This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis

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9780140298840: This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis

'This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house has fallen.' Chinua Achebe Nigeria is one of the most complex and fascinating countries in the world. It is staggeringly diverse, its population (twice that ofBritain's) is split into some 300 different ethnic groups and its geography ranges from the dense tropical jungles of the south to the arid Sahel of the north. One in six of all Africans live in Nigeria. THIS HOUSE HAS FALLEN is both a gripping account of the contemporary crisis in a country seemingly always on the edge of a nervous breakdown and an evocation of the reality of day to day life under impossible circumstances.

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Product Description:

The world's tenth most populous country, a pot-pourri of languages and peoples, amazing dynamism and fabulous oil reserves, Nigeria is the pivot on which Africa turns. Yet to many outsiders, it is also a byword for chaos and corruption, military coups and repression, poverty and drug trafficking. Karl Maier explores the crisis points and the rapidly rising religious and ethnic tensions which threaten the country's survival, and shows us why it matters to us all if things in Nigeria continue to fall apart.

Review:

As Karl Maier makes clear in the preface to his diligent, urgent study of Africa's largest nation, Nigeria is not a developing country, but an underdeveloping one. Rich in natural resources, since the British departed in 1960, "the bastard son of imperialism" has gone from being the premier African voice to a dissenting cacophony made up of its various ethnic, geographic and religious groupings. At the start of the new Millennium, Nigeria looks in danger of succumbing to regionalism, the alter ego of globalisation, and could descend into a disastrous turmoil of regional violence unprecedented since the Biafran war. This is the third, and worst, scenario envisaged by Maier, as he concludes what is a richly researched and vigorous survey of the country and its people. Maier was an African correspondent for Western newspapers for 10 years, and reported from Nigeria from 1991 to 1993. He opens his account with the inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, following it with swift analyses of definingly Nigerian tensions, such as election monitoring, the numerous military coups, the battle of the Ogoni people in the Niger delta against oil producers and their own government (explored elsewhere by Ken Wiwa's In the Shadow of a Saint, a memoir of his father, Ken Saro-Wiwa), religious tensions between Muslims and non-Muslim communities, Sharia rule and the survival of the Igbo people.

What elevates Maier's book beyond being merely highly competent journalism are his encounters with the Nigerian peoples, whose outrageous guile and passionate beliefs, whether in a religion, a tribe, an ethos or simply themselves, are what makes the country unique and vital. One marvellous episode sees a riot of thieving by police and soldiers as Obasanjo makes his speech, and words are looted as liberally, with the quick wit of the repressed. The future will tell which of Maier's scenarios will prevail--a new democratic order, the status quo of economic haemorrhaging, or an ethnic bloodbath--but "God is a Nigerian", or so the motto runs, and Maier holds out cautious hope that Nigeria will survive to fulfil something of its vast potential, before the tapestry unravels too far. --David Vincent

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Maier, Karl
Published by Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (2002)
ISBN 10: 0140298843 ISBN 13: 9780140298840
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