A. Carl LeVan. 2015. Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria

By Nwagbara, Uzoechi | African Studies Quarterly, June 2015 | Go to article overview

A. Carl LeVan. 2015. Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria


Nwagbara, Uzoechi, African Studies Quarterly


A. Carl LeVan. 2015. Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 282 pp.

Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria, is a book of five chapters excluding para-textual appendages. Chapter One focuses on "A Theory of Institutions, Preferences and Performance." "Veto Players in Nigeria's Political History since Independence" is the preoccupation of Chapter Two, while Chapter Three is on "The Impact of Nigeria's Veto Players on Local and National Collective Goods." Chapter Four is on "Analytical Equivalents in Ghana and Zimbabwe," and Chapter Five is based on "Madison's Model Unbound" dialectics.

A. Carl LeVan has been studying governmental performance in providing public goods in Africa--particularly in Nigeria--for a long time. A professor of political science at American University, he is well-known for his thought-provoking, dogged, and brilliant diagnoses of Nigeria's postcolonial condition, which has materialized in a corpus of publications. Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria is a seminal text with both qualitative and quantitative evidence that, as the publisher states, calibrates "policy processes, public performance, and Nigeria's inability, thus far, to reach its full potential in democracy, development, and provision of public goods."

Dictators and Democracy in African Development opens a new chapter to Chinua Achebe's apt phrase "the trouble with Nigeria" beyond the common factors such as "oil, colonialism, ethnic diversity, foreign debt, and dictatorship" (p. i). LeVan does this by explaining critically and rationally how the policy-making process explicates disparities in governmental performance better than other frequently mentioned factors indicated earlier. LeVan's proposition for this variation in explaining the trouble with Nigeria finds materiality in "veto player theory" as developed by George Tsebelis. The theory states that governmental malfunction or inept political leadership is broadly shaped and sustained by "individual or collective actors whose agreement is required for a change of the status quo" (Tsebelis 1995, p. 289). This political theorizing finds correspondence in Richard Joseph's concept called "prebendalism" in his Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic (1987). …

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