BNW

 

Biafra Nigeria World Weblogs

 

BNW: Biafra Nigeria World Magazine

 

 

BNW: Insight, Features, and Analysis

BNW Writer's Block 

BNW News and Archives

 BNW News Archive

BNW: Biafra Nigeria World

 

BNW Forums and Message Board

 WaZoBia

Biafra Net

 Igbo Net: The Igbo Network

BNW Africa and AfricaWorld 

BNW: Icon

BNW: Icon

 

Flag of Biafra Nigeria

BNW News Archives

BNW News Archive 2002-January 2005

BNW News Archive 2005

BNW News Archive 2005 and Later


« Ozodi Osuji Lectures #5: Nigeria and the Capitalist Political Economy | Main | Oliver de Coque’s Bad Vibes at L.A.’s Local 250 Warehouse »

October 10, 2005

Ozodi Osuji Lectures #6: Interest Group Politics in Nigeria

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- As in my earlier lectures, I will first explain the concept of interest group politics and then apply it to Nigeria. My goal, as usual, is to help us understand the idea of interest group politics in general and to see how it operates in Nigeria.

Robert Dahl characterized America’s politics as Polyarchy. By that he meant that America’s politics has many interests groups, each trying to influence public policy in its favor. As he sees it, America is a pluralistic democracy with many groups, each looking out for its interests and working within the established political system to optimize its interests.

Each interest group tries to influence the political establishment’s decision makers to enact public policies that benefit it. Since other groups are pretty much doing what every group is doing, trying to get the political system to work in their favor, all the groups have no choice but find a way to bargain with each other, so that each gets something in the process, but not everything it wants. In American democracy, many interest groups bargain, trade off and compromise. The result is that policies do not always reflect what each group wants, but a bit of what it wants and what other groups want. Policies are compromises that serve every ones interests but no particular person’s whole interests.

Politics is the art of making compromises and the art of giving up something to get something in return. A Bill introduced in Congress goes through many bargaining and negotiating sessions that by the time it becomes a Congressional Act, it seldom looks like what it was when it was originally introduced. This is because many interest groups go to work on the proposed Bill, each trying to make it reflect its interests. The final version of any Bill is something that serves the interests of many interest groups.

The fact that final Bills tend to be very watered down tends to frustrate political idealists who, think that their Bills ought to be enacted into law as they were introduced. For the idealist’s desire to happen, however, all human beings in the human polity must see things as the idealist sees them. In as much as people see things differently and desire different public policies, the inevitable outcome is that public policies must reflect diverse public opinions, hence must be compromised.

Failure to do so is to alienate powerful interest groups. Alienating powerful interest groups is not exactly good politics. As we observed elsewhere, politics is war by peaceful means. If you ignore some powerful interests’ desires, you risk their converting politics to war by violent means. When negotiations fail, cold war ends and people embark on hot war and shoot it out. At wars, the powerful win and the weak lose. The powerful get the spoils of war and the weak get nothing.

Statesmen avoid war from breaking out in the human polity by striving to please all relevant interest groups. Statesmen know that war is always looming around the corner when public policy is discussed, and to avert war, make sure that they serve the interests of all those capable of making war a reality.

In a pluralistic democracy, policies and laws must reflect the competing interests in the polity. Policies cannot serve one interest group’s desires at the expense of others.

Campus socialists, for example, wish for certain idealistic social policies. They wish that society could enact their pet projects into law. But that would never happen as long as other people oppose them. The only way it could happen is for the socialists to use violence to take over the government and proceed to use force to superimpose their views on the rest of the people. If socialists have preponderance of power, they may succeed for a while, but as soon as power shifts locus they are thrown out.

It is difficult for communists to understand that there are human beings who are conservative in political ideology and hate everything that communists stand for. For example, there are people who hate abortion, out of wedlock bearing of children and homosexuality. Communists in their arrogant thinking tend to believe that conservatives are ignorant and that all that needs done is to reeducate them to see things in their way. These communists are not aware that there are conservatives who are willing to go to war rather than permit communists and liberals to enact their wishes into law.

