Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The 72nd good thing about Lagos: Independence Day hopes for the nation
Yesterday, October 1st, Nigeria celebrated its Independence Day -- independence from British colonial rule in 1960. I didn't notice any special parades or fireworks displays, as we celebrate Independence Day in the States. Jamiu, our driver, said they used to have such things, but he didn't know of any happening these days. But it was a nice day off from work for many people. When I came back from the US this last time, I asked Jamiu how he felt things were going in the country and he replied "it's like the sun has come out after 8 years of darkness." He was referring to the 8 years of the presidential rule of Obasanjo. He feels like there's new hope for the country's future. I saw a CNN interview this last week with Nigeria's new president Yar'Adua after he spoke at the United Nations. He seemed quite soft-spoken and intelligent -- I was quite impressed with him. Maybe there is hope for the country. There are still constant reports of officials who are caught stealing huge sums from the government, but maybe the fact that they are being caught means that Yar'Adua is carrying out his promise to stop such looting. In the August 4th issue of "The Economist" there was an interesting article on Nigeria entitled "Mission impossible, nearly." It says in part: "There must be few other countries on earth with such a glaring mismatch between their actual state and their extraordinary potential. Some call Nigeria Africa's slumbering giant. It more often behaves like the continent's suicidal maniac." The article then lists some of the statistics that indicate Nigeria's poor performance, such as its ranking as 159th out of 177 on the UN's human-development index. It continues: "the cause of all this is extravagant corruption and mismanagement, coupled with a political culture that owes more to the principles of gangsterism than to any textbook on democracy. April's elections were marked by violence and fraud on a scale that boggled the imagination even of jaded Nigerian voters....And yet Mr. Yar'Adua may yet achieve something in his four-year term. Although he was the principal beneficiary of all the ballot-rigging, his personal reputation, acquired as a state governor, is one of probity and competence. He has certainly been saying all the right things since the elections about the evils of corruption and the need for transparency. And he has a receptive audience: voters sick of the looting of the country will back a leader who seems genuine about reform." The article continues with recommendations of actions that Yar'Adua needs to take to change the direction of the country. I'm hoping that he'll be able to make some of these essential improvements in the country. The people of Nigeria need and deserve it.