How to nudge Nigeria towards a benign trajectory

By | November 1, 2010

At the end of a CFR article that tries to deal with the political mess that is Nigeria, Richard Joseph, who knows Nigeria pretty well, ends on a somewhat positive note. His answer to anybody who asks him what he would like to do during the next elections:

The response I advocate is to bolster the forces, institutions, and practices that can shift this complex nation onto a benign trajectory. Many acts of assertion and resistance can coalesce into a truly transformative movement. Here are two suggestions for international donors seeking unique ways to increase the slender prospects for democratic progress in Nigeria in 2011. The first would be to fund the purchase of thousands of copies of Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson’s recent book, Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World, for distribution throughout Nigeria. The second would be to give robust support for the creation of a pan-Nigerian movement of civic and other organizations to work for free, fair, and credible elections, a recommendation I made in a jubilee lecture in Abuja and Lagos in early October.

It should not be underestimated how many Nigerians, at home and abroad, are willing to take unusual action to challenge the brinkmanship that passes for statesmanship in their beleaguered nation. We should begin by arming them with the requisite tools, such as small video cameras, to capture nefarious electoral practices in their communities for screening on websites and televisions. And the technology should be made available for tabulating and displaying votes cast in each polling station that are transmitted by cell phones to collating sites. The 2011 election can have a dual character: an officially administered one by INEC, and a citizens’ movement to get out the vote that includes a comprehensive parallel vote count. The 2011 elections provide an opportunity for Nigerians to reclaim their democracy through neutralizing the efforts of politicians to distort and disrupt the voting process. From manipulated subjects, they can become active and alert citizens. They can be empowered to give birth to a new electoral democracy and demand greater performance and accountability of office-holders by a vigilant citizenry. This dream at independence has turned into a nightmare, especially during recent elections. The time has come to make good on a fifty-year promise, and the elections of 2011 is the moment to start.

I leave it at that and save the cynicism for another day.

Thanks to Kiran for the link.

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