Liberals trying to get around taking into consideration conservative opposition to their proposed policies often resort to the judiciary. They employ activist judges to legislate their pet desires into social policies. Judicial activist Judges who seem naive of what politics is all about use the bench to enact into legislation what there is no political consensus for. Thus, in today’s America, liberal activist judges abhor strict construction of the constitution and legislate for abortion and homosexuality. They do what is strictly the purview of Congress to do. They believe that they have succeeded in changing society, but, in fact, have only sown the seed for social discord. If these liberal judicial activists proceed on the path they are on, there is no doubt that conservatives would try to use violence to reverse the situation and the result could be civil war in America. The alternative, of course, is to go back to politics and let people’s policy ideas battle each other and produce compromises that most people are willing to live with. It is arrogant for liberals and their judges to assume that conservatives who oppose them are ignorant and ram down their throats policies they do not approve and hope that in time that they would accept such policies. There simply are some social behaviors that some persons are unwilling to accept and any effort to make them accept them leads to schisms and break ups of polities.

In a pluralistic democracy, there are many interest groups, each jostling to influence public policy in its favor. Resultant policies tend to reflect the inputs of these many interest groups. This is the only way peace is served in such societies for the alternative of serving one group at the expense of others is social discord, conflict, wars.


INTEREST GROUPS VERSUS POLITICAL PARTIES

Interest groups are unlike political parties in the sense that they are not interested in campaigning, winning elections and governing the human polity. Instead, they want to influence the government into making laws and policies that reflect their interests. Interest groups do not want to govern but influence those who govern. This is the main difference between interest groups and political parties. Both are interested in enacting policies that govern the polity but political parties want to constitute the personnel of government whereas interest groups only want to influence the behavior of government.

In America, interest groups are, in fact, as powerful as political parties, if not more so. In America, policies are made by three key groups: the President, Congressional committees (particularly their chairpersons) and interest groups. These three are called the Iron triangle. The three, apparently, work behind the scenes and agree on policy options and Congress passes their agreed upon desires into laws.

In America, failure to obtain the consent of powerful interest groups essentially means that a Bill is not likely going to become law.

To better understand this phenomenon, it is necessary to briefly see how Bills become law in America.

Any Congressman, and for that matter, any American citizen through his congress man, can introduced a Bill in Congress. A Bill is a wish, an idea on how things should be to become public policy/law.

A Congressman hands over his drafted Bill (written in the accepted legal format for Bills) it to the speaker. The Clerk of the House reads it to (usually an empty House). The speaker then routes the proposed Bill to a committee that he believes is appropriate to discuss it.

The committee chair evaluates the Bill and decides whether to hold a hearing on it or not. Most Bills introduced by members of Congress do not see committee hearings. It is mostly Bills introduced by powerful members of the House and the administration (Presidency) that gets to have a public hearing. The typical Congressman may spend ten years in the House without seeing one of his Bills passed into law. At best, he aligns himself with powerful Congressmen and co-authors Bills with them and see such Bills see the light of day.

The chair of committees are very powerful; they can kill or not kill a Bill or just sit on it. Assuming that the Chair decides to hold a public hearing on a Bill, he does so on his own time table, which may be two years from the time that the Bill was originally introduced.

The Bill is scheduled for public hearing. The hearing’s date is publicized in Congressional Journals so that the public may come and testify for or against it. Citizens call and schedule to testify for or against it. Then the hearings are held. These hearings last for however long the Chair wants them to last. After public testimony the Chair calls for a vote on the Bill. If a majority of the committee members are in favor of it, it is voted out of the committee and goes to the entire house where the speaker then schedules it for debate and eventual vote.

The United States legislature is bicameral. Thus the Bill must undertake the same process in the two houses, Representative and Senate. In practical terms, this means that if a member of the lower House introduced a Bill in that House, he has to find a Senator to introduce it in the upper House. Right there making of compromises begin, for the Senator is not about to introduce a Bill that he does not like or a Bill that does not serve his interests and the interests of those he represents, his constituencies. If the Bill passes both Houses, a conference committee is appointed by the Speaker of the House of representative and President of the Senate to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the Bill and the reconciled version is voted on again by the two chambers and then sent to the President for his signature. If the President signs it, it becomes a Congressional Act, part of the Statutory law of the land. The President can veto the Bill. If vetoed, Congress can override it with two thirds vote, which is almost impossible to muster.

