Economics in West-Africa : Nigeria and the Challenge of Democracy in Africa

Without economic development it will be very difficult for Nigeria to achieve a steady democratic development, says Nigerian journalist Zacheaus Somorin.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan (r.) greets the Chinese prime minister Le Keqiang in Abuja. Le visited the World Economic Forum in the Nigerian capital.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan (r.) greets the Chinese prime minister Le Keqiang in Abuja. Le visited the World Economic...Foto: AFP

That Africa is being faced with many challenges in its effort to make democracy sustainable. Since individual survival comes first before political consideration, it thus becomes difficult, in the realistic sense, for democracy itself to survive without economic development. All over Africa, the issue of good governance has always been an intractable topic for academic and political discourse. Thus Nigeria is not an exception. While each nation contends with it own problem, developed nations inclusive, Nigeria, being the heartbeat of Africa, with vast resources, has been trying to resolve its development challenges; the first attempt of which was the fight against the military that had no development agenda but power for its own sake. With the enthronement of democracy in the country in 1999, there were global expectations as how the nation will surmount its many pixilated problems. With a militarist psyche that had held people down for years, there emerged a democracy that would heal the wounds of the urgly past.

President Olusegun Obasanjo achieved a dept relief from the Paris Club

President Olusegun Obasanjo, after taking the mantle of leadership, he emerged as a quintessential African leader with his strong diplomatic acumen to take on the world. While touring the world to ensure that the Paris club cancels the nation’s debts, pressure mounted at home for poverty eradication. However, the global trip had a positive impact: the debts were cancelled. Despite that, Nigerians still demanded for more as the global gesture aimed at getting the nation out of its economic misery was contrasted with the growing emergence of unacceptable class crisis between the Nigerian people and the ‘elected’ political elites. In the most astronomical manner, the lawmakers budgeted for themselves
unbelievable fat wages.

Die nigerianische Krise
Nach dem Angriff. Das Hauptquartier der Polizei in der nordnigerianischen Millionenstadt Kano ist weitgehend zerstört. Am 20. Januar griffen Anhänger der Islamistensekte Boko Haram 30 Polizeistationen gleichzeitig an. Dabei starben rund 200 Menschen.Weitere Bilder anzeigen
1 von 17Foto: Reuters
27.01.2012 18:29Nach dem Angriff. Das Hauptquartier der Polizei in der nordnigerianischen Millionenstadt Kano ist weitgehend zerstört. Am 20....

Thus, activists, journalists and those who challenged the military became disillusioned asking if democracy, is afterall, was what the nation needs to survive economically as a people. Political reforms were called for; with strong opposition party demanding for better governance. Expectedly, the consequence of the pressure was the regional defeat of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the 2003 elections.

The fight over a third term for Obasanjo

One of the challenges of democracy in Africa and Nigeria is resistance to political change. And without political change, it is expected that concrete consolidation of democratic principles would be difficult. Attainment of power through electoral means, most times, within the continent, is motivated by the esoteric interest of having access to resources¸ hence the tendency of an average leader to hold on to power despite governance failure.

Evidently, when the purpose of the national conference inaugurated for the purpose of restructuring the nation’s federal system was suspected to being tilted towards enshrining in the constitution a third term for former President Olusegun Obasanjo, analyst began to wonder if the nation’s democracy will survive with party hegemony. The global outcry against what transpired during the 2007 election almost took the nation deeply backward – there was a presidential declaration that late Shehu Musa Yaradua must win the election whether Nigerians like it or not. Regional elections were consequently flawed with the real winner going to court to claim their mandates back. Simply, the European Union declared the 2007 election as the worst in the history of Nigeria.

As it is obtainable all over the world, industrial development which drives employment is not possible without stable power supply. Several global co-operations have been established to ensure that Nigeria achieve stable electricity for its industrial growth. Since 2009, billion of dollars have been budgeted in that regard. But its seems
there is no political will to make it work as some esoteric elitist cliques, possibly more powerful than the government, have been taming all afford at revamping the power sector. Summarily, the seeming performance of the present administration in the power sector ended when the former energy minister, Prof Berth Nnaji resigned

The ongoing national conference set up by President Goodluck Jonathan is aimed at consolidating the nation’s democracy thus avoiding the possible disintegration which the United States has earlier predicted. The hot debate at the conference has been based on the same question: what has been the impact of democracy on the people – in terms
economic empowerment and security.

There were economic improvements in Nigeria

Of course, it has not all been negative stories. There have been great improvements in political participation in the democratic process across the continent. Despite little skirmishes here and there in many African states, there have been consolidated efforts to avert military interventions.

The recent rating of Nigeria as the biggest economy in Africa was not by accident. Because of the pronouncement, the world is now taking the country seriously. The reality is that the nation’s GDP has grown by almost 90 per cent - calculated to roughly US$500bn in 2013. This increase was way above what many economists predicted and soared past
South Africa’s GDP of about $385bn. Of course, there have been arguments that that does not reflect in the living standard of the people, but it has been considered a litmus test for a potentially viable economy.

Despite the fact that the leadership and governance problems cannot however be jettisoned, the next election which comes up in 2015 will determine whether the present leadership has done well or otherwise. The opposition has been growing up very strongly, with regional coalition against the incumbency. The growing insecurity across the nation is of concern to both sides, but the rising criticism against the government may be of monumental disadvantage to it. The widespread impression that the leadership of the country is helpless about the invidious kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram terrorists has been one the basis of the opposition campaign for political change.


Zacheaus Somorin works as a journalist in Lagos/Nigeria für the daily newspaper THISDAY, www.thisdaylive.com. In May he is working as an intern for Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin.

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