Posted: May 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

cameron Queen


The video showing the UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, explaining to the Queen that Nigeria is a “fantastically corrupt country”, and the ensuing outrage, especially from social media active Nigerians, is one that speaks to a much more fundamental issue. Before even going into any detailed analysis, it is very important that we remind ourselves of another video, which emanated from the Nuclear Summit in Washington D.C. in April 2016, which also went viral. In that video, President Obama introduced the Nigerian president to the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Tredeau, and uttered the following words, “he is doing a good job”, in which the latter responded, “he is indeed”. This video generated a lot excitement and hope among social media active Nigerians, with many pointing to this as the irrefutable proof that Nigeria is on the right path.

Juxtaposed, the contrasting reactions to these two videos reveal the question of definition in Africa’s postcolonial political development. The issue of definition, especially as it plays out in the sphere of political leadership, is one that often seeks validation on who or which politico-economic system is best for Africa. In specific terms, there seems to be an obsession with how external forces define who is a “good African leader” or which system is best suited for delivering Africa from its economic morass. The Euro-American sphere of influence was (and is still) then seen as not only the yardstick for development but also the determining force on what is good or bad for the continent.

From the 1960s, successive leaders from France, United Kingdom, U.S. have in some way perceived themselves as the responsible moral authority on explaining to Africans that no matter what they feel or experience, a particular kind of leader or system is either good or bad for them. Murderous and kleptocratic leaders such as Mobutu Sese Seko, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Kamuzu Banda, Blaise Compaore et al all had unfettered access to Élysée Palace, 10 Downing Street and the White House, deodorised and treated as the leaders we Africans really deserve.

During his tour of Africa in 1998, Bill Clinton famously anointed certain leaders as “the new generation of African leaders”. These include Paul Kagame, Meles Zenawi, Yoweri Museveni and Isias Afewerki. Needless to note that these leaders have for decades stifled the cause of democracy and freedom in their respective countries (although Zenawi is dead, his political machinery is still as brutal as ever).

The Euro-America cathedral of validation is still a formidable force. Its psychological wing is well integrated into all the structures of our conceptual and practical processes of discoursing the kind of leadership we deserve. The reactions to the two videos mentioned above are archetypal examples. When Obama and Tredeau in April of this year said that Buhari was doing a good job, the hallelujah chorus was almost deafening.

Very few provided an objective critique of such assessment by these two leaders. The question should have been whether the Nigerians who are living the reality of Buhari’s administration feel that “he is doing a good job”. Obama’s (and Tredeau’s) assessment is based on the extent to which Buhari’s policies are in line with Euro-America’s politico-economic interest. Whether or not such policies cause more harm than good to Nigerians is of no serious relevance to them.

Cameron’s careless statement is one that should also be treated with very little attention. The more energy devoted to analysing or rationalising this statement only reinforces the objective of the Euro-American validation cathedral. Cameron will say whatever serves the interest of the UK. In any other forum where for example UK business people are trying to invest in Nigeria, with the Nigerian delegation in attendance, Cameron will definitely speak about the good works that the Buhari government is doing in terms of fighting corruption. Cameron’s positive statement in this instance would no doubt be circulated widely to show Nigerians, and other African countries, that the Nigerian government is indeed doing a good job.

The lesson from this unnecessary distraction is that we must learn to take our own validation process more seriously. The shifty assessments of Euro-American leaders on whether a regime is good or not is of little relevance to our developmental process. This is not to say that external criticisms or praises should always be rubbished, it only means that we must be able to sense that which is not in our interest and then treat such with the deserved “talk to the hand” treatment.


You can follow the writer on twitter @babsfagbayibo


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