On A Platter Of Gold, How Jonathan Won And Lost Nigeria, is Bolaji Abdullahi’s account of President Goodluck Jonathan’s rise to power and his failed re-election bid. The historical non-fiction book doubles as a political thriller with razor sharp suspense, mad twists and an unrelenting pace. I approached the book with equal parts scorn and boredom; what more did I have to learn about President Jonathan’s failed election? Hadn’t I witnessed it in real time? And how was I to endure 300 pages of historical non-fiction, without falling asleep?
The reality was a pleasant surprise.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading On A Platter Of Gold. It was an entertaining, informative, transformative experience I can recommend. I pushed it into the hand of another sceptical reader and they were hooked right way!
Here are seven reasons to read the book:
Read it for the content
On A Platter Of Gold covers events within recent memory that form part of the lived experience of most students of Nigerian history. There is therefore no need to concern oneself with this book, right? Wrong.
Although most people followed the events of President Jonathan’s rise to power in real time, it would be erroneous to think that was enough. A hackneyed collection of newspaper clippings, social media memes and Internet videos might give glimpses into the events but they can’t replace this vivid, painstaking, insider account.
On A Platter of Gold assembles the data, and organises it to tell a story that leaves the reader satisfied. It goes to the origins of Nigerian democracy and the struggles of present day. Have you ever wondered how Goodluck Jonathan was chosen to be the PDP flag bearer? Have you ever wanted to know why the PDP imploded? Read this book.
Read It For The Experience
There is a joy-grief feeling every reader has at the end of a good book. It is like being filled with your favourite meal, you want to eat it again, but there is no space. That is the experience this book delivers. By using an omniscient point of view the writer is able to take you on an electric train ride from the creeks of Otukpo to the deserts of Kastina, the Abuja metropolis to the Sambisa forest without letting you lose interest or fall asleep. In twelve chapters, you get a masterclass in political party building, a handbook for succession planning and the post-mortem of an incumbent president’s failure at the polls.
It is hard to tell you more without giving too much away but this book makes you believe in time travel, makes you love history, makes you think about who is ruling/leading you and why.
Read It For The Humour
One thing that shocked me about On A Platter Of Gold was how funny it was. My hard copy (you should get one by the way) is full of scribbled ‘hehe’ notes and emojis. The book is full of things to laugh about. From the dashed hopes of politicians to the fickleness of rented protesters and the eternal praying president, there is so much that will have laughing out loud. Or smiling to yourself. Or scribbling in the margins. I never thought history could be humorous, this book changed my mind.
Read It For The Drama
Nigeria is the home to Nollywood; of one of the greatest home movie industries on the planet. We are drama, drama is us. And there is no better place to see our drama at work than in politics. On A Platter Of Gold offers generous helpings of drama in all forms. From characters whose skin erupt in Koranic verse to terrorists with ninety-nine lives and plots to steal an election that sound like a fantasy movie script, On A Platter Of Gold has it all.
Read It For The Questions
Before they had a chance to read the book some folk had already condemned it as lacking objectivity and being ‘full of lies.’
While author bias is real, this book appears to have been written to spur discourse rather than to take sides. There are points in the book that need closer scrutiny, further discussion. This can only happen once the book is read. I think the book raises questions of interest to the Nigerians from the South-Eastern Zone, The US government, The UK, PDP leadership, Nigerian feminists, Global security operatives and every student of history.
What are the lessons the South-East can leverage on to have a successful Presidential bid?
Is it true that the Us frustrated the Nigerian government’s anti-terrorist offensive? If so, why?
Why did the UK not provide more support?
What is needed for the PDP to rebuild, reform, resurrect?
Women are not portrayed in flatteringly in the book: Dezianni seems dishonest and pompous, the First Lady ignorant and loquacious, even Dora Akunyili looks naive and erratic. Is the writer to blame? Or are Nigerian women in politics just disappointing?
What should have been the global anti-terror response to Boko Haram? How does the response influence policies on handling similar cases when they arise?
Where do we go from here?
Read It For The Lessons
A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. And in On A Platter Of Gold, there are many mistakes.
For me, these mistakes were lessons: How Not To Choose Leaders, The Importance Of Consultation, Why Mentors Matter, The Best Time To Kill A Monster Is In The Craddle etc
Every reader will have their own deductions, this book is filled with teachable moments.
Read It For Posterity
We live in a fast changing world. But one thing that hasn’t changed is people’s love for stories. In a few years much of what is common knowledge (and keyboard outrage) will be forgotten. Reading a book like On A Platter of Gold will position you to offer sage counsel with historical accuracy (and hopefully modern use).
In any case you don’t want to be scratching your head when your grandkids read the book and want to know all about the Occupy Nigeria Protests, the Smuggled/Bungled South African arms deal and the Chibok Girls. I don’t. That is why I have read my copy, made my notes and stowed it safely in my library.
Have you read the book? Did you like it? Why would you recommend it? Why? Why not?