Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Words, hope, and actions

I've been paying attention to government and politics in Nigeria for over 50 years. My early optimism was created by a college acquaintance and by a US State Department bulletin extolling the potential of the new nation in the early 1960s.

Since then my attitude has been shaped, mis-shaped, distorted, and corrected by events and people. Sometimes all my hopes for Nigeria were dashed. Sometimes my optimism was restored.

In spite of the omen of the '93 election, the recent election makes me more hopeful that Nigeria's democratic political culture can become more effective. And President Buhari's speech adds to my hopes. The old disciplinarian has a good speech writer, good advisers, and the good sense to give the speech they produced for him. Of course, words are just words. Behavior and policies will be even more telling.

Nigerian President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari Sets Out His Agenda
Nigeria’s president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, did not smile while making his acceptance speech on Wednesday — understandably, as terrorism and corruption were his main talking points.

A day after piling up substantial vote totals against the incumbent president, Mr. Buhari, a former general who once rose to power in a military coup, further consolidated something extraordinary for Nigeria: the peaceful passing of power from one political party to another through the ballot box.

The country is now a democratic nation like others, Mr. Buhari suggested Wednesday…

But in his remarks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Mr. Buhari also bluntly enumerated two scourges in this giant democracy: the ruthless onslaught of the Boko Haram militant group and the “evil of corruption,” as he put it…

On Wednesday, he focused more on the challenges posed by corruption than on the dangers of Boko Haram, perhaps indicating a veteran soldier’s disdain for the group as a true military threat…

He made it clear that, falling oil prices aside, he sees [corruption] as the country’s top economic problem, telling the audience at Abuja’s International Conference Center that “such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy.” He promised to “end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival.”…

Of course, other Nigerian politicians have promised to end corruption, only to fail or even steal with abandon afterward. But there is some reason to think Mr. Buhari may hew more closely to his promises. As military ruler in 1984 and 1985, he did not enrich himself. And he ruthlessly pursued those whom he accused of corruption.

“Corruption will not be tolerated by this administration, and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation,” he said Wednesday.

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