I was Part of a Panel, I Spoke on Nigerian Politics. Here's What I Said.

I am really sleepy, but I also really want to do this today. Here goes. I was part of a panel earlier today, where I spoke about politics in my home country, Nigeria. I know we all know about Nigeria's politics, and the mayhem that it really is. We all grew up hearing 'politics is a dirty game'. End of story. However, there is so much more to it than that. After the meeting, I decided to document it. Where else to do so than on my blog? It was something I took serious, but didn't prepare so much for, because I have exams.  Besides, there's only so much I can know. I will come back to this.  So, what did I do? I tried asking for pointers. I only got from my Dad. Twale to you Daddy! My brother had promised me to talk to me about it--seeing as his Facebook is only about politics--without me even asking him. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to talk (blame his network provider). Thank God I spoke with my Dad though, what a tough audience, with so many questions. UGH. But, trust me, I didn't disappoint. Hahaha.

I started by giving a brief history of Nigerian politics.  I said we had a bicameral legislature, and a presidential form of government, with the president as the head of the executive branch. I talked about the British colonization; our independence; our brief stint at parliamentarianism; the first coup; then how the military handed over to civilians; then another coup; on and on I went till present day. I explained we were in our third republic, and although we have had a democracy straight up since 1999, we were still nurturing this democracy. I gave them this introduction, with the exact and accurate dates, including events surrounding each milestone. I then moved on to modern day politics, which of course is the interesting part. *rubs palms* I explained that unlike the United States where candidates are elected for substantive issues they stand for, candidates in Nigeria are supported, and voted for based on mundane things like religion and ethnicity. I am sorry Nigerians, if I made us sound trivial and shallow. That's because we really are. Moving on. I talked, and talked, and talked. Lol. I was really brief actually. And then I rounded up by saying, although the presidential election is coming up on February 14, we have not had any presidential debate yet. THAT FACT REALLY IRKS ME, by the way. I think I did a pretty good job, if I say so myself. At least for someone who had no preparation at all. (I had an exam the night before!). Now, you would think my audience would applaud me, and let me be. LOL. Nope, they fired questions. In the course of answering these questions, I realized that Nigeria has MANY problems that are so ingrained in the system, I wonder if they will ever be solved. Forgive my pessimism. I will post the questions I remember and my answers to them. Look, I remembered so much when I planned to blog, but hours of statistics have left me almost blank.

Q: (I am paraphrasing) Since your president promised to clean up corruption, why hasn't he? Why is it that things have got even worse? Have they? If yes, how?

My Answer: Of course there is corruption in the country. (There is corruption everywhere though!) It is very much ingrained in the society, unfortunately. I am not sure President Jonathan came in to power with the promise to eradicate corruption. If he did, I am unaware. But he has not eradicated it, that I am sure of. I sometimes wonder though if Nigerians really want corruption eradicated. I say this because, corruption is not just at the top. So, although we talk about it, I wonder what it will take to really eradicate it. Maybe not completely, but to an extent. I sincerely have no idea as to why Jonathan has not yet worked on the eradication. Perhaps, he wants to, but just hasn't figured how to. Perhaps, he's indifferent. Because, indeed corruption is worse, and at its peak now. A typical example is the removal of oil subsidy mayhem. In fact, the oil industry general. I don't have the exact figures off the top of my head, but several billions of Naira have been declared missing. Now, I must tell you, my president does have a knack for selecting and forming committees to tackle problems. (Honestly though, what is it with Jona and committees lol) However, these committees never last, and we would usually be back to square one. There was a nationwide protest regarding the removal of oil subsidy in 2012. That also did not last. The former CBN Governor tried his best to expose corruption as much as he could; he fired several bank chiefs, and only then did we realize how deep the corruption saga was. Unfortunately, the Governor himself was fired. There are several instances of corruption, and maybe not much attempt at resolution. Unfortunately.

Q: (Still paraphrasing) Are you taught your history? How much of your history do you think is taught? Why do you think African countries would rather learn about the impression of Western countries about your countries, than to actually learn about your countries? You mentioned ethnicity? How much of that is a problem? What do you identify with, your nationality or your ethnic group?

Home boy brought it IN. He just kept on going LOL. 

