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Nigeria’s coming elections

September 8, 2010

It’s improbable, that President Goodluck Jonathan will not run. The north, however, is turning into an implacable foe. Some Nigeria watchers are wary that things will go awry if the north loses its turn. Coupled with another elaborate sham election, Nigeria’s stability isn’t guaranteed.

Next year’s election won’t be perfect. Nigeria’s Facebook generation is unperturbed. All hands are on deck to monitor votes using an Ushahidi-like online platform to “crowd-source” voting information as it happens. The voter registration scheduled for Nov 1-14 would be a good chance to test-run the WangoNet project (the website needs to be up and running too).

But what has all this turn-by-turn shenanigans got to do with a Lagos taxi driver or hawker of self-help books? Not much. The driver that took me to the car park the other day had this to say: ‘Make dem give us light, water, road and security’, adding, ‘since dem no gree us chop’. In other words, turf all the chop-and-quench politics and govern well.

He arrived in Lagos in 1997 to live with his father. After years of being unemployed he started off as an okada (motorbike) rider. In six months he had made enough to buy a keke Marwa (tricycle) – no one was willing to loan him the money. (Curiously, though, while in traffic I saw a tricycle with an ad stating that it was financed by a microfinance bank).

Three months later he bought a car. Now he’s planning to get married. (His transition from okada to kabu kabu is timely – Lagos state has banned motorcycles from plying certain lucrative routes.) Irrepressible optimism makes Naija tick – a theme the controversial BBC documentary “Welcome to Lagos” captures very well.

At the bus park a bookseller sold me Obama’s “Dreams From My Father”. He offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse: pay one-third in cash now and text him the balance as mobile phone credit. Now that’s trust and innovation – something our institutions woefully lack. Undoubtedly not the kind of dream the ‘founding fathers’ of the ruling party dreamed of.

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