The recent article by Mr. John Campbell, the United States Ambassador to our country from 2004 to 2007, published in Foreign Affairs Journal, under the aegis of the Council for Foreign Relations entitled Nigeria on the Brink, What Happens if the 2011 Elections Fail?, is to say the least is in bad taste.
Her speech in response to my toast was totally at variance with the one proffered by Ambassador John Campbell. It will be recalled that at the event this past weekend, apart from wishing Nigeria well, Dr. Sanders, expressed deep optimism about our ability to conduct a free, fair and credible election as well as her faith in the future stability and prosperity of Nigeria. She also expressed confidence in the ability of the country to fulfill her destiny as the African bastion and guardian of democracy, human rights, rule of law and all that make society peaceful and stable.Dr. Robin Sanders was of course speaking from a position of strength, a familiarity with current mood, mentality and disposition of Nigerians as distinct from long-held jaundiced theories and hypothesis for which facts are selected to justify. Ambassador John Campbell needs to be told that we as a people have moved far away from the scenario he thought he saw in 2007.
There is now a paradigm shift in the manner of the conduct of our politics and the type of leadership desired by Nigerians. The era of the big men, the imposing god- fathers, ethnicised and polarized politics are over. Nigerians have made it clear since after 2007 elections that what they want is free, fair and credible elections in which the best available material is elected to lead us. We now want a system in which there is democracy even at the grassroots, one in which political parties are internally democratized and where every vote counts.
Besides the idea that my ethnic favorite, whether good or bad should lead is over. What Nigerians now want is a leader regardless of his origin but who is able to guarantee adequate infrastructures, fight corruption and lead Nigeria in a respectable manner in the international community .This takes no cognizance of some rumored private agreement to zone or restrict certain offices to certain geographical regions at certain times. The support which Nigeria has been getting in recent times with the implementation of the Bi-National agreement with the US is an indication of what the Obama administration thinks of the current Nigerian administration. It will take more than the John Campbell’s of this world to change that impression. This is because we shall keep remaining on the right track. I am still waiting to read the entire book of John Campbell upon which this offensive article is based.
I have had cause since I assumed duty here to take up issues with a few of some so-called experts whose claim to expertise was the three to four- year period of service in Nigeria, during which their jaundiced view of Nigeria made them only to look for facts to justify their biases which they parrot in some public educational institutions and otherwise informed publications.They need to be told that some of us who were born in, lived and studied Nigeria before going abroad to study their country, are better judges of the Nigerian situation. Let me point out some of the contradictions in John Campbell’s thesis taking him up, at the intellectual level. He says that there is no elite consensus for the 2011 election. When did the existence of an elite consensus become a prerequisite for a successful election? What becomes of the concept of universal adult suffrage and the freedom of expression, and the voting right of every individual which lies at the root of the western concept of democracy? Or must the rule change because this is Africa?
What does Ambassador Campbell exactly mean when he says that even though Nigerian politics is elite- dominated, the field is now wide open? We have passed through the stage of elite domination. We now want proper democracy at the grassroots. John Campbell is really out of touch with the current mood in Nigeria. If not, he will not be casting doubt on the ability of our current INEC to conduct an election that is credible. Let him be informed that it is Professor Attahiru Jega that is now in-charge of INEC no longer Maurice Iwu. If he knows Nigeria as much as he would like his readers to believe, he will realize the import of such a message.
John Campbell and his ilk should also realize that whether he talks of the Northerners or the people of the Niger delta we are now all resolved to have a politically stable country and to cooperate with whosoever the democratic process throws up as our leader. It has become obvious to all of us that our future lies in a strong, politically stable and ultimately economically prosperous Nigeria utilizing the groundnuts and the agricultural products of the North with the oil and gas of the Delta to improve the living standards of our people. There is no going back.
Finally, I will appeal to all the prophets of doom to allow Nigeria to be. Those who have been prophesying the end of Nigeria for quite some time and even ascribing possible dates are like the proverbial man who sits at the bank of the river waiting for the time that the crab will go to sleep. He will be stay there for his entire life. This country Nigeria has been created by God to survive and to play a role in the positive transformation of the black race. It shall be so.
Professor Adefuye is Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States