Nigeria’s Catch 22: American style democracy will only throw up more more GEJ’s

There are so many problems in Nigeria, true. But it bears reiterating that we’ve not even correctly identified the biggest one of them…

Our biggest problem is not the fact that we are an artificial country. Asides Japan and Somalia, I can’t think of many other “real” country. Our biggest problem is not Islam. Brunei, which is doing well has an almost even religious split like Nigeria does. As does Lebanon. And before some of you chew me off on about Lebanon, Lebanon’s reality is that most of their problems were created by outsiders…

Since we have eliminated the religion and tribe bit, what really is Nigeria’s problem: I’ll quote the late, great, Chinua Achebe here: The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership!

Sadly, we have dovetailed into a catch 22 situation. Nigeria’s Catch 22 situation is simply this: our leadership is bad, because our followership is bad, unimaginative, uncreative, uninspired. Nigeria’s followership does not understand basic concepts like civic responsibilities and duties. We do not hold our leaders to account.

Lets accept one real, hard fact about this “democracy” that we have: democracy, American style, is nothing more than a popularity contest. Citizens such as we have in Nigeria, CANNOT in any circumstance, throw up good leaders in such a popularity contest. Something must give. What is it that must give? For Nigeria to throw up sound leaders who are capable of looking at current trends and plotting a future course.

We have to accept the hard truth that given the kind of citizens we have at the moment, our leadership MUST be exclusive and not inclusive.

I won’t pretend to have the answer to what the criteria for exclusion should be, I’ve been thinking about it for years. But it has to be so. Someday maybe, we will have that genuine exclusion criteria. BUT, and I insist, BUT, American style democracy, will only throw up more GEJs.*

* If you haven’t figured out who GEJ is, it’s the poplular acronym for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.



  1. “We have to accept the hard truth that given the kind of citizens we have at the moment…”—is the author basically saying “Every country [i.e. Nigeria] has the government it deserves”?

    This reminds me of an interesting piece published on the Independent last week: “Police, Society, Judiciary: A trinitarian must”

    “A police that tyrannises epitomises a society with a reasonable number of tyrants or sub-conscious tyrants. You only have to ask gender activists or victims of domestic abuse in Uganda to realise the harmful potential of sub-conscious tyranny. Or even many of our children to tell you how they are tyrannised by both their parents at home and by their teachers at school. Psychologists will readily tell you that many of these children internalise the traits of tyranny meted out on them which they later externalise as adults after assuming a status of authority.

    If I take a detour and look further beyond our borders, the brutal police forces of pre-Civil Rights America cannot be discussed without taking the widespread support of structural racism at the time in this country into account. In short, for any system or practice to survive there must be enough deep-rooted mass support for it.”

    – See more at:

  2. Looking for a strong leader, are you? I am disappointed. I enjoyed your history lessons, but we over here have become fatigued with stgrong leaders. Napoleon, Hitler….endless warfare is what we got. We prefer weak leaders, whom we can dispose of every five years or so. Remember it took us centuries to get here. Don’t think it will happen tomorrow, but someday a good leader will pop up.
    What is essential is a well written constitution.
    There is Russia, They have a strong leader! But, we are not envious, since they are getting nowhere. He thrives on conflict, like most ‘strongmen’ and now he is rattling his armor to ignite some fires only he can put out. Or so he says.
    For South Korea a strongman worked well, he built the country with an iron fist and eventually they were prosperous and content and moved on to democracy. But oftentimes the strongman is not a good man, and then you need a means to dispose of him .- an election.
    Someday you may find and elect a good leader who will show you the right path,

    1. Hi Lionda, am Russian, I live in Nigeria. I see wat Nigerians go thru every day. They need a strong leader. Nigerian people are too fratcured to line up behind one. So she is right. The kind of democracy they practice will only bring up the kind of person that will not threaten the system. A weak keader.

  3. I do agree with the writer, for the most part in Nigeria the intellectual and non-biased (along ethnic or religious lines) are few and far between so when you take into account that majority of the population are not that intellectual and vote based on ethnic or religious sentiment or at the very least popularity then you have a situation where even the best candidates on paper cannot win no matter the amount of social media buzz they generate. In the 2011 elections, if you went by social media buzz you would think the election would have been closer but the majority of voting Nigerians are not on social media and vote based on vested interests and not what they think is best for the nation. The solution? Some sort of bottom up re-jigging of the Nigerian psyche, education helps as well.

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