A Bill that is discussed at the committee level is worked on by all committee members. These committee members make changes to the Bill, called amendments. It is the various changes that finally is voted on and passed to the entire House for vote. If the person who introduced the Bill insists that no changes be made on it, well, it dies right at the committee level.

In the meantime, interest groups, who are the ones with resources to come and testify in favor or against a Bill before a committee, come and do so. The average American does not have the resources to fly to Washington DC to go testify in favor or against a bill. Indeed, the average American may not even be able to understand the legal mumbo jumbo language that Bills are written in.

Interest groups have the technical expertise that the average citizen does not have, indeed that the average Congressman does not have. Their testimony carries more weight than the testimony of the average citizen. Let us say that the Bill has something to do with building a road. Whose testimony would be important, a citizen who knows nothing about building roads or an engineering firm that builds roads? All things being equal, it is the testimony of civil engineers, experts, that counts the most.

The opinion of interest groups, top bureaucrats working for the President and the predilection of committee chairs decide what Bills become laws. Hence it is said that in America interest groups(via their agents, lobbyists), the executive branch and top bureaucrats are really the rulers of the land. The term democracy seem a misnomer.

LOBBYISTS

Each powerful interest group generally hires lobbyists whose full time jobs are to network with Congressional committees, top bureaucrats and the President and see to it that Bills serving their interests get favorite attention. Some left wing political scientists speculate that these interest groups and their lobbyist write a majority of the Bills that go on to become laws in America. Whereas there is no doubt that interest groups and their lobbyist impact Bills, it would be stretching it to say that they are responsible for most of the Bills that become laws in the land. What is more likely the case is that since interest groups and their lobbyist are experts in their fields, that they are consulted as Bills are written. If Congress wants to pass a Bill on oil matters, who else to consult than the executives of oil farms? Shell, Chevron, Texaco, Arco, Mobil, etc are certainly going to play a more effective role in public policies on oil matters than the average citizen who knows next to nothing about energy issues.

Washington DC, particularly K street is filled with thousands of lobbyists whose job is to try to influence the behavior of Congress, the President and top bureaucrats. These lobbyists sometimes were themselves former Congressmen, top bureaucrats and or top executives of the industries that they represent. These people know the lay of the land and know who to talk to and what to do to shape public policies.

Additionally, lobbyists and the interest groups that they represent have the money to help politicians get elected. The typical politician to be is not rich. It costs a lot of money to run for elections in America. It is estimated that Congressional seats in California and New York take several millions of dollars to compete for them. Where do poor candidates for Congress obtain such money? They do so through interests groups and other persons with cash to give away. (Political Action Committees etc).

Whoever pays the piper calls the tune. Interest groups that have the money to fund elections are in a position to decide what Congressmen do.

These interest groups also have the resources to fund the lavish life styles of politicians. A politician could be funded to fly to somewhere, to go evaluate issues that he supposedly is going to vote on; housed in plush hotels and wined and dined in the best restaurants in town. Interest groups do this. It stands to reason to suspect that politicians so treated by interest groups are often beholden to them?

All said, interest groups are very powerful in America’s politics and largely influence public polices. Socialist oriented scholars tend to draw from this fact the conclusion that a small elite rules America. Hunter’s study of Atlanta claims that a small cabal of powerful persons rule America. To these socialists, America is not a democracy but a land ruled buy powerful elite families.

Other observers say that is not so. These point out that not one group rules America, that many interest groups compete to influence public policies. Since not one group is entirely responsible for all policies, these observers claim that what we have in America is a pluralistic democracy. They point out that different interest groups influence different policy areas but that no one group influences policies across the board. For example, the American Medical Association and the Health Insurance Industry influences policies on health issues but not on other assesses.

In 1993, Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton tried to provide all Americans with European style, publicly paid health insurance. The American Medical Association and the Insurance industry felt that such a policy would not serve their interests and lobbied to kill the proposal. These interest groups spent millions of dollars to kill a Bill that would have provided all Americans with public health insurance.

