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Nigeria: It’s for a president to prove he’s alive; not for his people to prove he isn’t


I wrote this yesterday about President Buhari of Nigeria. There’s been a lot of interest in the blog in Nigeria. I’ll answer a few of the key points raised, here.

First, if you’re a president then it’s up to you to show people you’re alive and well – it’s not up to your people to prove the opposite. Every politician in the world knows this. A statement from a PR guy doesn’t cut it. Angry ripostes from supporters don’t cut it. Only your personal appearance cuts it.

Second, if your’e a president and you’re not well, then a doctor needs to come out of the hospital and explain to your nation what’s up. This let’s everyone, including your people and the markets, know if your alive at all, alive enough to recover or have just sprained an ankle.

Unless these things apply, then there will be shenanigans. For example, a dead person will be kept hooked up to a machine and advisers, politicians, traders, all the people ‘in the know’ will be jockeying for position and none of the regular people of the country will know anything about it. Nigerians have done themselves proud on the democratic front in the last few years; this is no time to start accepting bullshit again.

Before the last election, I shared a platform in Nigeria with half a dozen ex-prime ministers and ex-presidents, both African and European. After the event, I had dinner with one along with his ambassador. The ambassador gave me a first class analysis of the political situation in Nigeria.

The PDP had become unstable but was considered a more stable bet than the new APC. That said, the international diplomatic community thought the rise of a new party of opposition a thoroughly good thing and felt they might win ‘the election after next’. As it turned out, the APC actually won the election and Goodluck Jonathan actually stood down. It was pretty amazing.

That doesn’t mean the APC has all the answers. For now, they have the same problem the PDP had when its president died. But they have the additional problem of their opponents now presenting them as rootless, a punctuation mark between the end of one PDP administration and the start of a future one. The dynamics of the government of course mean there’ll be a lot of horse trading going on around the succession if the president is indeed dead. Not a bad idea in future to choose a younger president?

Anyway, where’s the Nigerian media? Cowed, maybe? And where’s the UK media? Uninterested, probably, because it’s almost entirely white – in  spite of many Africans living in London – and to most UK media folk stories about Africa are boring unless there’s a big famine, terrorism, or a war.

But in the end, this is about how Nigeria is on its way to becoming a front-rank nation. That’s good news. Accountability to regular Nigerians about the present situation with the president is a big, big part of that.

Eric Joyce

I do stuff on Africa, the extractive industries and Scotland. Previously a UK politician and soldier. Some good moments, and some not so good.


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