The Trouble with Nigeria

Article excerpt

THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA

Levi A. Nwachuku and G. N. Uzoigwe, eds. Troubled Journey: Nigeria since the Civil War. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2004. xxviii + 340 pp. Appendix. Bibliography. Index. Maps. Photographs. Tables. $60.00. Paper.

Robert I. Rotberg, ed. drafting the New Nigeria. Boulder, CoIo.: Lynne Rienner, 2004. x + 273 pp. List of Acronyms. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Maps. Tables. $55.00. Cloth.

Ayo Olukotun. Repressive State and Resurgent Media Under Nigeria's Military Dictatorship, 1988-98. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2004. Research report no. 126. 136 pp. SEK 100. Paper.

Osita Agbu. Ethnic Militias and the Threat to Democracy in Post-transition Nigeria. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2004. Research report no. 127. 53 pp. Bibliography. Appendixes. SEK 100. Paper.

Timothy Tseror. Democratic Rule in Nigeria. Jos, Nigeria: Greenworld Publishing Company Ltd., 2002. ix + 93 pp. Bibliography. Index. Price not reported. Paper.

Nigeria remains one of the most important and fascinating countries in Africa, with abundant human and material resources. If these could be harnessed effectively, Nigeria could easily become one of the most influential countries in the world. The country has played a leadership role in everything from the liberation of southern Africa to the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, and the attempted stabilization of Liberia and other states in the region.

The decline of Nigeria, although not as severe as the decline and even collapse of other states in Africa, has saddened all who love her and disheartened all who had hoped for great things from independent Africa. Today Nigeria is better known for the "scam spam" that clutters up Internet mailboxes around the world than for its great authors, musicians, and other creative people. Massive investments in industry have failed to industrialize the country; the hope of post-Biafra, oil-boom Nigeria has given way to cynicism, corruption, and despair. The great religiosity of Nigerians has become less a call to righteousness than a reason to murder followers of other religions. Who can ponder Confucius's famous statement that "the material prosperity of a country does not consist in material prosperity, but in righteousness" without thinking of Nigeria? Understanding the decline, if not quite yet fall, of Nigeria is one of the most important tasks facing Africanist scholars today.

If journalism is the first draft of history, the books under review here represent its second draft. They are all concerned with recent events in Nigeria, are written by social scientists and historians, and often use journalistic accounts as primary sources. They seek to make sense of the recent past in order to help readers understand contemporary events in Nigeria. All make important contributions to our understanding of recent developments in Nigeria, though in different ways.

Probably the most useful book to the widest number of readers of the African Studies Review would be Troubled Journey: Nigeria since the Civil War. It is a reference history of Nigeria over the past few decades, and incorporates most of the events and personalities that those writing about or working in Nigeria need to know. It could well serve as a textbook for political science classes about Nigeria or Africa in general. The book opens with two survey chapters to set the context, the first dealing with Nigeria before independence and the second with Nigeria after independence. Then follow nine chapters about post-Civil War Nigeria, organized by administration or regime, with a concluding chapter speculating on the future of Nigeria.

Troubled Journey not only contains much important information, it also makes a number of important analytical points. The authors note that Nigeria, both as a colony and as an independent country, has been dominated by the military; at the same time, the politicization of the military has led to a militarization of Nigerian politics. …