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As Mrs Clinton visits Nigeria

August 9, 2009

Town-hall meetings and photo-ops aside, we don’t really need the US to tell us that governance is our palaver. We know. Chinua Achebe, in his book The Trouble with Nigeria, said as much way back in 1983:

The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.

But you see our leaders fail to realize that Nigerians aren’t difficult to govern. If they are honest and competent (both, not one or the other) things work out. No need to steal votes, divvy up state coffers or eternally bank on federal allocations. If people see that their leaders are accountable, they’ll follow. Commonsense eh? Um, commonsense, sadly, is a rarity.

Fortunately, we needn’t look afar to see how the competence and integrity of a leader can produce a man who would tame Nigeria’s megacity. Now that’s how to mend Nigeria’s image. Some breath of fresh air other than online scamming (one of corruption’s many hydra heads; an offshoot of “corrupt politicians funneling oil proceeds to foreign bank accounts” back in the 80s). It isn’t implausible that Nigeria’s growing working age population, frustrated by the ‘system’, end up as militants in the south, compliant stooges of religious sects in the north or yahozee boys in the east and west.

Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, offers an interesting hypothesis: “the first law of petropolitics”. That is, “the price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions”. Sclerotic governance, not “the geometric growth in African countries’ population” is the bane of Africa’s underdevelopment.

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