Osaghae, an academic with a refreshingly neutral and understated approach to the maddening follies of his government, has produced a highly readable overview of Nigeria's politics, economy, and foreign relations. Rich in detail, his account is also a useful tour of earlier thematic treatments of the subject. Like other analysts, he finds the roots of Nigeria's ungovernability in the decisions of colonial officials to force essentially incompatible groups together under essentially unworkable systems of rule. He acknowledges the social and cultural factors that seem to thwart all efforts to coax Nigerian elites to play by Western-style rules of the game. His emphasis, however, falls on external causes of instability and economic failure that he believes other scholars have neglected: the unpredictability of the oil market, the crippling effects of debt, and the punitive approach of foreign lenders. He sees a glimmer of hope in the emergence of civil society as an effective political force in the 1990s, despite its lack of cohesion due to ethnic, regional, and religious factors.
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