Crisis of Transition

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The Crisis of Transition
The Crisis of Transition

The transition from military to civilian rule in Nigeria is not a reflection of real progress in political evolution. That is the view of Sylvestre Odion Akhaine, political science lecturer, Lagos State University

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Jan 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

SYLVESTER Odion Akhaine, a political scientist and lecturer at the Lagos State University, Ojo, has not seen any real progress in Nigeria’s political evolution. To him, the transition from the military class to the current crop of politicians has only brought a worst phase of Nigeria’s political experience. These were his thoughts in a book he reviewed titled Reluctant Transitions, Nigeria’s Democratic Struggles Since Independence, jointly written by Walter Osadebe and Tunde Oseni, Akhaine.

In the review, Akhaine observed that Nigeria’s democratic dispensation in the fourth republic does not represent change. “It is a phase represented by the most reactionary and backward of the Nigerian political elite noted for primitive accumulation and dishonour. Their impunity is legendary and without regards for the institutions of state. Nigeria, for this class, is a fiefdom, unguarded and unprotected, even for the purpose of continuous exploitation. Such is the epochal irresponsibility of the elite”, Akhaine said.

The book, Reluctant Transitions, Nigeria’s Democratic Struggles Since Independence, chronicles all the transitions in Nigeria’s political history and concluded that they were reluctantly done. In the review titled Reluctant Transitions and the Rogue State, Akhaine noted that the book captures vividly the trajectory of that history, the interplay of social forces and their manifest functions. “That history has a thread of falsehood, noble intentions and missed opportunities to build a great nation by the post-colonial elite. Besides, it evinces misery, doubts and hopes. The synthesisation of these contradictions has engendered a national psyche of skepticism, where both the common man and the state actors see the country as an estate owned by nobody and therefore to be plundered”, Akhaine said.

He also said the book explains why the country exhibits what he called ‘pathologies—Dutch disease, rentiership, godfatherism/clientilism.’ “In a shared reflection, the authors of this work take the reader through the turbulent sixties, the coups and counter-coups, pre-war brinkmanship and memories of the civil war and the post-war experiments in democratisation and their corresponding truncation, to borrow from Samuel Finer’s title, by the man on the horse back.  The canvas of this history reveals infatuation with power underlining the eternal truth in Lord Acton’s saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, Akhaine said.

He said the authors raised a number of questions in the book such as: “What future is there for the new democratic regimes in Africa? Are the changes real and sustainable or are they just another way of ensuring that desperate political leaders continue to cling to power?” To him, this appears the central problem of the work, “I am not sure if it is resolved”, he said.

Akhaine also said the second part of the work which catalogues the heroes and martyrs of democracy in Nigeria was arbitrary. He asked: “What qualifies Justice Bassey Ikpeme as a heroine or martyr of democracy? Is it the night judgment which sought to truncate the holding of the June 12, presidential election? Also, what qualifies Michael Agbamuche as a hero or martyr of democracy? Is it the sundry decrees that he authored for General Abacha”, he said.

Nonetheless, Akhaine said the amount of decisional information that the book contains was its wealth. “It will, no doubt, be invaluable to politicians and people in the academia. It is a bold effort at looking at the last half century of Nigeria’s post-independence existence from a political prism… It may be added, that African writers, whether academic or literary, have helped a great deal in recording political events in ways that capture the travails of the oppressed in the hands of the backward post-colonial African elite. To be sure, Walter Osadebe and Tunde Oseni rank among them”, he said.

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