In America, medical doctors somehow managed to convince most people that they are a very important and indispensable group. They form a powerful interest group and lobby to prevent the mass training of medical doctors by limiting admission to medical schools. The result is that they restrict entry into the market of potential medical practitioners. Having controlled the supply of medical doctors, they affect the price paid by demanders of their services. Thus, in American a medical doctor makes more than $100, 000 a year . If the forces of the market were allowed to determine medical wages an American doctor would not make more than $45, 000 a year.

As it were, the medical group rigged the system to work for it and if any one tries to change the situation they immediately perceive threat to their economic welfare and fight it. If health care is nationalized, the typical American doctor would make, perhaps, half of what he is currently making. To protect their group’s interests , medical doctors fight a policy option that would have benefited all Americans. Today, there are 45 million uninsured Americans. The inner cities are generally filled with uninsured Americans.

PUBLIC VERSUS SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS


There are public interest groups and specialized interests groups. Specialized interests like the AMA, the National Rifle Association, the various labor unions (AFL-CIO) and others serve specialized interests; they work for their members interests and not for the general public. On the other hand, are those interest groups that claim to work for the generalized public’s interests. Those working for the protection of the environment, for example, tend to claim to work for public interests.

This may not be quite true, for conservatives have different approaches to the environment than liberals. Conservatives, for example, would like to mine oil in the Alaska National Wild Life Preserve, whereas liberals want to prevent such oil exploration, to preserve the pristine nature of the preserve. This liberal stance sounds good except that the same liberals drive gas guzzling SUVs like any one else in America and must get their oil from somewhere. They a do not mind if Shell desecrates the mangrove forests of IJaw land, provided they obtain their oil to support their expensive life styles.

The liberal is not the angel he tends to make himself out to be. He is as selfish as any one else. His sentimentalities does not deceive any one. The conservative’s unabashed self interested behavior is actually refreshing. Realistic persons would rather deal with the conservative white American for they know who he is, “a selfish son of a bitch” and can bargain with him for mutual self interests. In dealing with a conservative, you have no illusions. You know that he is not pretending to look after your self interests; he is serving his own self interests, and if you are realistic, as you should be, you serve your own self interest. The result is adult bargaining to serve mutual self interests.

The White liberal, on the other hand, is a phony; he pretends to serve the poor when, in fact, he is serving his own self interests. Liberals pretend to like black Americans. If liberals ruled America Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice would never be made the Secretary of State. The secretary of Housing and Urban Development, may be. Liberals are the most condescending racist breed of Americans. They do not even think that black Americans are intelligent enough to do any thing for themselves. They, the paternalistic white liberals, want to do things for poor black folks. In doing so, they prevent black folks from doing things for themselves. These people baby black folks. It is amazing that black Americans have not seen through the racism of the democratic party and joined the realistically self centered Republican Party, where, at least, there are no games, no pretence of helping the poor while screwing them.

INTEREST GROUPS DEFINED

Interest groups are association of persons with similar interests who band together to protect their self interests. They work together to influence public policies in such a manner that their interest are served. They tend to focus their political activities to the area of their interests, not globally, as political parties do.

The American Bar Association, for example, only focuses on protecting the interests of lawyers; if an issue does not directly affect lawyers it stays out of it. The various labor unions try to influence policies that serve labor’s interests. The NAACP deals with issues that affect the interests of colored people (whoever is a colored person).

American politics is the politics of interest groups. Interest groups working with top Congressmen, top bureaucrats and the President influence the making of laws in America. Interest group are powerful in America, they are so powerful that some political scientists believe that they rule America.

UNDERDEVLOPED INTEREST GROUP ACTIVITY IN NIGERIA

Nigeria is not a democracy and, as such, public policies are not made through the inputs of several persons and organizations. What seems to be the case is that powerful elements rule Nigeria. Interest group politics is underdeveloped in Nigeria.

However, there are a few interest groups in Nigeria. The Nigerian labor congress does make certain noises that occasionally affects public policy? The various professional associations, such as the Nigerian Medical Association and the Nigerian Bar Association seem to be well organized enough to look after the interests of their members. However, since the processes of making laws in Nigeria is not really democratic, it is doubtful how effective these mutual admiration societies are.

