The author’s eight years in government provide him with valuable insights into Nigeria’s “dysfunctional” political system.


The Accidental Public Servant

A detailed firsthand account of failed leadership and corruption in the Nigerian government.

The most populous nation on the continent, Nigeria is known as the Giant of Africa. But despite its oil reserves and other natural resources, its economy has been more of a dwarf. “We are...the disappointment of Africa,” laments El-Rufai in his stimulating but somewhat heavy-going account of eight years as a minister in Nigeria’s government (1999–2007), serving in the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. “I have just one motive in mind—to tell the story of my public service years to prepare the younger generation for the sorts of challenges they may face,” he says. The son of a bureaucrat, the author built a successful career as a quantity surveyor on construction projects. After “a series of accidents,” he was appointed to the government agency responsible for privatizing Nigeria’s public enterprises. In some of the book’s most compelling passages, he recalls encounters with the country’s endemic corruption and graft, including bid-rigging and kickback schemes. “I am here voluntarily to work, not to collect bribes,” he tells a deputy director of the privatization agency after being offered a “gift” of $250,000. Public servants in Nigeria, according to El-Rufai, have two choices—“to join the dysfunctional and corrupt system” or “to want to change the system for the better in a way that benefits the many rather than the few.” In 2003, El-Rufai got the high-profile job of minister for the federal capital territory of Abuja after refusing to pay bribes to get his confirmation through the Nigerian Senate. Instructed by Obasanjo to “clean up this city and make it work,” he presided over a real estate boom, but by the end of the president’s second term, he had antagonized other members of the political elite and, fearing for his life, went into exile in the United States. El-Rufai, preoccupied with bureaucratic minutiae of interest only to policy wonks, doesn’t bring Nigeria, its people and its culture alive. But in highlighting the failures of its political leadership, he has performed another public service.

The author’s eight years in government provide him with valuable insights into Nigeria’s “dysfunctional” political system.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481967402

Page Count: 704

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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