a nation with a tangled history, where violence was and remains a primary organising principle for elite competition and political negotiations.

There are a number of prominent figures in Formation, who finally get the scrutiny their careers and lives deserve: Usman dan Fodio, the revolutionary reformer and founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Efunroye Tinubu, prominent slaver-trader and political figure, Fredrick Lugard, British colonial administrator, Nana Asma’u, revered poet and teacher, Samuel Ajayi-Crowther, Yoruba linguist and first Nigerian Anglican Bishop, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, political campaigner, suffragist and mother to Fela Kuti, maverick British statesman and industrialist, Joseph Chamberlain, alongside other well-known and many less familiar names. Formation uses colourful character sketches and first-hand reporting to show how local events and characters are intertwined with global occurrences over the period.

For political pundits and students of Nigerian history, Formation will become fundamental reading, and for the rest of us, a way to truly understand our complex, intertwined past.

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