In Nigeria the Ballot and the Bullet

April 4, 2011  |  

(Newsweek) — The ongoing Nigerian electioneering perversely calls to mind the title of a work I read decades ago—Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death. What she would have written on Nigeria’s democratic culture, especially of its rapacious consumption, one can only conjecture. The present Nigerian democratic system is supposedly modeled on the American, where the cost of electioneering is also astronomical. There, however, all similarities end. In the U.S., for a start, funding is regulated and monitored. Infringements are punished.  Most pertinent, however, is that the U.S. does not appear to give any sign of dying through the ballot box. Casualties are hardly reported, and each exercise appears to strengthen that nation’s democratic culture. In Nigeria’s distorted version of America’s expensive electoral system, more than just the national treasury is bled to death. Contenders die—their supporters also—in droves. Their relations are not exempted. Some are kidnapped to exert pressure on their ambitious kin to step down. Ultimately, the democratic project also dies, as does the sense of nationhood, casualties of the manipulation of economic, ethnic, religious, and economic disparities.

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