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Nigeria-The Tunisian Revolution:Because The President Had No “Brother”

On 24th of January 2011,Tunisian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali,was forced to flee into exile.This was the culmination of weeks of unrest,as Tunisians massed in popular protests against his leadership.After some 23 years as president,Tunisians had apparently had enough.This successful ousting of  the leader of a country has given a new fillip to “afro-optimism”.The feeling is that this revolution could have a domino-effect across the continent.That other Africans,inspired by the Tunisian example,would embrace the culture of mass-protest,as a vehicle for imposing the will of the people on the government or changing leaders they do not want,where constitutional means are lacking or have been neutered.

Could this be replicated across black Africa?It is not impossible,just very difficult.Take a look at Tunisian society.Tunisian society is largely homogeneous,unlike most black African nations.Held together by the same ethnicity,religion and the Arabic language,it was possible for Tunisians to act in concert against a common enemy,without being undermined by any tribal or religious cleavages.Being one people,it was impossible for the government to divide them,by playing one group against the other,on the basis of tribe or religion.Thus there was no group found,that was willing to defend the president,because he was their kinsman,against those from other tribes.

In much of black Africa,the president would have been able to count on the support of members of his ethnic group.The debate about his performance,or lack thereof,would never have been objective.Charges of incompetence or corruption would have been rebuffed by his “brothers”,as mere witch-hunt.This is a reflection of the multi-tribal and multi-confessional  make-up of most black African countries,in combination with a high level of illiteracy and ignorance.In such an atmosphere of mutual intolerance and suspicion,it is no surprise that most of the unrests in Africa,are of a sectarian or tribal nature.

Though Nigeria boasts many tribes an tongues,three stand out,in terms of size.These three almost-equally-matched-tribes have more-or-less controlled power,economic and political.Until recently,with the Niger Delta insurgency,all political  unrests and agitations in Nigeria have been the result of the mutual suspicions within this tripod.Nigeria has boiled,only when a member of this group has felt cheated by the other members.Political conscientization has been, mostly, limited to defending group rights,with respect to the “national cake”.Every group is exercised by fears of being denied it’s “turn” at the feeding trough.

Zoning,whether implicit or not has been Nigeria’s bane.It is responsible for the very high level of mediocrity and corruption in government.People are placed in power,not for any personal quality or achievement,but because it is their “turn”.And this means they cannot be held to account,since they did not get there,on the basis of personal qualification or abilities.The “it is our turn” mentality cuts across our political parties and underpins,and undermines,our political culture.Take  a look at the presidential flagbearers of these parties:People’s democratic party,PDP;Action congress of Nigeria,ACN;and All Nigeria people’s party,ANPP.With the exception of the PDP,probably because of the incumbency factor,all the presidential nominees of the other parties were Northerners.

This tells you that the political class is organized around  a consensus,on zoning.This mentality will make it near-impossible to enthrone a culture of merit.Wtihout such a culture,incompetence,corruption and such negatives tend to become destigmatized.In combination with the automatic support of ones “group”,such a socio-political climate will make it very difficult,if not impossible,to mobilize people,across tribal and religious divides, to coalesce around an agenda,for interpellating or changing a despotic government.

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5 responses to “Nigeria-The Tunisian Revolution:Because The President Had No “Brother”

  1. TA January 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Perhaps you should send in a more thoroughly researched article for publication in a newspaper like Next, backed with references to anthropological evidence comparing/contrasting progress of homogeneous versus heterogeneous societies, especially along language rather than cultural lines. Here are some likely help:

    Language Conflicts and Political Community: http://www.jstor.org/stable/177587

    Cultural Pluralism, Modernization, and Conflict: An Empirical Analysis of Sources of Political Instability in African Nations: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3231389

  2. codliveroil January 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    HenryIK2009, a nice piece, I enjoyed it thank you.

    I have a few points to raise.

