Africa Program

Nigeria on the Brink

Project Expert

John Campbell
John Campbell

Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies

About the Project

Nigeria is the "Giant of Africa," with the largest population and highest gross domestic product on the continent. There has long been a partnership between Nigeria and the United States on strategic issues of mutual concern. Nigeria is sharply divided by religion and ethnicity. The government became nominally democratic in 1999. Subsequently, until 2011, the presidency alternated on an eight-year cycle between the predominately Muslim north and the Christian south. The election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, out of cycle in 2011 ended this arrangement. The 2011 election divided the country with the predominately Muslim north questioning the credibility of Jonathan's election. The resulting political instability is part of the context for a radical Islamist insurrection, called Boko Haram (loosely translated as, "Western education is forbidden"). There is the threat of the resumption of a separate insurrection in Nigeria's southern oil patch. With these security challenges overstretching Nigeria's resources, the partnership with the United States is largely moribund. Will the Nigerian government be able to successfully address its security and development challenges, and resume its strategic partnership with the United States? I address this question in my books, Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know, published in July 2018, and Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, now in its second edition, as well as the Nigeria Security Tracker and the blog Africa in Transition.

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