The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, used her visit to Nigeria to highlight the core national challenges: corruption, rule of law and electoral reform. One of the significant moments during the visit was the Town Hall Meeting, where she reiterated what appears the Nigerian political class has yet to realize:
“The most immediate source of the disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is a failure of governance at the federal, state and local level. The lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state.”
Hillary also hammered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the anti-corruption unit created by the last administration, stating it has been doing good work in the past, but “has fallen back in the past one year.”
This is a good and timely knock on the head of the new EFCC boss-madam, Farida Warizi, who appears more interested in discounting the achievements of her predecessor, Nuhu Ribadu.
The Nigerian civil society and journalists got some good words too:
“Civil society has a very big job to do… You have already helped to elevate the ideals of democracy, but now you must use the political system to encourage Nigeria’s leaders to serve the common good. There need to be watchdog groups…There need to be journalists, including many of you in this audience, who will shine a bright light on any abuses of the public trust or those who would enrich themselves at the expense of Nigeria’s citizens; independent courts and prosecutors, institutions to punish wrongdoers and deter future wrongdoing; citizens who persist and persevere often against long odds.”
I’m in total agreement with the watchdog groups. However, it’s hard to imagine Nigerian journalists shinning light on abuses of the public trust in Nigeria. Just as the roadside police can’t but ask for bribes, a good chunk of Nigeria journalist can’t seem to resist the temptation of brown envelopes!
Leaving the journalists aside, Clinton’s statement above captures the dynamic trait of democracy: there is no room for apathy; the civil society can’t give up, must organize better, and find more efficient and effective means to ensure Nigeria does not end up with a watered-down version of democracy.
Additional reports and coverage of Hillary Clinton’s visit can be found on Dade’s Foreign Policy Exchange blog. His collection of postings, including a live blogging of the visit (an attempted live blogging), have links to newspaper reports and even an interview with Mo Abudu of “Moments with Mo”.