Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Why good governance in Nigeria is not enough

Political success in Nigeria has more to do with wealth, cleavages, and powerful mentors ("big men") than with successfully governing. Here's an example.

Meet the man who tamed Nigeria's most lawless city
He famously claims to be "just doing his job". But in a land where politicians are known for doing anything but, that alone has been enough to make Babatunde Fashola, boss of the vast Nigerian city of Lagos, a very popular man.

Babatunde Fashola
Confounding the image of Nigerian leaders as corrupt and incompetent, the 51-year-old governor has won near-celebrity status for transforming west Africa's biggest city, cleaning up its crime-ridden slums and declaring war on corrupt police and civil servants…

Yet arguably his biggest achievement in office took place just last week, and was done without a bulldozer in sight. That was when his country was officially declared free of Ebola, which first spread to Nigeria three months ago…

Mr Fashola turned a looming disaster into a public health and PR triumph. Breaking off from a trip overseas, he took personal charge of the operation to track down and quarantine nearly 1,000 people feared to have been infected…

For Mr Fashola's many supporters, it is also yet more proof that the 51-year-old ex-lawyer is a future president in the making, a much-needed technocrat in a country dominated far too long by ageing "Big Men" and ex-generals…

Born into a prominent Muslim family but married to a Christian, Mr Fashola trained as a lawyer and went into politics after being appointed chief of staff by the previous Lagos governor, Asiwaju Tinubu, a powerful politician often described as Mr Fashola's "Godfather". But while he has long enjoyed the backing of a political "Big Man", is his role as a rare defender of Nigeria's "Little Men" that has won him most support…

However, despite being re-elected with 80 per cent of the vote in 2011, the main hailed as Nigeria's brightest political hope in years is far from guaranteed a life in office. Having served two terms in office already, he is not allowed to run as Lagos governor again. And as a member of a minority tribe and the country's opposition All Progressives Congress, he currently lacks the political backing to go head to head against Goodluck Jonathan in next year's elections…

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