    In sub-Saharan Africa, we are very quick to use the guise of ethnicity to excuse our lack of development and social well-being. The leaders and the political class use superficial differences like ethnicity, religion and some even use racism as a smoke screen to distract the public whilst they pre-occupy themselves by feathering their nest, and their supporters by stuffing their foreign bank accounts with funds from the national treasury.

    You cited cultural homogeneity in the case of Tunisia as part of the reasons why the society rose up in unison to remove the former president Ben Ali. What of Somalia? This country is relatively homogeneous, both religiously and ethnically, but we can see where Somalia is today, suffering the effects of a very long protracted civil war.

    As for sub-Saharan Africa and it’s various peoples. People have to realise we don’t all have to speak the same language or behave identically to realise that we would all benefit from mutual co-operation and allowing merit to be duly recognised and rewarded. This would go along way to curing many of societies ills.

    In the case of Nigeria, many of those who are resident abroad, still believe that their ethnic group has been hard done by (whether that be true or otherwise) and should rule forever. Until such thinking is relegated to the history books, we will continue to suffer and be left behind whilst the rest of the world advances. Such immature and embittered beliefs can’t produce anything positive and should not be allowed to restrain society.

  3. henryik2009 January 31, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Hi Codliveroil,
    Thanks for your comment.I agree with you that these differences are mere excuse for doing nothing.The reality is that they have proved sufficient,in stopping our people from making progress.Just look at the events in Jos,Plateau state.The tragedy of black Africa,is the twin events of colonialism and slavery,as a result of black Africans feel some “people” owe them.Always willing to parade their victimhoom,our people are not willing to do anything for themselves.We are still waiting for that free lunch,”reparation.”
    Our history,unfortunately,has given us a ready-made alibi for failure.That is the tragedy of slavery and colonialism.

  4. codliveroil February 1, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Yes, you are absolutely right.
    Lack of imagination and self-respect bedevil the people’s of Nigeria and much of Sub-Saharan Africa.
    I could go on all day about this, but you and I both don’t have the time, so I’ll limit myself to these points.

    1) Very few African heads of state have acknowledged that African’s in Africa played a big part in selling their people into slavery. They organised and willingly participated in the slave trade. I can only recall the former president of Ghana Jerry Rawlings publically acknowledging this.

    Everyone else (leaders and prominent persons) are content to point the finger elsewhere and lay the blame solely at the feet of others, be they Europeans, Americans or Arabs. Not only is this wrong but also disingenuous.

    2) Even if this money were paid to the various affected peoples. Would the people on the ground benefit? I think not, it will be just another case of money down the drain or into the bank accounts of those organisations/ governments that are handling the money.

    3) I’ve even heard of those in the diaspora ie Britain and America claiming they should receive reparations also. Black people in those countries are many times more better off than those in Africa, even if they believe they have a strong case they should re-assess their position in the light of those who are many times less well off than themselves.

    4) The harsh reality is no one to day to put it mildly cares about what happened to Black people. Until African leaders and societies can ween themselves off a “get rich quick scheme” be it reparations, or exploiting their commodities, and look to becoming more self-sufficient and developing their economies in a more balanced and sustainable way. Not much will change.

    By people sitting and waiting for the “big pay day”, the initiative no longer rests with us, but with those whom they seek to profit from. That being the case, those that have the money will succeed in infantilsing us, all they have to do is spin out the promise of reparations whilst never having any intention to deliver.

    5) Even if reparations were given, the way Black people are it would not be viewed as symbolic but as a means of survival. This is most undignified. It would be better to develop ourselves to the point that reparations are insignificant, so then should any gesture be made, it is seen as purely symbolic and an acknowledgment of crimes against humanity. The fact is we should be thinking we don’t need reparations, but as you said the contrary is what holds sway in the public imagination.

    6) You are right colonialism and slavery have really had long lasting affects from which we are yet to recover from, hence our unenviable predicament.

  5. henryik2009 February 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Hi codliveroil,
    Thanks for your comment.You said it all.We should concentrate on developing ourselves.If reparations come,which i doubt,given that black people were also complicit in the slave trade,then we can add.As a metaphor,”reparation” represents our penchant,for wanting something for nothing.

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