Nigeria : Nigeria: A Case Study Of Modern Africa


Well-Known Member
Aug 9, 2003

A article written by the senior editor of Al Ahram...

Nigeria's rites of passage from military dictatorship to democracy created a national consciousness that procures a Christian to preside over Muslims albeit not without birth pangs, postulates Gamal Nkrumah

"I can add colours to the chameleon , Change shapes with Proteus, for advantages" -- Shakespeare's Henry VI

Nothing in the way he has led his beloved Nigeria for the past year or so suggested that Goodluck Jonathan was going to fade discreetly into the background after Monday's presidential polls. He is fortunate by name and nature.

Which partially explains why Nigeria's president-elect, like Proteus, secured his archetypal status in his nation's history. Part of the potency of Nigeria's new president's propitious rise to power is that his faith has a resonance particular to the attributes of his faith.

For all the gloomy fascination that surrounds Nigeria, the country is poised for improvement. Plenty of progress has already been made. Bad elections, after all, are far better than none at all. A fledgling democracy is better than a dictatorship. Economically, Nigeria is surviving, not thriving -- yet according to latest World Bank estimates, Nigeria is destined to become Africa's largest economy, overtaking South Africa, by 2015.

One way of reconciling such anomalies is to stop looking at Nigeria in the old-fashioned way. Dyed-in-the wool politicians suspect that democracy can only cause calamity -- the kind of crises the country can ill afford. A neocolonial perspective confirms that that may be perfectly true.

Ask a typical Nigerian policymaker how they intend to squeeze growth from their sluggish economy and most pin their hopes on higher oil exports -- the country is, after all, the world's sixth largest oil exporter. Jonathan is no exception to this rule. The utter dependence on hydrocarbons has emerged as a curious source of national pride. This policy encourages Nigerian consumers to switch from expensive domestic goods to cheaper imports. Several factors have combined to bring about this sorry state of affairs.

Power in Nigeria has all too often changed hands through violent military takeovers. But the era of the classical African coup d'état is long over. Still, the memory of the terror of those military-run years lingers on. Three decades ago, the king of Afrobeat, human rights activist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Fela Kuti delivered his mother's coffin to Dodan Barracks, Lagos, then the official residence of Nigeria's then military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo. Fela Kuti's septuagenarian mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was hurled out of a window from her son's Kalakuta Republic, his unconventional commune and recording studio where the polygamist pop star and his seraglio, his harem, were housed. An improbable imbroglio ensued after the maverick musician released his revolutionary album Zombie, a scathing denunciation of Nigeria's military elite. In due course, Obasanjo assumed international respectability and acclaim after he replaced his military uniform with the more conventional civilian attire, the billowing robes of West Africa.

Goodluck Jonathan dons neither traditional garb nor military uniform, but favours the savvy "political suit" of West Africa and sports a matching hat. He is a man of his times. At over 246,000 and counting, he has more Facebook fans than the combined tally of British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Jacob Zuma. He is affable, easily approachable and skilled at social communication networking. In short, he is a man for the new Nigeria.

Yet there has always been a darker side to President Jonathan. Traditional West African political suits come in the cream and khaki shades of the Safari suit. Jonathan's are unmistakably dark. Whether that is simply a matter of taste, or is designed to disseminate a particular political message, is unclear. More sinister, however, is his hobnobbing with local and foreign businessmen and representatives of giant transnational corporations.

Oil accounts for 70 per cent of Nigeria's revenues and the agricultural and industrial development of the country has lagged behind the phenomenal growth rates of the energy sector.

Domestically, Jonathan needs to create jobs for the unemployed youth of Nigeria. And, not just in the oil-producing regions of the Niger Delta. His ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) is championed by the rich and powerful, the country's business community and its foreign partners. Outsiders, Jonathan insists, can help the development process along.

"My brothers and sisters, we are all winners," Jonathan declared promptly after winning this week's presidential poll in a nationwide televised address. "In this context there is no victor and no vanquished. We have demonstrated, even in our diversity, that the progress of Nigeria remains paramount for all." Precisely what sort of progress he has in mind remains a mystery to most of his countrymen and women. He is the first president of Nigeria who hails from the oil- rich Niger Delta southeastern region of the country, namely his native Bayelesa State, to be democratically elected.

