With a population of around 180 million, Nigeria is the largest country in Africa, and accounts for 47% of West Africa’s population. It is home to at least 250 ethnic groups, 500 indigenous languages, and two major religions ― Islam and Christianity. The country has a long and complex history and contains numerous different cultural identities, and recently its problems with the militant Islamic group Boko Haram have been the focus of world attention. It is also the biggest oil exporter in Africa, with the largest natural gas reserves in the continent, but despite the prosperity this should bring, life expectancy is only 52, and 46% of its people live in poverty. However, it is a leading player within Africa, and its continued stability is of great importance internationally. Richard Bourne OBE is a journalist, author and educationist, and among his many posts was Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Institute and Head of the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit. He currently serves on the London board of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, and has written widely on international matters. His most recent books are Catastrophe:What went wrong in Zimbabwe, 2011, and Nigeria: a new history of a turbulent century which is being published by Zed Books this autumn.