Hope Tempered by Skepticism As Nigeria Faces Historic Vote (Craig Timberg, 11/13/06, Washington Post)

[S]kepticism, fed by generations of rigged votes, military coups and political violence, darkens the mood of Nigerians as they head toward what should be a historic moment — the first ever transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another.

Analysts say its success could entrench Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and a major oil producer, as a modernizing, democratic state that could continue to provide stability to troubled West Africa. Its failure, they say, could return the nation to dictatorship or, worse still, a civil war that could undermine the region’s recent steps toward peace.

Voters say they are eager for their next president to curb rampant government corruption and unify the more than 250 ethnic groups that British colonialists roped into an uneasy union before departing at Nigeria’s independence in 1960. The mix, especially the north-south divide between Muslims and Christians, remains volatile. Thousands have died in political and ethnic violence in just the past decade.

“I pray that we get peace in this country,” said Hamisu Muazu, 37, from the northwestern state of Zamfara. Many also say the next president must revive the economy. Despite surging oil revenue, Nigeria remains a profoundly poor, underdeveloped country, beyond the elite neighborhoods of its major cities where prominent business leaders and politicians live lavishly.

“For democracy to work, people have got to see the benefits,” said Remi Oyewumi, a political analyst. “If it’s just going to be for a few people to loot the public treasury, it’s not going to work.”

Less “despite” than “because”.


One Response to EVEN AFRICA:

  1. Chris Durnell says:

    Africa presents an interesting lesson in how not to develop national unity. Nigeria initially had a federal structure that allowed its north, west, and east to rule themselves. Despite some tensions, things were OK. Then it was decided that a centralized government was needed to preserve the unity. Instead of promoting unity, it only divided the nation as each section sought to control the spoils. Similar moves in other African countries had the same result.

    I think a major reason for the success of the United States is that having 50 states allows many people to fulfill their personal ambitions without having to enter Washington politics.

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