The various professional associations in Nigeria offer Nigerian professionals opportunity to grandstand as outstanding professionals. These folks gather in their regular meetings and bamboozle the public with their social importance. But what exactly is the Nigerian Medical Association or the Nigerian Bar Association contributing to Medical/legal research? Very little. As far as the world is concerned, little or nothing comes out of Nigerian professionals thinking. But within the context of Nigeria, these fellows masquerade as outstanding professionals. Their associations offer them opportunity to meet and admire each other and derive egoistic sense of importance. They bedeck themselves in flowery lace robes and jewels, look like manikins and imagine that they are very important persons.

To the rest of the world, a very important person is a person who makes seminal contribution to his filed of knowledge. To Nigerians, a person is important just because he calls himself a doctor do nothing or chief-thief.

We shall proceed on the assumption that whereas the various interested groups found in the West seem to exist in Nigeria, that they are not effective in influencing public policies.

ETHNIC GROUP POLITICS IN NIGERIA


Ethnic groups are the only salient interest groups in Nigeria. They are the only ones that seem to have the power to influence public policies. We shall, therefore, spend some time on these groups.

Nigeria’s politics is the politics of ethnic groups. The various ethnic groups jostle for power and control of the polity. They bargain with each other and the resultant compromises serve as Nigeria’s public policies, the little there is of it..

As pointed out in other lectures, Nigeria is a conglomeration of many ethnic groups. No one knows exactly how many ethnic groups there are in Nigeria. Some say hundreds. I have tried counting them and counted less than fifty. (It is for the government and its officials to make themselves useful by delineating the ethnic groups in Nigeria and stop giving us estimates of how many ethnic groups there are in Nigeria)

The major ethnic groups in Nigeria are, in order of population size: Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos, Jaws, Edos, Efiks, Fulanis, Kanuris, Urobos, Ishikiris, Bornu, Tivi, and so on. These are the ethnic groups that jostle for power and control in Nigeria.

No one knows exactly the census figures of each of these groups. The various census figures were rigged to serve ethnic goals, for if an ethnic group is perceived to have more persons, even if it does not have them, it claims the right to rule others.

The World Book Almanac, probably a more reliable outfit than any in Nigeria, gives Hausas 24 million people, Yoruba’s, 22 million and Igbos 20 million people, the Jaws, Efiks etc about 2 million each. In the absence of accurate figures from Nigeria, we shall proceed with the assumption that the above World Book Almanac’s figures are closer to the truth than other figures banded around by Nigerians.

(The Igbos claim to be the largest group in Nigeria. They tag themselves as 45 million. They want ethnic affiliation to be included in the upcoming Census count in Nigeria because they think that it would show that they are the largest group in Nigeria. It is probably useful to know the actual numbers of each ethnic group in Nigeria, but given that that issue led to rigging past census figures one understands the decision not to include ethnic affiliation as a unit of count in the upcoming census count.)

The 1959 pre-independence election gave the Hausa party, NPC some edge, but not enough to form government by itself. NPC formed a coalition government with the Igbo party, NCNC. The Yoruba party, AG was the opposition party. The Yoruba party’s chieftain, Obafemi Awolowo feeling marginalized tried to forcefully overthrow the Federal government. His coup failed and he was arrested, charged with treason, tried and sent to ten year prison term.

In the meantime, the NPC/NCNC government turned the government into a free for all corruption game. People were frustration and the military gave vent to this frustration. On January 15, 1966 Major Nzeogwu and his group over threw the Federal government.

Mr. Nzeogwu made the worst mistake any aspirant to power could make: he killed Hausa and Yoruba leaders and spared Igbo leaders. One does not know what he was smoking. Common sense would have told him that the other groups would see his so-called revolution as ethnic based. If he was going to waste anyone, he should have included Igbo politicians.

A compromise was struck whereby Nzeogwu was jailed and the most senor military officer, an Igbo took over. The military government of Major General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi was the most inept government that ever graced Nigeria’s checkered political history. The man did absolutely nothing. It was rumored that he was about to abolish the Nigerian federal structure and impose a unitary structure on the nation and that this proposal enraged certain elements that did not like that form of government. In August of 1966, Ironsi was eliminated and Major Gowon took over and said, on quote: “thank God, the government has returned to northern hands.”

