The case for (cautious) optimism about Nigeria
Its economic performance is dismal. Its state cannot protect life or property. Its human development ranking is among the world's lowest. So why is Africanist Ken Opalo bullish on Nigeria?
Claire—On February 25, Nigerians went to the polls. The election, roundly denounced by Nigerians and election observers alike as shambolic, delivered the presidency to the 70-year-old Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state and the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Tinubu is widely viewed as a geriatric kleptocrat. He once published a video of himself pedaling an exercise bike as proof that he wasn’t dead, and his campaign slogan was “It’s my turn.” He won the least convincing mandate of any elected Nigerian president to date, taking only 37 percent of the vote.
The irregularities in the election have occasioned dismay and disillusionment among Nigerians. The defeated candidates denounced the poll as rigged, vowing to challenge the results. The runner-up, vice president Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, called it the “rape of democracy,” and third-placed Peter Obi of the Labour Party described it “the worst election in our recent history.”
International observers did not disagree. A joint observer mission of the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute said the election “fell short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations.”
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous state; it’s also Africa’s largest oil producer and one of the largest globally. Within a generation, there will be 400 million Nigerians, and the country will be the world’s second-largest democracy, presuming it is still a democracy. The coming century will be an African century, and Nigeria is the giant of Africa: As Nigeria goes, so goes Africa, and as Africa goes, so goes the world.
I’m delighted, therefore, to introduce the Africanist Ken Opalo to explain why—unlike the bulk of the commentariat—he’s not in despair in the wake of Nigeria’s elections, and indeed why, despite everything, he’s optimistic about Nigeria’s future.
Why I’m bullish on Nigeria
By Ken Opalo
I. What is the trouble with Nigeria?
In The Trouble with Nigeria, Chinua Achebe blamed poor leadership for Nigeria’s woes:
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