As the world speedily embraces new platforms for communication, directness and power of the latter provide exceptional possibilities of transforming African political leadership.
The following note, which is part of Professor Ayittey’s reaction to the President of Nideria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was published online by Sahara Reporters. It is an illustration of the feeding of a constructive debate into conservative thinking on issues of national and public interest.
The US based economist had criticised the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), describing him as a joke and a mediocre President, following his (GEJ’s) interaction with the Nigerian media last Sunday, writes Samuel Oduor.
“To my Nigerian followers, I appreciate all your wonderful comments, including the negative ones, regarding my write-up on GEJ. It will be impossible to respond to all individually; hence, this generic response.
I always distinguish between African leaders/governments and the PEOPLE. Chinua Achebe said it best in his book, The Trouble With Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian character, culture or water. The problem lies purely and squarely with the leadership.
I have always admired Nigerians in the past — resilient people, bustling with energy, dynamism and entrepreneurship. You will still find these admirable traits in some spots such as Onitsha Market. But the Nigerians of today are of a different stock – broken spirits, battered souls and trapped in cocoons of fear, mistrust and despair.
Decades of reckless misrule and total government dysfunction have corroded the fabric of Nigerian character and society. When trapped in such a mess or maze, it is difficult to see the way out. When you engage a Nigerian in a conversation, the first thing s/he wants to know is which tribe or religion do you belong to? It never used to be like this.
The Ashanti have a proverb which says, “The one cutting a path through the bush does not see if it is crooked or not. Only those who stand afar can determine this.” What I write aboutNigeriacomes from this perspective. I am not Yoruba, Ndigbo or Hausa. I have no political axe to grind in Nigeria. I cannot even be president ofNigeria. In fact, I am not interested in the presidency of any African country. I call it the way I see it without fear or favor. The advantage and the service that I provide to the people ofNigeriais that I can say a lot of things which they are afraid to say. That doesn’t mean everything I say aboutNigeriais true but at least it exposes the people to new or alternative perspectives.
However, it is not enough to say that President Goodluck Jonathan is a joke without pointing out the way forward, which is what I drilled into my students. Accordingly, I am writing another piece, Making Nigeria Work Again, which I will tweet in a couple of days.”
Professor Ayittey holds a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Ghana, Legon, an M.A. from the University of Western Ontarioin Canada, and a Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba. He has taught at Wayne State College and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He held a National Fellowship at the Hoover Institution in 1988-89, and then joined The Heritage Foundation as a Bradley Resident Scholar. He founded The Free Africa Foundation in 1993, to serve as a catalyst for reform in Africa.
In 2008 Dr. Ayittey was listed by Foreign Policy as one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” who “are shaping the tenor of our time”. He lives in Lorton,Virginia.