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Insa Nolte, Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: the local politics of a Nigerian nationalist.

INSA NOLTE, Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: the local politics of a Nigerian nationalist. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute. (hb 60 [pounds sterling]--978 0 74863 895 6). 2009, 328 pp.

This book is an impressive study of the illustrious political career of one of Africa's most influential nationalists, Chief O. bafemi Awolowo, a pre-eminent Nigerian statesman whose vision and tireless work defined a modernist Yoruba political project in an emergent Nigerian post-colonial nation state after the decolonization process in the 1940s. Insa Nolte is primarily concerned with the local and foundational aspects of Awolowo's career and how they in turn shape Yoruba and Nigerian politics.

Drawing on extensive colonial and missionary archival materials, critical readings of newspaper reports, comprehensive interviews of key political figures, and a judicious intellectual engagement with Africanist scholarship, this comprehensive work is framed in the context of the monumental social and political transformation of Ijebu-Remo, a confederation of Yoruba city states, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With an emphasis on the complex interactions between state institutions and structures of society, Nolte analyses how Awolowo, Remo's celebrated native son, emerged as a towering figure in Yoruba politics. Although he was a native of a relatively minor Yoruba town, Ikenne--minor even by Ijebu-Remo's standards, and even more so in comparison to major Yoruba ancestral city states such as Ibadan, Lagos, Oyo, Ile-Ife, Ijebu-Ode, Ilesa, Abeokuta, Ondo, Ogbomoso, Osogbo, Ado-Ekiti, or Owo--the dominant role of Awolowo in local and regional politics is analysed in the context of the formation of the IjebuRemo confederation and the reconstruction of local city state structures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, along with shifting alliances among ritual kings, chiefs, Christian elites, Muslim merchants, proto-nationalists, and leaders of grassroots organizations in the tumultuous history of state formation in Nigeria. Despite this complicated political and social process, Nolte is emphatic that the dynamic relations ensuing among political actors and the constituencies they represented were consistently articulated, channelled--and resisted--by Awolowo's dominant vision, strategies, ambition, and superior organizational skills for rive decades of Nigeria's political history.

Following a succinct introduction on the historical sociology of the city states that constituted the Ijebu-Remo confederation, chapters 2 and 3 analyse indigenous social and political organizations in a dynamic nineteenth-century context. Chapter 4 deals with the defining impact of Christian missionary influence--notably Methodist and Anglican--on Remo communities within the context of Ijebu and Yoruba political configurations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In a dynamic environment in which notions of the past were consistently deployed to shape evolving contemporary conditions, communal identities were transformed by Remo political elites to challenge the 'traditional hegemony' of the Awujale (oba or ritual king) of Ijebu-Ode over the confederation of Remo city states.

Chapters 5, 6 and 7 engage the social and political currents that contributed to the rise of Awolowo to political prominence from the early years of decolonization in the 1950s to his initial fall during the Western Region crisis that ultimately led to the collapse of Nigeria's first republic in 1966. In the context of the politics of regionalism, Chapter 8 analyses Awolowo's re-emergence as the pre-eminent Yoruba political leader during the intervening years of military rule and Nigeria's second failed attempt at constitutional democracy in 1979-83. Nolte is correct in her contention that the organizational strategies, accomplishments and alliances that assured Awolowo's success in Remo and the Yoruba region paradoxically undermined his spirited push for the executive presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A final chapter discusses the enduring legacy of Awolowo in Remo and Yoruba politics after his death in 1987. These compelling chapters illuminate the complexities of Remo's social, political and economic transformation, centred on the remarkable career of its mythical native son within the context of Yoruba collective action in Nigeria--Africa's most complicated post-colony.

By capturing the scope and depth of Remo political history since the late nineteenth century, Nolte situates Awolowo's brilliant and problematic career in Nigeria's torturous modern nation state. She is consistent in providing vivid analyses, with requisite explanatory authority, of complex intersections of local, regional, and national political processes that critically defined the multiple layers of alliances and conflict, mapping the twists and turns of the calculus of power embodied in the towering figure of Awolowo. Reviewing a myriad of political innovations, grassroots movements, economic activities, migrant cultures, neo-traditional institutions, Christian enlightenment values, and indigenous religious agency, the book complicates Awolowo's role in Remo, Yoruba and Nigerian politics, while insisting on Remo's pride of place in post-colonial Yoruba history.

This is an authoritative and comprehensive study at the intersection of local, ethno-regional and national configurations of power, increasingly at the core of Nigerian politics. Innovative and thought-provoking, Nolte has written one of the most impressive books in Nigerian studies in the last decade.

DOI: 10.3366/E0001972010000847


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Author:Vaughan, Olufemi
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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