Yinka Olatunbosun describes the autobiography of Admiral Alison Madueke titled “Riding the Storms-with God in my Sails” as a treasury of a turbulent but cherished history
Of all the titles and accolades accorded to this retired Chief of Naval Staff, Biafran war veteran, former Military Governor of Anambra and Imo States during his “pulling out” parade on March 30, 1995, a storyteller couldn’t have been one of them. In late 2019, he published his autobiography titled “Riding the Storms-with God in my Sails”, thus sealing his place amongst Nigerian literati with a demanding book that’s surprisingly entertaining.
The volume of the book itself is as intimidating asthe career of the author, Rear Admiral Alison Madueke. Perhaps it was intentional on his part to write a book that will earn a distinguished place on the shelf, in a library or wherever it can fit. In an almost cinematic experience, the story takes the reader on a life-long sail through the early days of a very ambitious young Nigerian of Igbo heritage to the pinnacle of his career.
A master storyteller, Madueke expresses self in “Riding the Storms”, sometimes simplifying naval vocabulary with his down-to-earth conversational style, yet devoid of pedestrian language. A reader doesn’t need to love the sea to appreciate the depth and power of imagination roused by the writer. Maduekedemystifies the life in public service by unearthing the pains and pleasures of being a Naval Staff, traversing all the continents, building international relations and watching his beloved country develop at an excruciatingly slow pace.
“Riding the Storm” is a mentor’s bible, replete with copious instances where the narrator’s integrity, courage, resilience and loyalty were put to test. What’s most incredible is the author’s unsentimental account of his role in the civil war days as a BiafranNaval staff.
Deliberately cautious and conscious of not making the same mistakes of finger-pointing or some biased ethnic defense of the morality of the warthat is the preoccupation of most writers who document that dark history of Biafra, Madueke highlights the humanitarian crises of the periodincluding details of near-death experiences at the Murtala International Airport and at the battlefront.
Away from that, his legendary delivery of three ships from Germany to Nigeria and his phenomenal rise through the ranks portray him as a heroic protagonist who sings the virtues of meritocracy, pragmatism and honesty.
His portrayal of other characters in the book says much his persona as a free-spirit. Madueke’s fatherwho is a devoted Jehovah’s witness and a successful entrepreneur constituted a role model and catalyst forthe author’s self-determinism in the story.
His love for his mother shone through his account of his childhood days as he demonstrates a strong power of recall in this book. Madueke dedicated separate chapters to his two wives, Uche (late) and Diezaniwhich strikes a reader as a clear delineation of the roles each played at different times in his life.
Generally, Madueke is not too critical of his characters even when he subtly hints at a few strained personal relationships but on national issues from the point of view of one who had held the reins of power at the state and federal government level, his poignant submission is evident in the matters of resource control, federal character, rule of law, infrastructural development and inclusive cabinet.
Like a smooth navigator, Madueke courted the tricky corners in his episodes of his encounters with former Military heads of state who were deemed as “tyrants.” He revealed the unreported yet interesting sides to their personalities without attempting to whitewash their perceived negative images.
Undoubtedly, “Riding the Storms” is a captivating read, succinctly told with slices of humour, complemented by a good measure of archival materials such as pictures of iconic moments, history-defining speeches and life-changing letters.This revealing autobiography is packed with themes of survival, self-discovery, ambition, nationalism and national unity.