An impassioned, eye-opening take on a critical African nation.


Nigeria: A Failed State


Political repression, rampant corruption, ethnic and sectarian strife, crumbling infrastructure, energy shortages, and an economy hooked on oil and mining all make Africa’s most populous country a basket case, according to this hard-hitting jeremiad.

Debut author Nwadiaru ranges through Nigeria’s history since it gained independence in 1960, finding in it a story of vast potential and natural resources that have been squandered by misrule. He gives rundowns of the many coups and military regimes that have disfigured the country, but he finds periods of elected civilian rule scarcely better; he describes President Olusegun Obasanjo, elected in 1999 after 15 years of military rule, as “the most brutal and arrogant leader Nigeria has ever had” and notes that his successor ruled Nigeria for three months from a Saudi hospital. Nwadiaru exposes the toxic political culture that underpinned these dysfunctional regimes, which included pervasive violence against opposition politicians, journalists, labor unions, human rights groups, and indigenous organizations; omnipresent corruption involving everyone from local officials to first ladies; cunning politicos who manipulated and subverted even well-intentioned leaders; and an ambient “moral laxity” he sees in Nigerian society that seems resigned to gross ethical compromises. From politics the rot has spread, he contends, giving the country bad roads, inadequate schools and health care, a skimpy and unreliable electricity supply, a steep decline in farm productivity, a dependence on royalties from an oil industry that has bred insurgency in oil-rich areas; and a moribund economy that makes talented Nigerians flee the country. Although the book could use a stronger copy edit, Nwadiaru’s prose is for the most part lucid, well-organized, and stuffed with telling details. (Occasionally, though, it bogs down in too much detail, as in a 20-page reprint of anti-corruption statutes.) The author’s anguish at the conditions in his country is palpable, but he still delivers clear analysis and measured judgments on problems and needed reforms. Americans who know Nigeria mainly for its Islamic Boko Haram terrorists and internet scams will find this book an informative guide to the country’s larger discontents.

An impassioned, eye-opening take on a critical African nation.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63268-927-6

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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