Okay, so there was another Nigerian on the panel. She didn't know much about Nigeria. Apart from being younger than me, she has been living in the U.S since she was 11. At this point, she answered briefly before I continued. She talked about not being taught enough about the country. And then went on to say if two Nigerians met in a foreign country, they always made sure to first ask what tribes they belonged. She said although her Dad is Ibo, he grew up in Lagos, and speaks the Yoruba language almost more than a native speaker. He doesn't know much of the Igbo language. Yet, he would never identify as Yoruba, always as an Ibo person.

My Answer: Well yes, our history is strange to many people of my generation.( I told the audience my actual age lol. Hi whoever is reading this and doesn't know me personally, I am in my early twenties :-)) Unfortunately, for some reasons we just weren't exposed to it enough. In fact, many are oblivious of the real account of the Nigerian Civil War. I remember when Adichie's book, Half of a Yellow Sun was to be made as a film. There were many controversies saying it was going to tell a story that could make the country even more volatile. Actually, the movie only depicted the love and drama revolving around the protagonist. I am just as surprised as you are that young Nigerians know who the first president of America was but are clueless about the Nigerian history. Now perhaps, those taking History classes in higher institutions would know more. But I do not think mainstream media has enough of this. I may be wrong.
Ethnicity is a BIG issue. Maybe it's not so much of a problem as it is usually made to be. But I know two ethnic groups in Nigeria may be as diverse as two countries. Many of us just have not been able to look beyond what ethnic group we belong to. Coincidentally, I just had a heated debate on Facebook recently about ethnicity and identity. I would say many Nigerians, including myself identify first with our ethnic groups, and then with our nationalities. For instance, I am first of all Yoruba, before I am Nigerian. In fact many parents would frown upon their children marrying from a  different ethnic group. Not necessarily because they hate the people in those other ethnic groups, but majorly because they understand how extremely different from each other the ethnic groups are. It is possible we have found it hard to see past this. So even if a leader is performing below par, we tend to look favorably on the leader because he's from the same ethnic groups as we are. There is a lot of tension among ethnic groups, and understandably so. The insurgency of Boko Haram in the north for instance is not understood by some others. It is restricted to the north, and it's hard--really hard--for those in the  other parts of the country to relate with the menace. So yes, I think ethnicity is more of a barrier than a blessing to the country. You should note though that these are my views, and some other Nigerians may think very differently.

This was really long, so I summarized it. Whew. For real though, I had never really thought about some of what I said till they came out of my mouth. There's so much work to be done in Africa as a whole. I KNOW there are many brilliant minds among young Nigerians. But I also think that it is hard to solve something you don't know much about. So first off, we have to eradicate ignorance, get knowledge--lots of it. Then, start to take action. What really scared me was that, these problems are NOT restricted to Nigeria alone. Africa as a whole is suffering. We were five panelists from Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya (The Kenyan was born and bred in America. His Mom is African-American. His Dad, Kenyan) and Gabon (The Gabonese was born and raised in France. She is part from Congo-Brazaville.) Yes, there are two different Congo countries. Yes, we were such a diverse group. Not one country had a political system worth bragging about. I think Kenya scored the highest. Yes, I gave scores in my head. Yes, I am competitive like that. LOL. Congo was the saddest. African leaders though, so unfortunate,

This was LONG. Maybe, MAYBE I'll post a second part. I am so exhausted now. I should go to bed.
Love, and some order,

1 comment

  1. Good job! Reading through the piece here, you made me feel like I was in the audience taking everything in. You're lucky though that I was not present on the occasion...I would have taken you to task on some aspects of the political, social and economic state of Nigeria.

    I remember 2005 when a friend (she was a fellow Nigerian and professor of Politics in U.D.) invited me to a lecture she gave on Africa. When the lady saw me come forward (after her "smooth" talk) to ask a question, she smiled, thinking that I would support everything she said about the African continent...until she heard my question and gave me an expression that said "Ah...why are you doing this to me, you crazy man...?"

    But my question was meant to reveal the true picture of our so-called leaders in Africa and their penchant for looting their nations' treasuries.

    You really did a good job, knowing how short the time time you had to prepare for the lecture.