My Nigeria: Five Decades of Independence


His nineteenth-century cousin, paddled ashore by slaves, twisted the arms of tribal chiefs to sign away their territorial rights in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Sixty years later, his grandfather helped craft Nigeria’s constitution and negotiate its independence, the first of its kind in Africa. Four decades later, Peter Cunliffe-Jones arrived as a journalist in the capital, Lagos, just as military rule ended, to face the country his family had a ...

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My Nigeria: Five Decades of Independence

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His nineteenth-century cousin, paddled ashore by slaves, twisted the arms of tribal chiefs to sign away their territorial rights in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Sixty years later, his grandfather helped craft Nigeria’s constitution and negotiate its independence, the first of its kind in Africa. Four decades later, Peter Cunliffe-Jones arrived as a journalist in the capital, Lagos, just as military rule ended, to face the country his family had a hand in shaping.
Part family memoir, part history, My Nigeria is a piercing look at the colonial legacy of an emerging power in Africa. Marshalling his deep knowledge of the nation's economic, political, and historic forces, Cunliffe-Jones surveys its colonial past and explains why British rule led to collapse at independence. He also takes an unflinching look at the complicated country today, from email hoaxes and political corruption to the vast natural resources that make it one of the most powerful African nations; from life in Lagos’s virtually unknown and exclusive neighborhoods to the violent conflicts between the numerous tribes that make up this populous African nation. As Nigeria celebrates five decades of independence, this is a timely and personal look at a captivating country that has yet to achieve its great potential.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Mr. Cunliffe -Jones has produced a sweeping yet intimate portrait of his and his distinguished family’s sojourn in Africa’s most populous and complicated nation – Nigeria.  It is a work that deserves widespread critical attention. A triumph!"—Chinua Achebe

“Peter Cunliffe-Jones paints a vivid portrait of Nigeria's hydra-headed travails in this passionate, intensely personal book…a vivid portrait [and the author has] a delightful knack for illustrating his points with anecdotes and stories that are at once wrenching and comic.”—The Washington Post
"Offers some challenging thinking about the nature of a country for which Cunliffe-Jones clearly feels great affection...Pleasingly he quotes Nigerians rather than foreign experts, and tackles religious tensions, oil wealth and woes, and the everyday problems of corruption...Cunliffe-Jones marshals his impressive knowledge of the country to seek out reasons for hope."—Times Literary Supplement
“High hope and crushing disappointment runs through My Nigeria, a chronicle of Africa's most populous country from the moment of its independence from Britain in 1960 to its troubles today.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Many thought provoking scenes … an important book."—The Guardian Nigeria

“Peter Cunliffe-Jones, a veteran journalist, follows in the footsteps of his forefathers—a colonizer and an administrator—and serves up a must read for anybody looking to understand Africa’s most dynamic country. In this empathetic, keenly-observed, multigenerational memoir, Cunliffe-Jones expertly lays out the challenges facing Nigeria as it approaches 50 years of independence and finds itself once again on the brink.”—Stephan Faris, author of Forecast

"An amazing book, it captures the essence of Nigeria brilliantly. It is the best work I have read on Nigeria."—Adunola Abiola, daughter of the late M.K.O. Abiola.

"Nigeria is a big subject, but Cunliffe-Jones cuts it down to size.  Enriched by his own experience and his family's own role in the country's past, this vivid book is more than a history.  It is like stumbling upon a time capsule."—Robert Calderisi, author of The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working

“A very readable history of Nigeria, a personal memoire and a family history all in one book. Peter Cunliffe-Jones has produced a warm and enlightening introduction to this huge, dynamic and fascinating country and its damaged past. Intriguing and sometimes shocking it explains why Nigeria today is the frustrated giant of Africa.”—Richard Dowden, author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles

"This is an excellent, readable book both for those who think they know Nigeria and those who are just curious about the country."— Father Matthew Kukah, Leading Nigerian commentator

"As Nigeria celebrates  50 years of independence this book aids the understanding of both the colonial legacy and the challenges facing the country. Written in a personal manner by a veteran journalist whose family have been deeply involved in Nigeria’s history, this very readable account is a worthy addition to the corpus of post-colonial history books, and should be of interest to both historians and the general public."Dr. Maggie Canvin,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230620230
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Cunliffe-Jones has been a foreign correspondent for over 20 years for The Economist, The Independent and the Paris-based Agence France Presse news agency where he is now a senior editor. Since 1990 he has reported from western Europe, the Balkans, West Africa, and East Asia. He is today the agency’s head of English-language multimedia news. From 1998 to 2003 he was AFP bureau chief in Lagos, Nigeria. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents


Prologue Three Arrivals 1

Chapter 1 A Place of Great Potential 11

Chapter 2 The Troubles of Nigeria 23

Chapter 3 Conquest 41

Chapter 4 Another Man's Home 63

Chapter 5 My Family Connection 75

Chapter 6 Civil War and Bloodshed 89

Chapter 7 Misrule and Plunder 103

Chapter 8 What You Left Behind 113

Chapter 9 Two Hours from Singapore 119

Chapter 10 The Cost of Oil 125

Chapter 11 Corruption and Trust 147

Chapter 12 Divided You Fall 163

Chapter 13 Stamp Your Feet: Two Histories of Protest 179

Chapter 14 Dreams of a New Nigeria 195

Epilogue The Point of Departure 213

Key Dates in Nigerian History 219

Notes 223

A Selected Bibliography 229

Index 232

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