The last week or two has seen, in Nigeria, a frenzy of activity and impressive feats worthy of a Nollywood script, what with campaign rallies accompanied by stage collapse, stampedes at political rallies and mounting loss of life. The run-up to the presidential election of Africa’s most populous nation is beginning to look like a do or die venture. In a seeming display of disarray, the offices of the country’s electoral commission have suffered multiples break-ins, vandalism of vote collation equipment and torching. Illegal polling units have been discovered in parts of the country. There has been a boiling over of emotions and frenzy with confrontations between political party faithful and burning of opponent’s vehicles.
Amid these signs of escalating disorder the US ambassador to Nigeria, W Stuart Symington, gave the nation a piece of advice regarding the election and that unleashed a not so peaceful retort from el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, as he threatened that any foreigners who dared to interfere will be sent back to their countries in body bags.
But maybe Nigerian politicians need to take a step back and assess what will make an outsider caution them about how to run their affairs. What gives these countries the “audacity” to make apparently unwelcome comments about the affairs of the nation? Perhaps it is the obvious disarray, compounded by the poor history of credible elections in Nigeria. Or maybe it is the glaring and ever worsening poverty of the masses, and its effect on the rest of the world from economic migration? Or maybe it is because the country gives every appearance of deteriorating into a failed state with consequences for its citizens and the world at large? What is to be expected when Nigerian politicians show every sign of incompetence in running the affairs of the country?
If one shows evidence that one cannot run one’s affairs, and make it apparent that they are breaking at the seams, then, one unintentionally gives other people the opportunity to speak into one’s situation. One thing that seems to elude Nigerian politicians is that the world is witness to their poor job performance which is evident in the deficiencies in the country under their watch. When your masses are getting more desperate by the day, when hunger becomes a cause of death for the poorest citizens, when there is ever worsening insecurity, when politicians have to leave their country to seek healthcare outside because the healthcare system is poorly functional, then you leave the door open for people to give you unsolicited advice on how to run your affairs.
To be respected by outsiders, the leaders of Nigeria need to respect themselves and the citizens that they are leading, by building a country that is able to care for its people. If Nigeria is run the way it should be run, with respectable infrastructure, jobs and provision made even for its weakest citizens as is done in the developed countries, respect will automatically be accorded to our leaders as should be done for people admirably in charge of their affairs. Do Nigerian politicians ever wonder why while they run to the developed countries to buy mansions and utilize state of the art healthcare facilities, the politicians from those countries do not come to Nigeria to do the same? When the US and UK threaten to deny Nigerian politicians visas to their country, it is because they know that Nigerian politicians delight in coming to avail themselves of the amenities in these countries (which are the results of good governance).
So instead of threatening foreigners with a homebound journey in body bags, perhaps Governor el-Rufai needs to work with his fellow politicians to put their house, Nigeria, in order—so that no one needs to tell them how to run their affairs. If Nigeria is working only for the politicians and the politically-connected and is not working for the masses also, then it is not working.