'SOILED HANDS' & STRATEGY: WHAT NIGERIA SAYS ABOUT DEMOCRACY

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Did anyone else notice that despite the criticism received by Nigeria for 'flawed' elections, Yar'Adua's inauguration was attended by many dignitaries from all over the world? It seems to me that democratic values are secondary to economic and political interests.


Yardy's inauguration was attended by South African President Mbeki, President Kufuor of Ghana, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and an entire American delegation. China also sent a special envoy to attend the ceremony. In fact, he didn't even have to become President before he was 'welcomed into the fold' by many foreign leaders. While Presidential-elect, Yardy went on a seven nation tour to Benin, Senegal, South Africa, Libya, Togo and Egypt. He also later took some time to visit Cameroon where he discussed trade with the Cameroonian President Paul Biya.

Despite this, I was surprised at how quickly many countries were and are willing to accept Yar'Adua irregardless of the legitimacy issues he faces. Yes, of course, foreign leaders commented on the elections, but it is clear that the new administration has little to worry about in terms of opposition from foreign governments, leaders or institutions.

'SOILED HANDS'
It seems that there were very few in the international community of adequate moral standing whose criticism would have force and impact. Of the African leaders, Mbeki could say very little as there is speculation regarding a purported attempt to serve a third term despite the South African constitutional limit of 2 presidential terms. (Sound familiar)? Mbeki's reputation and influence has also been jeopardized by his apparent inability to concretely and positively impact the situation in Zimbabwe.

It would have been comedic if the Bush administration had tried to force the election issue considering how President Bush came into office in 2000. It took a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Bush v. Gore) to declare him President and legitimacy questions followed him throughout his first term. I must note though that Bush was criticized for sending a U.S. delegation to Yardy's inauguration. U.S. Senator Feingold argued that sending the delegation was a double standard since Bush has "maintained that the defense of democracy and promotion of good governance are central tenets of [his] U.S. foreign policy."

Even the NEPAD documents and particularly the African Peer Review Mechanism have had little impact, post elections. There have been few calls by participating members for review of the electoral process. Member countries have simply expressed 'concern' and encouraged all to support the new administration despite the 'flawed' election results.

The most one can speak of is the upcoming hearings to be held by the U.S. House of Representatives on the elections in Washington, D.C. But, that will likely lead to very little as there are fears that any alienation of Yardy's government will give room to China to become more influential in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. (Nigerian Guardian Newspaper).

STRATEGY: POLITICAL & ECONOMIC CONCERNS
The quickness with which Yardy was accepted by many world leaders and particularly African leaders is also a reflection of Nigeria's importance to Africa and the world. We all know that Nigeria supplies much of the world's sweet crude and that it acts as a regional leader in many positive ways. Despite the problems faced by the Republic, most countries have purely strategic reasons for aligning themselves with the Nigerian government i.e. Nigeria's ample resources.

The U.S. for instance has concrete reasons to maintain good relations with Nigeria, the most important of which is oil. In actuality, the entire world depends on Nigeria's sweet crude. Nigeria is also recognized as a main provider of minerals, gemstones and other resources. Additionally, the sheer number of Nigerian citizens makes Nigeria a potential market for goods from America and a whole host of other countries. We are a regional leader and have great influence over other African countries and our allies can often rely on our use of such influence. These are just a few economic and political reasons why most countries would think twice before placing too much emphasis on the problematic elections. To do so would potentially affect their standing with an powerful country. In fact, the Bush administration is now being advised that any alienation of Yardy's government will allow China more access and influence. That is a situation America, and many other countries, is not willing to risk.

The 'soiled hands' equation and the strategic reality have simply reconfirmed for me that democracy, though important, will sometimes play a back seat to other concerns. It is a shame, however, because democracy can and does foster economic growth and partnership in a way that would be beneficial to a country's citizenry and it's allies.

Nevertheless, it is more important for Nigerians to rely on ourselves to get the changes we want and to ensure that the future of our nation's democracy is bright. My comments about foreign reaction are simply an observation. My pride requires a preference for homegrown solutions and not international 'meddling' even though I accept that such intervention can have benefits. I can only wait and see what time brings and work in my own small way to encourage and defend democracy in my dear country. I encourage you to do the same.

