Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink

In This Review

Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink (Council on Foreign Relations Books)
By John Campbell
Rowman & Littlefield, 2010
216 pp. $29.95
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Part diplomatic memoir, part layman’s introduction to the country, Campbell’s book provides an excellent snapshot of Nigeria today. Campbell recounts key events in the country during his terms there as an American diplomat, including a spell as U.S. ambassador from 2004 to 2007. On several occasions, Campbell comments on U.S. timidity, notably Washington’s hesitancy to publicly voice its concerns about Nigeria’s deplorable levels of corruption or about the fraud and violence that have marred recent elections. Thankfully, in retirement, Campbell has none of this diplomatic reticence, and his book is a lively and sometimes highly critical analysis of the country’s political class, which is usually more interested in lining its pockets than in responding to the needs and aspirations of Nigerians. Campbell also draws a keenly observed portrait of recent elite politics, ending with President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death in 2010 and the emergence of the current head of state, Goodluck Jonathan.