The Chinese have confounded democracy scholars by their success in opening up the economy,while managing to keep China a closed society,contrary to the predictions of these experts.While embracing the market economy,they have kept at bay western-style democracy and it’s attributes.While providing standard public goods such as public transportation,public health,primary and secondary education,which are needed for economic growth,they have restricted democratic freedom by muzzling civil and political rights.These rights,such as freedom of the press,freedom of expression,freedom from arbitrary arrest,freedom of movement,right of association,right of peaceful protest,together with access to higher education constitute what are known as coordination goods.
Coordination goods are necessary for political involvement and competition.To be politically effective,people must be able to associate,to choose their leaders freely,to take part in peaceful protests,to give expression to their political views,to raise funds and so on.Without these rights it would be very difficult to coordinate political actions or to mobilize people.Unlike China however,which is rich in standard public goods but poor in coordination goods,Nigeria is poor in standard goods but rich in coordination goods as,Nigeria scores quite well on such parameters as freedom of the press,freedom of speech,freedom of association,freedom of movement and access to higher education.
And yet for all it’s wealth of coordination goods,and contrary to the predictions of the theory of strategic coordination,there is a deficit of activism.Sure,Nigerians curse and abuse their leaders on the pages of newspapers and online forums,but there is very little action in the shape of concerted efforts to facilitate change,whether it be economic,political or social.With so much wrong,and in need of fixing,why are our people so lethargic?Why are we not moved to act?With all these revelations about public funds being misused,wasted or just plain stolen by those in power,you would expect Nigerians to be out on the street protesting.I believe there are three main reasons why they are not.
First,because of the ethnic/religious divide,virtue is relative in Nigeria.Especially for people in public office.No matter how bad a public official is,you will always get people of the same ethnic or religious persuasion who are willing to make excuses for him or her,by simply pointing at some other official of a different ethnicity or religion with a similar,or worse,record.As a result,it is very difficult to achieve cross-tribal consensus about the performance of any official,present or past.And without this consensus,it is impossible to mobilize people to mount sustained pressure,in other to effect change.Any such protest would vilified by members of the incumbent leader’s kin as a witch-hunt.
Second,Poverty.Because many Nigerians are in the informal sector,read self-employed,with very low pay,they have no savings.They have to work everyday to eat and take care of the needs of their families the next day.Any day they are unable to work,for whatever reason,means debt or starvation the next day.You have to remember that there is no form of government welfare support in Nigeria,for the poor or indigent.People in this position,even if they wanted to,just cannot afford to take any time off work.They just cannot afford to camp out on the streets for days or weeks,to protest whatever.Especially given the lack of a tradition of mass political protests.Until they are pushed to the absolute wall,of course.
Finally,given that we practice resource capture rather resource control,people do not feel that the billions being wasted,belong to them.They would feel differently if those billions were their taxes.In stead,most Nigerians are hoping for their chance to be part of the “winning” team,so they can grab their share of the loot.And Nigeria being in such a state of flux,most people believe that,if it is not their turn today,it would be their friends’ or children’ turn tomorrow to grab their share of the “national” cake.When people complain about corruption,what most of them are really saying is this: corruption should stop,unless they are made part of the “winning” team.This explains why people who appear clean,while out of government,would turn out to be just as disappointing,as others,when in office.Nigerians may not love corruption,but they certainly do not give the impression that they hate it.