This handy primer went to press shortly before the mysterious deaths of General Sani Abacha and Chief Moshood Abiola opened the way for a long-delayed return to civilian rule. Time will tell whether the author's deep pessimism about Nigeria's future remains justified, but it is hard to read the evidence any other way. Collectively, Nigerians seem never to have missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Without miring readers in excess detail, this compact work reviews the country's historical susceptibility to coups, debilitating regional and ethnic rivalries, economic mismanagement, and corruption on a scale that has earned it Transparency International's number one world ranking on its list of corrupt states. Conventional wisdom blames Nigeria's woes on its predatory military and political elites, but an apathetic and cynical citizenry also accounts for the squandering of its vast potential. Some observers believe that South Africa's emergence as a credible contender for continental leadership could compel Nigerians to improve their economic and political performance. Others, like the author, believe that Nigeria's conflicting historical, social, and cultural endowments have produced a state that simply "does not work and probably cannot work."