Nigerian Political Modernity and Postcolonial Predicaments.

Author:Larson, Zeb
Position:AFRICAf - Book review

Falola, Toyin. Nigerian Political Modernity and Postcolonial Predicaments. Austin, TX: Pan-African University Press, 2016.

Toyin Falola's Nigerian Political Modernity and Postcolonial Predicaments examines the long history of Nigerian politics with the aim of explaining how the country's government came to be so dysfunctional in the present. Falola begins by analyzing the legacy of indirect rule in Nigeria, showing it to be a precursor to the fragmentation Nigeria has experienced (p. 176). Falola then discusses the effects of military rule, an overdependence on oil revenue to hold the country together, the weakness of Nigerian democracy, and the country's troubling contrasts of extreme wealth and poverty. He highlights the shortfalls of Nigerian nationalism, noting that it has been compromised by ethnic ties and the socioeconomic links forged by those ties.

Falolas thesis is compelling. He argues that underdevelopment, weakness in the country's democratic structures and in civil society, and ethnic division have compromised the Nigerian state and need to be overcome if the state is to succeed. To combat underdevelopment, genuine economic development that would equitably distribute the wealth Nigeria generates would need to take place and that can happen only through democracy and social activism. Falola makes clear that the electoral machinery of democracy is insufficient to produce a functioning Nigerian state; it needs to be accompanied by an actual democratizing effect that would come from economic development. For democracy to flourish, the country needs a strong civil society that can hold the country's political structures accountable. This would be the best means of undermining groups that thrive in a dysfunctional state, such as Boko Haram.

Falolas arguments about the weakness of civil society in Nigeria and elsewhere are compelling, building on work done by scholars such as Robert Fat-ton. However, the concrete specifics of solutions are in some ways wanting in Falola's study. Although Falola devotes two chapters to democracy building and social activism, he only tangentially comments on lessons that might be of use, such as the US civil rights movement. Instead, he devotes considerable time to the discussion of political turmoil in the Niger Delta. It might have been more useful to examine civil society actors in greater depth, considering which ones might be of use in the future or what those civil society actors might do to...

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