Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Bad news without political importance

The contradictions coming from Nigeria are as stark as those coming from various parts of the Iranian regime. As in Iran, it's difficult to determine if there are political meanings in the divisions. However, it's unlikely that the Nigerian contradictions will affect national politics.

In Nigeria, Fragile Hopes of Boko Haram Freeing Schoolgirls Are Dashed
The news from Nigeria sounded almost too good to be true — and so it appears to have been.

Two weeks ago, Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, the country’s top military official, announced that a cease-fire had been reached with the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, while another ranking government official spoke of an imminent deal to release the abducted schoolgirls…

Such appears to be the case this time as well. The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, appeared in a videotaped message released on Friday, according to Nigerian news accounts, dismissing any notion of a cease-fire and saying that the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by his group last spring had been married off…

Soon after the government’s declarations of a cease-fire, President Goodluck Jonathan — who has been roundly criticized for failing to stop Boko Haram or to get the girls back safely — announced that he would indeed run for the presidency again…

This uneasy status quo does not threaten Mr. Jonathan’s re-election prospects. Already hated in the north of Nigeria, he had little chance of winning that region in any case.

In the heavily populated south and west, by contrast, Boko Haram is perceived as an almost foreign phenomenon — not something that affects the average resident of Lagos, the commercial capital. Whether Mr. Jonathan is winning or losing the war against the militants is considered to be of secondary importance to many there. He remains at the top of the governing People’s Democratic Party, an immense patronage machine — a critical variable in Nigeria’s political system…

Nigeria’s Big Men Politics
Since the advent of independence in the continent in the late 1950s, Africa has seen its fair share of “Big Man Politics” – where power is concentrated in the hands of the leader (sometimes called the father of the nation) with benefits flowing down from him…

In Nigeria, what has evolved is a system that recognises one big man and 36 smaller big men. The President and the 36 Governors have empowered and entrenched themselves so much that at present, the 37 of them determine the fate of everybody in the country.

They rig elections, determine those that are to be Ministers, Ambassadors, Board Members, National and State Assembly Members. They empower their cronies, but disenfranchise, threaten, arrest and assassinate those that oppose them…

I wonder if Nigerians do not see that we are drifting towards a revolving door kind of politics where we are continuously fed with the same old political elites in new political offices. Amazingly, before they came to power, the current crop of politicians severely criticized the continuity of the old political elites in politics, blaming them for the economic, social and political malaise in the country. But are they any different from those before them? It can be argued that the situation we are in presently brings constant serious pains to the mind and the longer these political elites remain in the corridors of power, the worse it will become for the country, thus further pushing it towards the abyss…

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