BY KWAME MARFO
BBC journalist and former Asia editor for the AFP news agency, Peter Cunliffe Jones draws some startling comparisons between Nigeria and Indonesia (here). They were on similar growth trajectories at the time of independence. They were both formed as one nation by Europeans around 1900 and governed by the colonial system of “indirect rule”. After independence, they lived through similar political experiences. For example, Peter observes that “their first coups were launched within months of each other – in September 1965 in Indonesia and in January 1966 in Nigeria – and their military regimes died within 12 months, in May 1998 and 1999. Both were palm oil producers and discovered oil. However, while Indonesia managed to diversify its economy away from oil, Nigeria’s economy has effectively developed into a one trick pony and a pretty unimaginative one. Oil contributes to 95% of foreign exchange earnings and 80% of budgetary revenue.
So what went wrong? “Struggle is the reason”, according to Indonesian journalist, Bambang Harymurti. Indonesia’s history of mass popular (often violent) revolt has been broad based with Islamist, communist and nationalist taking turns to put political elites to account. Even brutal dictator, Suharto who was estimated to have looted $35 billion from the nation’s coffers towed the line, putting economic reform at the heart of his reign of terror. His ability to hold the reins of power very much depended on his ability to deliver strong economic growth. Nigeria has had popular revolts of sorts but it has mostly been in arts – literally and performance through icons such as Fela Kuti and Wole Sonyinka. While this movement has been aesthetically pleasing, as a political weapon, it has been spectacularly blunt. Moral of the story – Nigeria needs a Jasmine revolution of its own. 50 years of persuasion has failed. Force must be applied. Channel your rage and log onto your social network accounts. Let the powers that be know that enough …you guess rightly, is enough. This revolution will be twittered.
Copyright 2011 (March) Neo-African Consensus