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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is Magufuli Tanzania's Buhari?

At last the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has declared Dr. John Magufuli the President-Elect of Tanzania. During the campaigns Emmanuel Tayari asserted that his main opponent in the General Elections,  Edward Lowassa is not Tanzania’s Buhari. Now Udadisi is asking whether Magufuli is - or rather will be - indeed Tanzania's Buhari in relation to what it has asserted as what ought to be the first task of the coming/new President i.e 'The Youth Question'. In doing so, it is suggesting that we subsitute Buhari's name with that of Magufuli in the submission below from Samuel Zalanga (used by permission):

For me, in order to understand a politician or what he or she said, I start by looking at the broader social context, the broad structure of state and society, and then situate the politician or what was said within it. This leads me to the conclusion that what politicians say can only be understood in the context of the broader society.

It is not just Buhari but whoever assumes power in Nigeria will have to deal with chronic and long term decadence in governance. I do not say this out of disrespect but this is the fact for anyone who invest serious interest in how things happen in Nigeria. 

There are many people in Nigeria who will criticize Buhari on something that on the surface appears legitimate but the reality is that there is an elite in Nigeria that is used to doing what it likes at the local government, state and federal level without accountability. For them, government position is like a fiefdom. They have no concept of fiduciary responsibility

No serious observer will say that Buhari can solve all Nigeria's problem. I do not think even Buhari and his Vice President will say that. But they can initiate some serious changes and hopefully there will be a trend in that direction. In order for him and his Vice President to succeed, they will need the support of everyone. But it would not be an easy task. Many cheaply enriched themselves under GEJ [Goodluck Ebele Jonathan] and sometimes you just wonder whether there was even a government in Nigeria that realized that the Nigerian population is over 150 million people. This corruption was in all regions, all ethnic groups and all religious groups. It was an equal opportunity affair.

If I am correct in my analysis, your approach is just to listen to what a politician says and treat the words like magic and assume that without paying attention to the deep structure and underlying social realities of the society, what was said can just be taken on its face value. Thinking that way, you assume that Buhari or anyone for that matter can just bring about total change. There are problems that ought to be pointed out but just reading what many people posted on this listserv, it is obvious that the new administration has compelled some people to sit up straight.

I spent this weekend reading this book:
It is amazing to read the situation of the youth in Africa. One warning I see there is that without serious and sustained reform in Nigeria, the yearnings of the youth is going to be a time-bomb. I remember worshiping in one church in Jos, and virtually 70% of the congregation were less than 30 years in age. I immediately asked, what is the country planning for them. And some policy documents in Nigeria treat the youth as a liability. We need to hurry up otherwise the situation will explode one day. Please note that given the structure of Nigerian constitution, governors have a lot of freedom in shaping the direction of public policy. I hope you will broaden your interest beyond Buhari. I know he is the president but he can only go so far.

Unlike you, I do not expect a miracle. Some may disagree with Bishop Kukah but I think he is right in telling Nigerians that they should not expect Buhari to solve all of Nigeria's problems. It still gives me concern that some people are expecting a political Messiah. Buhari by and large won because of the great disappointment that many had with the previous administration. With excellent record, it would have been impossible, no matter what for Buhari to win. The elites in Abuja just took ordinary Nigerians for granted. We are just a means to their ends and not seen as ends in ourselves. I will have no problem if APC fails the Nigerian people, and another party takes over.

In so far as our methodological approaches differ, we will see this kind of differences over and over. It is interesting that the author of the book I am reading accounts for the behavior of the youth in Africa not by focusing on the behavior per se, but by primarily situating the behavior within the context of changes in the economy and society over a long period of time. The social changes have impacted the younger generation in different ways compared to the older generation, and the social changes force them to adopt certain coping strategies. Some people just focus on the behavior of the youth while ignoring the underlying causes. Situation matters very much in explaining human behavior and choices.

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