Article written

  • on 27.03.2015
  • at 04:46 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Nigeria: What is to be done? 0

This Saturday, March 28, Nigerians vote again. What is at stake? And what happens after the elections? We brought together a group of scholars to explore some of these issues–an assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan, the nature of opposition party politics, religion, ethnic politics, security, among others–in a new, free ebook, “Nigeria: What is to be done?.” Below we publish the introduction.

Since Nigeria returned to civil rule in May 1999, every election has been labeled by scholars and general observers as the most pivotal and most momentous in the country’s history. Yet, irrespective of their outcomes, the country has hobbled along, poised, all too familiarly, between the potentiality of glory and the probability of disaster. Nigeria has not exactly flourished, but it has not disintegrated either, even if Boko Haram, with its sworn determination to impose a semblance of a Paleolithic political order, has bitten off a not insignificant chunk of territory. Whatever it is then that throws the commentariat into regular panic every four years, it is most certainly not just a fear of possible physical collapse, but something definitely deeper. It is, one suspects, a philosophical regret that, perhaps with every electoral cycle that produces the ‘wrong’ victor, the country drifts further away from the possibility of genuine political renaissance.

True to form, the March 28 presidential election is being billed as a make-or-break affair, the last opportunity for Nigerians to liberate their country from the clutches of those who have held it to ransom for fifty odd years and some, and who continue to milk it for the exclusive gratification of a small elite. It is a tantalizing prospect, when you think of it—get this one election right, and all else shall be added unto you. Except that when you are dealing with a country so complex and troubled, and so marinated in its own contradictions like Nigeria, it is going to require more than a single election—or elections in toto for that matter—to have a shot at getting things right.

This is not to diminish the significance of March 28. For one, it offers an opportunity to take the country back, if we can call it that, from an incumbent who is not known for being cerebral, and whose sheer maladroitness has come as a real shock to Nigerians, many of whom, it should be remembered, have been conditioned to expect a basic level of incompetence from their leaders. For another, there is a real chance to upstage the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), winner by all means necessary of all presidential elections since 1999, if only for the symbolism of leveling the playing field and keeping honest a ruling coalition that, with the passing of every electoral cycle, grows in entitlement and diminishes in moral stature and social responsibility.

Yet, and not for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, the alternative is not so easy to embrace. Indeed, in matters of political substance and strategic vision, it is hardly an alternative at all. If, on the one hand, the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan seems incapable of communicating the most basic ideas about political goods and social justice without falling over, General Buhari on the other treats the past and any suggestion of moral reckoning as anathema. At a critical historical moment, therefore, when the yearning of millions of Nigerians for a leader of some distinction could not be more palpable, circumstances have conspired- once again- to saddle Nigeria with two perfectly unacceptable candidates.

Continue reading on: Africa is a Country

by Ebenezer Obadare

Photo Credit: Africa is a Country

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