Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nigerian political values

As some textbooks report, the political elite in Nigeria hold mostly democratic values. However, one thing elite and the masses agree on is not very democratic. They agree that inequality is natural and normal.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, who is a novelist and a fellow with the African Leadership Institute, writes in this New York Times analysis about the difficulties that presents. Are there reasonable expectations for a democratic system in Nigeria if nearly everyone is convinced that some people have fewer abilities and rights than others?

In Nigeria, You’re Either Somebody or Nobody
In America, all men are believed to be created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. But Nigerians are brought up to believe that our society consists of higher and lesser beings. Some are born to own and enjoy, while others are born to toil and endure.

The earliest indoctrination many of us have to this mind-set happens at home. Throughout my childhood, “househelps” — usually teenagers from poor families — came to live with my family, sometimes up to three or four of them at a time. In exchange for scrubbing, laundering, cooking, baby-sitting and everything else that brawn could accomplish, either they were sent to school, or their parents were sent regular cash…

Househelps were widely believed to be scoundrels and carriers of disease. The first thing to do when a new one arrived was drag him off to the laboratory for blood tests, the results of which would determine whether he should be allowed into your haven. The last thing to do when one was leaving was to search him for stolen items…

Every family we knew had similar stories about their domestic staff. With time, we children learned to think of them as figures depressed by the hand of nature below the level of the human species, as if they had been created only as a useful backdrop against which we were to shine.

Not much has changed since I was a child. My friend’s daughter, who attends one of those schools where all the students are children of either well-off Nigerians or well-paid expatriates, recently captured this attitude while summarizing the plot of my novel to her mother. “Three people died,” the 11-year-old said, “but one of them was a poor man.”…

The average Nigerian’s best hope for dignified treatment is to acquire the right props. Flashy cars. Praise singers. Elite group membership. British or American accent. Armed escort. These ensure that you will get efficient service at banks and hospitals…

This somebody-nobody mind-set is at the root of corruption and underdevelopment: ingenuity that could be invested in moving society forward is instead expended on individuals’ rising just one rung higher, and immediately claiming their license to disparage and abuse those below…

Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest economies; it produces around two million barrels of crude oil per day. And yet, in 2010, 61 percent of Nigerians were living in “absolute poverty” — able to afford only the bare essentials of shelter, food and clothing. In one state in northern Nigeria, where extremist groups like Boko Haram originate, poverty levels that year were as high as 86.4 percent.

Economic growth will continue to bypass the majority, the gap between rich and poor will continue to widen, so long as we see ourselves as divided between somebodys and nobodys…
See also

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home