Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nigeria Finds a Fresh Voice

By: ralph geeplay

Jonathan and his campaign slogan.

The recent election in Nigeria is a hopeful sign that Africa is moving forward. This is Nigeria after all, a country once known for military coups and dictatorships, and where in essence free and fair elections as in most of all Africa are still a taboo.

It is interesting to note that as the April 16 vote tallying began pouring in, it became evident, the elections confirmed the deep-seated divide that has polarized Nigerian politics for decades. As projected, Jonathan got 57% of the votes and his rival, General Buhari won by 31%. Jonathan's victory was garnered in the Christian-majority southern states, while General Buhari's support came from the Muslim north. Nonetheless, the elections were a victory for all of Africa and Nigeria.

By any yardstick, Nigeria is an interesting place to take a peek. It represents, quintessentially, the African powerhouse that has been held back for many decades by corruption. "Nigerians are all too familiar with the curse of the vast oil wealth, which largely bypasses local villagers and flows into the pockets of the urban elites, grasping politicians and multinational corporations," says Finbarr O’Reilly who watches development there.

The military dictatorships of the bygone era in Nigerian life were a menace, and it did everything to stay at the helm of power. A case in point was the 1993 elections which General Ibrahim Babangida chaired. Not only was Moshood Abiola denied the presidency in the polls seen as fair, but Abiola, a wealthy millionaire and charismatic Nigerian nationalist would later go to jail and died from the ill-treatment and frustration of having being denied the right to lead his people.

The military history of Africa’s most populous country is never complete without citing the acts of General Sani Abacha. The misrule of General Abacha was the icing on the cake. He hid behind his trademark dark shades and led with iron fists, in the process hoarding a huge portion of the country's wealth in his Swiss banks accounts. The execution of the Ogoni activist and rights campaigner, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others on November 10, 1995 by the Abacha regime drawn international condemnation and out cry. Abacha was irked because Ken advocated corporate responsibility, environmental concerns, and shared oil revenue for his people.

A Nigerian woman casts her ballot

By the way, President Jonathan is the first president who hails from the Delta region, Nigeria’s key oil exporting port. To its credit though,as the Nigerian nation encountered those daunting challenges internally, she still was a leading regional voice and player even under the Babangida and Abacha regimes. The political turmoil, which engulfed Liberia and subsequently Sierra Leone, would not have seen an end had it not been for Nigerian leadership in the West African sub region. Under the Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), from 1990 up to 2005, Nigerian soldiers died on the battlefields beyond their own borders in an effort to bring peace to the region.

When Liberia finally held its own successful elections in October 2005, Nigeria was credited as the catalyst that provided the resources that finally brought peace to the Mano River Basin comprising Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.

Nigeria's role has been pivotal in global peace keeping as well, and its 154 million people can take pride that the recent presidential elections which was hailed by the African Union, the European Union, the United States, and the Commonwealth nations as free and fair must be a celebrated milestone, as the country seek to entrench democratic traditions and transitions from one adminstration to another.

It can also be recalled that it was Nigeria’s stance on the Ivorian crisis that helped to solve that conflict recently, in sharp contrast to South Africa, a regional power in the Southern African Development Council (SADC) that have perpetuated the rule of Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe.

However, President Goodluck Jonathan, whom the Nigerian press touted as 'the accidental president' showed leadership even before he won, and continued the tradition of his predecessors as a regional power. It is also interesting to note that President Goodluck Jonathan also provided leadership in Guinea-Bissau, a transit point reportedly for drug cartels.

It is important to note that African leaders who rule arbitrarily with no regard to any mandate from their people, are those whose misrule continually hurt the issue of governance on the continent thereby contributing to poverty and under development.

Without Nigeria's weight and voice in the sub region, it is a safe bet that there is nothing France or any other western power could have done to solve the Ivorian crisis. The recent polls there therefore are a welcomed progress, that finally, with Nigeria getting it right; it certainly can pluck its own feathers and lead, as it has shown in the past. Now, the regional power can speak loudly about the moral objectives and clarity with which it has often been vocal, and consequently this influence can find groundswell of support and a united front for all Africans to rally in a new age!


Bradly Jones said...

Thanks for the post. It's like five years of not being in Nigeria has finally made me out-dated for this to be news to me. The change is amazing. Great blog!

call Nigeria

geeplay said...

Thanks Mr. Jones for reading...and I am hope you come back...