RBC Reviews A Swamp full of Dollars by Michael Peel

The Rainbow Bookclub held its last reading for the year, today, Friday 16 December 2011 at the Poolside of Le Meridien Hotel, Ogeyi Place, Port Harcourt.

In attendance were old and new bookclub members, amongst them, Prof. Alagoa.

The book in review was ‘A Swamp full of Dollars’ by Michael Peel (one of the ‘books of the festival’ in the 2011 Garden City Literary Festival), which re-tells the Niger Delta story in an easy to read narrative.

Peel’s reporting introduces readers to a rich cast of characters who each play a different part in the country’s oil saga. He travels into the Niger Delta to meet the militants who have diverted millions from foreign-owned pipelines to fuel their own insurgency. He spends time with neighbourhood bullies and bus drivers to show how even the most basic social interactions are contorted  by the country’s oil dependency. He sits down with an oil company executive whose rationales and explanations are almost as slick as the commodity he deals in. With colorful reportage and intelligent analysis, he offers  a 360-degree look at a country he describes as a “brittle motor of 21st century capitalism”.

It was a time of intense debate as is expected when the Niger Delta is the topic for discussion. While some felt strongly that a non-violent approach to resolving conflicts could bring long-lasting solutions, others felt that violence was necessary, as quoted by a book club member ,Chibuzor Eferebo, ‘Violence is the language of the unheard’.

In his contribution, Prof. Alagoa shared wisdom when he pointed out that there were different approaches to seeking solutions to agitations,as shown by Ken Saro-wiwa and Asari Dokubo. We should attempt to understand those who choose the path of violence while realising that we have gone past the era where violence was needed as a tool for change. He said it is necessary to acknowledge the anger that the current situations raises in us and perhaps write about it,as some people have done, but after that, it is important to have hope for a better future.

The moderator concluded by reminding of the importance of oiling the wheel of change by deciding to do our best, devoid of corruption, which is the crux of the Niger Delta situation, in our ‘little corners’ and in time we will have the Nigeria of our dreams.

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