Do I Have to be “On the Ground” to Know Nigeria is Failing?

I am told I cannot understand the problems in Nigeria or the challenges facing President Goodluck Jonathan because I am not “on the ground”. Is the psyche of some Nigerians that backward? I do not have to be on the ground in China assess their enormous economic growth or Greece to evaluate their economic decline or Norway to verify their high levels of good governance or Sudan to prove their high levels of misgovernance. But when it comes to Nigeria I have to be firmly on the ground.

I have been researching governance and regulation in Nigeria intensively and uninterrupted for over a decade now, how much more ‘on the ground’ does one have to be? We are in the 21st Century’s information age. If being on the ground was the only true information criteria necessary for understanding governance, we should go back to the age “telegrams” and “discovery by travel”. No, it is an old ruse used to dismiss genuine criticisms of governance from overseas. And excuses from inside Nigeria are “You do not know what is really going on”, “you cannot rely on what the papers” i.e. unless one’s favourite politicians said it etc.

Since I was a child I have heard supporters of Nigerian politicians elected / appointed to office repeat a certain meaningless mantra. Die-hard supporters of GEJ will say “HE IS TRYING”; that is what is said by die-hard supporters of every Nigeria president, state governor or local government chairman. HE IS TRYING means he has delivered one or a few goods (e.g. tarred a stretch of road, build a university in their home town, introduce a law they will themselves undermine, make some unctuous announcements with no action to back it up) i.e. out thousands of expected / promised public goods. It is an old ruse of partisan politics often used as a desperate attempt to justify the fitness of a leader for office against a large mixed bag of failures.

If political leaders are not up to the task of governing the foreseen and unforseen problems / challenges facing Nigeria, (1) they should not aspire to office, (2) not seek extend presidential terms of office and (3) resign if they cannot cope with the pressures and demands of public office. I do strongly acknowledge that being a minority (ethnic group) president GEJ is encountering pressures (necessary and unnecessary) upon him that are far more intense than if he was from a majority tribe but such pressures should be very openly exposed for the world to know and articulated in the debates of international politics. Ethnicism that has worked in favour of previous Nigerian leaders who were from majority ethnic groups for the first time is working against GEJ. He certainly did know this would happen in advance.

GEJ and others in Nigeria are ambitious politicians who achieved their goals of office, why is the issues of pressures / challenges now “the” explanation for governance failures? Is GEJ and others not enjoying the staggeringly high levels of the paraphernalia office? Are they not revelling in the powers of office? “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is a warning from antiquity. And so it will always be especially if you are from a minority ethnic group.

Grimot Nane

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