Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

One analysis of Nigerian politics

Nasir El-Rufai (a senior policy advisor to President Obasanjo and an administrator of several of his programs) offers us this analysis of the crisis in Nigerian government and politics. How well could your students identify his biases and the counter arguments of other Nigerian politicians?

Time for a New Nigerian President
The return of Nigeria's long-absent President Umaru Yar'Adua to the capital city of Abuja in late February has thrown the West African country into a dangerous existential crisis. The president is still apparently incapacitated, but his cadres are certainly not -- and they are doing all they can to remain in power. Yar'Adua's henchmen now threaten not only the constitutional succession process… but also Nigeria's very stability…

Yar'Adua's inner circle has shown itself quite adept at spreading falsehoods -- misinforming and misleading Nigerians into mass violence if necessary -- to preserve its hold on power. Since the crisis began, the presidency has been framed as if it were a rotating office, traded every eight years between the supposedly Christian South and Muslim North…

[U]ntil their firing last week when Jonathan dissolved the cabinet, Yar'Adua's ministers were fighting tooth and nail to stay in office, clinging to the rents and patronage that came with their posts…

There is also a more direct human cost to all this; look no further than Jos, where the perpetrators of the recent violence took advantage of the power vacuum presented by the current political struggle…

The political mayhem and the ethnic tensions fomented by the Yar'Adua faction have pushed Nigeria closer than ever either to a repeat of the country's 1967-1970 civil war… or the return of military intervention… Military leaders resolutely believe in the integrity of the Nigerian state, so if the country were to approach the brink of disintegration, they would likely step in. Goodbye, Nigerian democracy...

What's needed now is a clean sweep of the administration to remove potential troublemakers, which Jonathan has begun with his cabinet shuffle…

But we all need to use a fresh lens when looking at Nigeria. Backroom deals in which political elites negotiate the fate of Nigeria's 150 million people are a relic of the past -- or they should be. The North-South power rotation, or "zoning" arrangement, that pretends to offer stability to Nigeria's ethnically diverse population has morphed into a convenient justification for self-centered politicians.

Nigeria is too big and has too much going for it to be allowed to fail. Despite the political crisis, the green shoots of real democracy are appearing across the country. Some state governors, such as Raji Fashola of Lagos and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers are beginning to deliver services to the people. Civil society is stronger than ever, empowered through new technologies, including text-messaging and social-media organizing. The international community must respond to what Nigeria could be -- and not remain captive to memories of its recent past. Nigerians must not be constrained by those who have a vested interest in the old way of doing business.

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