The Economist Magazine and Nigeria’s Election: Anatomy and Philosophy of Colonial Mentality

By Emeka Chiakwelu:

This is a very outlandish and cautious time, but significant in the life of Nigeria. The country is in a crossroad and the land is querying with anxiety and fear. What will the February 14 or now March 28 election brings to the country’s polity? Insipidly but boorishly, the cloud is gathering and tomorrow is gripped with uncertainty and impervious dilemma. Nigeria is in a serious phase and let nobody take it lightly including the media industry.

The problem Nigeria may find herself aftermath of country’s election will not be necessarily with election’s victor – whether President Jonathan wins re-election or General Buhari is elected. But on how their followers and constituency will react with the aftermath of the election results. Nigerians welcome constructive analysis from international media but what Nigeria does not have stomach to digest are super wedge commentaries that are divisive and have the tendency to overheat the polity.

The stakes are too high in Nigeria and it will be irresponsible for the elitist Economist magazine operating from an air-conditioned office somewhere in London, England to be pontificating without any concern for their actions.

Nigeria is an independent nation and for that matter a republic. The Economist magazine inclined with its colonial mentality with its operative machineries will not call an election in Nigeria before the actual election and by so doing put the voters at the edge of confusion. Many Nigerians that look up to foreign media may not understand the implication of the Economist intervention in the raw Nigerian politics.

Nigerians will welcome General Buhari or President Jonathan victory in the spirit of one Nigeria and common destiny. Nigeria does not need foreign media to complicate the over already intense situation in Nigeria. The great country of Nigeria has great men and women who are capable of piloting the country’s affairs. Nigeria needs true friends not those that will manipulate the situation or write anything with a hidden agenda to belittle Nigeria.

With full plate of political and economic problems confronting the declining Europe, The Economist magazine has a lot to chew on Europe. The financial instabilities and debt ridden Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain and rest of Europe should attract Economist attention.

Why Nigeria, Why Africa?

Economist Magazine in the past has called Africa a hopeless continent and has been critical of book that narrated the evils of slavery. The Economist can be quantitatively defined to lack Africa’s best interest. The Economist has also faced criticism on its characterization of Indian-Americans during Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi visit to United Sates.

The Economist magazine depiction of Indian Americans and Prime Minister Modi:

“Inside are over 18,000 Indian-Americans, as prosperous and upstanding a diaspora as you will find from the Redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters. They are willing themselves into the kind of obedient hysteria they were meant to have left behind generations ago in the badlands of Asia, along with hunger and snakes. “Modi, Modi, Modi,” shout the massed oncologists, engineers and entrepreneurs, wearing T-Shirts bearing his face and the slogan “Unity, Action, Progress”. An Americanised Bollywood dance troupe wearing fluorescent military uniforms gyrates to Bruce Springsteen’s anthem “Born in the USA”. The cries reach a lustier pitch. “Modi, Modi, Modi!”

The Economist magazine, a quintessential western media in May of 2000 chose to amplify the existential problems of three African countries namely Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Mozambique with a captioned, “Hopeless Africa.” And the economist write-up was characteristized by barrage of put downs and condescension that the magazine later regretted.

In the ‘Hopeless Africa’‘, an article from Economist the ‘abysmal Africa’ was initiated with this awful permeable:

“AT THE start of the 19th century, Freetown was remote and malarial, but also a place of hope. This settlement for destitute Africans from England and former slaves from the Americas had become the main base in west Africa for enforcing the British act that abolished the slave trade. At the start of the 21st century, Freetown symbolises failure and despair. The capital of Sierra Leone may be less brutalised than some other parts of the country, but its people are nonetheless physically and psychologically scarred by years of warfare, and this week they had to watch as foreign aid workers were pulled out. The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission had degenerated into a shambles, calling into question the outside world’s readiness to help end the fighting not just in Sierra Leone but in any of Africa’s many dreadful wars. Indeed, since the difficulties of helping Sierra Leone seemed so intractable, and since Sierra Leone seemed to epitomise so much of the rest of Africa, it began to look as though the world might just give up on the entire continent.”

The Economist at the time of the write up, forget to mention the international role blood diamond played in the Sierra Leone conflict and the ECOWAS military intervention that successfully brought to the end of the conflict. Temporary amnesia was needed to put Africa in her suppose place.

And Economist continues, “All, however, is not well. Since January, Mozambique and Madagascar have been deluged by floods, famine has started to reappear in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe has succumbed to government-sponsored thuggery, and poverty and pestilence continue unabated. Most seriously, wars still rage from north to south and east to west. No one can blame Africans for the weather, but most of the continent’s shortcomings owe less to acts of God than to acts of man. These acts are not exclusively African—brutality, despotism and corruption exist everywhere—but African societies, for reasons buried in their cultures, seem especially susceptible to them “

The barrage of put down and heaps of degradation were not yet enough: “Sierra Leone manifests all the continent’s worst characteristics. It is an extreme, but not untypical, example of a state with all the epiphenomena and none of the institutions of government. It has poverty and disease in abundance, and riches too: its diamonds sustain the rebels who terrorise the place. It is unusual only in its brutality: rape, cannibalism and amputation have been common, with children often among the victims.”

Those stereotypes that Africa was always associated with: “cannibalism” and “brutality,” were slipped into the write-up and it was beginning to sound like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

The point to be made is that if anything goes wrong with Nigerian election, Economist magazine will be the first to call Nigeria a backward and uncivilized nation that cannot govern herself. Therefore it is important that Economist will trend with care with its commentary on the forth coming election.

– Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at AFRIPOL.

The Ground Report


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