Nigeria has one of the largest informal economies in Africa, perhaps the continent's largest -- reliable statistics are not available. Nigeria must reform its antiquated labour laws if the country's formal economy is to lure the jobless youth away from the illicit economies of narcotics and crime.

It is against this grim backdrop of unemployment and inflation that sectarian violence broke out as soon as the results of the presidential poll were announced. The disturbances were most pronounced in the northern predominantly Muslim states of Adamawa, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Plateau.

This has come as a bit of a blow to the nascent Nigerian democracy. Churches were faced with systematic arson attacks. Hundreds were reported killed and injured in the skirmishes that erupted in many of the country's 36 states and even in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. It is easy to see why the country got into such a mess. Diagnosis is often much more effortless than treatment. In the case of Nigeria, religious tensions, coupled with abject poverty, unemployment and inflation were allowed to fester.

Sometimes in politics stating the obvious can get you into big trouble. Should Christians and Muslims live together in a democratic Nigeria? The answer from many of the country's restive Christians in the predominantly northern states has long been no. But now a growing number of the country's Muslim communities are questioning the merits of cohabiting with Nigeria's Christians. This is especially so, now that a Christian president has been voted into office. Some voices plead for peaceful co-existence.

When history comes to write the sorry tale of confessional strife in Nigeria, the chief villains, will not be the victims of the conflict themselves, but the dithering politicians who hesitate to tackle the problem head on.

Ironically, nowhere is contempt for free enterprise, and its inter-connected evils of fabulous wealth and profits, more intense than in the peripheral and impoverished Muslim areas of northern Nigeria and the oil-producing but underdeveloped backwaters of the Niger Delta.

Jonathan's PDP garnered 22,500,000 votes Its nearest rival, the Congress for Political Change (CPC) party championed by many northern Muslims, and headed by a former military strongman Shehu Mohamed Buhari scooped some 12 million votes. Nuhu Ribadu's Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) came a poor third with just over two million votes.

"To see that the true perspective of the gospel of Jesus Christ is given to people without any contamination or mixture," is one of the most quoted objectives of Reverend Tunde Bakare, Buhari's running mate. Bakare was raised by his humble Christian mother -- in sharp contrast to the aristocratic Buhari who was brought up in the lap of luxury as a devout Muslim. Bakare, the token Christian, was born to a Muslim father he purportedly never knew. This left an indelible mark on the political and ideological orientations of this peculiar Pentecostal pastor.

Such Christian preachers strut unabashedly into the predominantly Muslim northern parts of the country vaunting their religion of salvation much to the chagrin of their Muslim hosts. At best, too much meddling with conservative Muslim sensibilities will condemn Christians to the status of undesirable intruders. At worst, it will undermine national unity in Nigeria on which the country's peace and prosperity depends. To many Muslim northerners, churches embody evil, Christian parishioners -- the devil incarnate. Perhaps it is time to let the churchgoers in on a dark secret. The truth is that they are unwitting instruments of unscrupulous politicians, both Muslim and Christian, who rack up huge profits as the public rails against the rapidly deteriorating living standards.

Against this backdrop, the devoutly Muslim Buhari and the equally pious Christian Bakare make for a perfect match. Bakare's wife, the indomitable Mrs B, as her husband's parishioners affectionately call her, has been instrumental in his entrepreneurial and political careers -- the proverbial woman behind the great man. Buhari's wives, even though not exactly in purdah, are hardly seen in public.

The five geo-political zones of Nigeria are split into predominantly Christian and traditional African animist religious ethnic groups on the one hand and primarily Muslim peoples on the other. Entrepreneur politician Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola, Fola Adeola for short, is the running mate of ACN's Nuhu Ribadu -- the anti-corruption chief patrol officer and a northern Muslim to boot. Ribadu got his great break in life when he was handpicked to head the anti-corruption squad. But even the best of these seasoned Muslim politicians could not take the place of pious Christian, loving and loyal like his Biblical namesake.

This narrative sleight of hand permits for the entry into the political history of Nigeria a southeastern Christian -- Goodluck Jonathan, the accidental heir. Why did Jonathan win when Buhari and Ribadu lost? This failure, by the way, was not for want of trying.

C a p t i o n : Nigeria's President-elect Goodluck Jonathan casts his vote in his native oil-rich Bayelesa State; dancers perform musical Fela Kuti in Lagos on polling day

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