Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let's pretend

Let's pretend you're an average Nigerian.

You're one of 170 million people. You're likely to be about 20 years old. There's a 50-50 chance that you live in a city, but since 70% of the jobs are for farmers, the average Nigerian probably lives in a rural area. Your income is probably below US$2.00 per day.

If you're male, you completed 10 years of school and are literate. If you're female, you completed 8 years of schooling and are literate. You have 4 siblings and live in a house without running water or sanitary facilities. You might have a village well for drinking water.

Now, as an average Nigerian, how would you respond to the following news story? How much of it would you understand? What message about government and politics would you take away from this report?

My assumption is that students in the USA (most of you) will find the news report confusing. Would the confusion be different from that of the average Nigerian?

Another assumption I'd make is that there are Nigerians (besides the reporters) for whom this news story is not confusing and to whom the people involved are not unfamiliar. So the reporting becomes a good example of one of the differences between the elite political culture and the grassroots political culture in Nigeria.

Go look at the whole article from This Day, not just the excerpt below. It can be a valuable exercise.

N44 Million Bribery Scandal Rocks House Committee
The probe of the role of regulatory agencies in the crash of the Nigerian capital market assumed a dramatic twist Thursday as the Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Aruma Oteh, accused the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market of demanding N44 million from the regulatory agency…

The drama in the House began just as the probe panel was settling down to the third day of its business.

Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, Hon. Herman Hembe, motioned to the SEC boss to take her place at the "dock" and immediately, she raised a point of order, alleging bias and accusing the panel of not giving her fair hearing on the issues in contention since the investigation began on Tuesday.

Oteh alleged that the committee demanded the money as the agency's contribution towards funding the public hearing…

She claimed that her refusal to part with the money appeared to have angered members of the panel and resulted in their seeming bias against her in the conduct of the investigations…

She said: "This has been a kangaroo court. Not even in Idi Amin's Uganda did we have this type of public hearing. None of the documents before the committee came formally from SEC and this is of great concern to me. I do not think that it is appropriate for you to have gathered information from the SEC without even asking us to verify that information, to respond to those issues that you already made the judgement that you made yesterday…

"When I took this job, I was warned that when you fight corruption, it will fight back but I did not know that the fight would come from the House Committee on Capital Market."

However, these allegations did not deter the panel from continuing with the investigation as the lawmakers also raised counter allegations bordering on poor corporate governance as well as breach of government policy on monetisation of public procurement under her watch…

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