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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 .

Transition without End
Larry Diamond, Anthomy Kirk-Greene & Oyeleye Oyediran eds

(London: Lynne Rienner, 1997)
515pp. Index. Hb.: ISBN 1-55587-591-2. 43.95
Distributed by the Eurospan Group

The June 1998 "cardiac crisis" which ended the brutal regime of Nigerian despot Sani Abacha makes the volume under review exceedingly timely. Ably edited and assembled, this collection of empirically detailed, high quality essays brings together revised versions of papers from two conferences -- one in Lagos and the other at Stanford -- in 1990 and 1991. The assembled chapters provide a comprehensive look at the politics of the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, Abacha's most immediate military predecessor. Readers are thus provided the background information and analysis necessary to understand the current installment of Nigeria's seemingly endless transition to civilian rule. Babangida ruled Nigeria from his bloodless coup of August 1985 until August 1993, when he was forced out after refusing to accept the valid results of the free and fair presidential elections of June 12, 1993. The interim regime of civilian Ernest Shonekan proved to be nothing more than a temporary station on the way to Abacha's seizure of power in November 1993. Abacha, no friend to human rights, saw to it that the victor in those elections, Social Democratic Party candidate Moshood Abiola, remained in jail as long as he remained in power.

A striking and most welcome aspect of this collection is that the vast majority of the contributors are Nigerian social scientists. The quality of their scholarship indicates that there has been, and already for some time, a genuine decolonization of social scientific knowledge about Nigeria. While all of the essays are good, I especially commend to those with an interest in ethnicity and cultural pluralism the fine chapters by Bola Akinterinwa and Rotimi Suberu on the 1993 crisis. Both analyses of the role of ethnicity in Nigerian politics are subtle and intelligent. Also of interest are the perceptive essays by Daniel Bach on ethnicity, federalism and the question of who is considered to be "indigenous" to a particular corner of the country, and the chapters by Rotimi Suberu (from a southern perspective) and Omar Ibrahim (from a northern perspective) which treat the increasingly visible role of religion in Nigerian politics. The latter essay calls attention to the phenomenon of intra-Islamic conflict. The volume also contains a good index and a useful political chronology. In sum, specialists on Nigeria as well as others with an interest in the current wave of democratization will find this a rewarding volume.

Michael G. Schatzberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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