Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, October 04, 2010

Why things are different

Jeremy Weate, in Naijablog quotes a comparison of Nigeria and Indonesia by Peter Cunliffe-Jones of the BBC. Indonesia might not appear in many comparative government courses, but the comparison is worth looking at for its efforts to explain how the two political cultures developed so differently.

How Indonesia overtook Nigeria
An interesting comparison between Indonesia and Nigeria in a personal account of his time in both countries by Peter Cunliffe-Jones here.  Both countries were created by European powers just over 100 years ago; both countries were rich in palm oil and in recent decades have amassed wealth from the discovery of oil and gas.  And yet, the developmental difference between the two is now stark.  For instance, in Indonesia, life expectancy is now 70; in Nigeria it is 47…

Perhaps, in the final analysis, the difference in models of corruption and commercial contracts boils down to a stronger civil society in the archipelago state.  In which case, the lesson Nigeria can learn from Indonesia is the importance of building up a healthy civil society, which includes non-governmental organisations, the media and religious organisations.  The work is still all ahead.

How Indonesia overtook Nigeria
From the air, the place certainly looked familiar.

I had never before been to Jakarta, the chaotic and teeming capital of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago.

But, as the plane dodged in and out between the clouds, there it lay below. And just as I had been told it would, it looked like my former home - Nigeria.

"Indonesia and Nigeria?" I'd protested to the friend who first suggested the comparison to me some weeks earlier.

"They're 7,000 miles apart. One's Africa, one's Asia. There's no comparison to make."…

Certainly, Indonesia has many troubles. But today, for all its problems, Indonesia is holding elections that the world applauds, while Nigeria's last elections, in 2007, were said to be the worst in Africa that year.

So why the discrepancy? The reasons most commonly given for the trouble with Nigeria - for its failure to meet its enormous potential as an African giant - are many and complex. They range from the legacy of colonial rule to the problems of a divided nation, and the impact of the so-called oil curse...

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