Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria

Observers usually point to a standard set of factors to explain the failures of Nigeria, which has too often underperformed since winning its independence in 1960: poor leadership, ethnic heterogeneity, and the perverse effects of oil wealth. In this sweeping history of Nigerian politics and public policy, LeVan rejects those conventional explanations, arguing instead that the country has been undermined by the prevalence of “veto players,” which he defines as political and institutional actors—such as the legislature, powerful networks within the military, and regional pressure groups—that can block policy reform in order to gain private concessions for themselves. The more power veto players have enjoyed, the less Nigeria has been able to achieve desirable economic outcomes. LeVan’s thesis raises some questions, such as why the number of veto players varies across Nigeria’s postcolonial history. But he has written a provocative and insightful analysis of the Nigerian political economy that rings true.

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