Further Reading:
- Nigeria, Mugabe & The ICC
- 'Soiled Hands' & Strategy":What Nigeria Says About Democracy
- Yar'Adua, Mugabe & The "Rule of Law"
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Health Issue

- The Consequences of Ya'Adua's Mysterious Health
- Talking Through Both Sides Of His Mouth

13 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Nyemoni said...

Yeah, we need to rely on ourselves to get the changes we want... well said girl... Hear, hear..
Another thing that struck me was your new nickname for Mr. president... Yardy... LOL!

snazzy said...

The sad fact of the matter is that life goes on. As you said realpolitik always trumps idealism in these matters. There is no viable alternative to accepting Yardy (love that nickname btw). OBJ basically presented us in Nigeria and the rest of the world with a fait accompli. To overturn it u have to be willing to "burn down the village in order to save it." Like u said no one wants to risk doing that to the 8th largest oil producer and one of the last untapped mass markets.

All the censure rhetoric is being done in order to tell Yardy that there is the stink of illegitimacy about him and so he better behave himself & do what's right. A standard application of soft power that may nor may not work depending on his character (Putin or OBJ would have given them the finger).

um as kind of a random point, democracy doesn't foster economic growth if u are a developing country. It tends to be the other way around, that economic growth tends to foster democracy (well China seems to be trying to disprove that).

Having said that, democracy is necessary for African countries because the words benevolent dictatorship do not exist around these parts. This is cos acountability is another foreign word round here.

The hallmark of democracy is accountability, and that is our main problem, not the freeness nor fairness of our elections. The mechanisms that are to hold our leaders accountable while in office are not exactly in working order. Yes we should work towards 2011 being fairer, but more importantly we should make sure that our (s)elected officials are held accountable for what they do when in office.

I will stop talking now cos i think it's best. laters.

Chxta said...

Have to point out that democracy doesn't foster economic growth, but the other way around. Either a dictatorship or a war fosters growth.

Naija Vixen said...

Your comment disclaimer,your moving up thats why ;-)... moving on to your post,So much for all the Government and "private" organisations who expressed displeasure at the way the elections were conducted and were going to make sure that the wrong was righted...just goes to show they are more or less the same as their african counterparts...except they have the good sense to keep theirs hush-hush... Even tho i will not be putting my hopes on Yardy (lol), I will be praying for his government. Nice one,will look out for the Nigerian Lighthouse too. Have a great day.

Nilla said...

"Yardy" I like the nickname too...

Before nko....those countries are interested in Nigeria because of what they can get from her.

That's why I always say it's up to Nigerians to ensure that things are better for us.

Nilla said...

Offtopic.

Ah...I just noticed your "Leave a comment" comment.

They've arrived here too? Pele.

יש (Yosh) said...

So true. Us Nigerians, have the power and have to take charge of ourselves, individualism that would synergize with collectivism.

The time is now...

And so true...China's penetrated Nigeria so well: Offshore Oil wells, I.T. collaboration, local business )groceries) etc. I think America needs to step up its game if it doesn't want to lose to the Chinese.

Ideas Lead said...

100% for the idea of a homegrown solution. We must continue to strive for this. One day, we will achieve a critical mass of people that is required to bring about change. We will force the world to deal with us on our own terms, not as a a beggarly people in search of goodwill, but as a leader of progressive nations. the day will come.

Beauty said...

Democratic values without the rule of law does not amount to much while under our federal system, governors continue to wield considerable powers and some controlled budgets of more than $1bn a year that is not accounted for. Decocracy may be good for some (people in power, the wealth the ex-president, governors, seantors etc have amassed is a case in point) but one size does not fit all.

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Waffarian said...

NAIJA BLOGGERS- THE BOOK!
Dear friends, please do not forget to send in your submissions, a lot of people have sent in great stuff but a lot of my favourite bloggers are missing, what's up, people? Come on, send in your stuff! June 15th is the last day, come on!


Submissions should be sent to nigerianbloggers@yahoo.com not later than Friday, June the 15th 2007 stating date of blogging and blogname/address.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Must confess, Yardy is not original. Got it from another blogger, I think...

Misan said...

Great post, you did a much better job tackling the many perspectives around this issue of "soiled hands" and "scratch mine & i'll rub yours" (as i like to call it). I guess, as usual, we can't wait around for our leaders to grow a conscience and discard the self-interest/ selfishness that plagues African leadership, and hope that our media, civil society and private citizens continue to have a growing voice in "calling out" these vices around us.

Also love the nickname, original or not!

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