The Hausas, more or less, governed Nigeria until 1999. (The 1975-79 Olusegun Obasanjo interregnum notwithstanding). In 1999, a Yoruba man, Olusegun Obasanjo won the Presidency. The election was supposedly fixed?

The government is now in Obasan/Yoruba hands. The Igbos claim that it is their turn to produce the next president in 2007. Why? Because ethnic calculations make it there turn. How about talking about what a president is going to do for Nigeria as the criteria for electing him to office?

In Nigeria, politicians are not placed in office for what they plan to do but because of ethnic calculations. In office, the politician is supposed to deliver bread to his group. The Igbos hope to produce the next president so as to get their own share of the national cake. The idea is not to have a good government, but a government that delivers to the Igbos, after all the other governments supposedly did not deliver to the Igbos. These other governments supposedly delivered to Hausas and Yorubas. (And despite what they supposedly got from the national booty, their lands still look as underdeveloped as any other African lands.)

No one who understands Nigerian politics can blame the Igbos for doing what they are doing, seeking to become the next president. In the context of Nigeria’s legendary corrupt politics, it makes sense for the Igbos to get their own share. Nevertheless, what we have here is not government but the activities of antisocial personalities, criminals who belong in prisons, not the halls of power.

In 1999, the outgoing military strong man, General Abdul Salami single handedly wrote a constitution and imposed it on Nigerians. Nigerians elected their present government on the basis of that illegitimate constitution. The President, Obasanjo, is on public record, stating that he had not even seen the constriction that he was elected on.

Let us not pretend naiveté. There is no universally agreed upon constitution in Nigeria. Constitutions are written by the people or by the people’s representatives. Constitutions are not given to the people by some one else but by themselves. Even if the constitution given to a people is good, as long as they themselves did not write it, it is illegal. Thus the present government in Nigeria, in so far that it governs under an undemocratically reached constitution, is an illegal government.

Nevertheless, let us evaluate how policies are made in the present political dispensation in Nigeria and see if interest groups play a role in it. The 1999 constitution copied America’s presidential system. There is an executive president, a bicameral legislature and a supposedly independent judiciary. We shall examine these institutions in future lectures.

When the present crop of politicians were elected to office, they descended on America to learn how the American government works. They supposedly observed Congressional committee systems and how laws are made in America.

In the new system, Bills are introduced in the House of Representative and Senate as in America. They are routed to committees by the Speaker/Senate President. As in America, these committees are supposed to hold public hearings, hear testimonies in support or against Bills before voting them out of committee to the full House.

It is here that we witness true Nigerians at work. These committees are not really arenas for debating the merit or lack of it of Bills but occasion for collecting bribes. In fact, even government ministries have to bribe committee members to have their budgets passed. The former minister of education, Professor Fabian Osuji said that he was compelled to bribe committee chairpersons before they could approve his department’s budget. He claims that all government ministers do the same.

Nigerian parliamentary committees apparently are designed to collect bribes from those wishing to see public policies reflect their interests. How to be a Nigerian, as Peter Pan, pointed out, is to bribe persons in power.

Ethnic groups seem to have organized into powerful interest groups and try to influence the Obasanjo government. Obasanjo being a realistic man knows that he must engage in a balancing act. He must share the national wealth among the various ethnic groups, if he wishes not thrown out of office, worse, killed.

The federal government essentially appropriates oil revenue from where oil is mined and divides that money among the various ethnic groups. Nigeria has 36 states. Most of these states cannot support themselves. They have no independent source of revenue. Indeed, most of the citizens of these states do not even pay taxes. They look to the Federal government to obtain revenue with which to even pay their civil (evil) servants.

The primary function of the Abuja central government seems to obtain oil revenue, the loot, and share it among the states. The ethnic groups that are judged more powerful than others obtain greater share of this national booty.

Ethnic groups like Arewa,, Ohaneze, Odua etc seem to have some pull on the central government. It is doubtful, however, that these groups are real interest groups, as we understand interest groups in the West. They have not accepted the inviolable reality of the political entity called Nigeria and work under its parameters. Instead, they seem to be out to grab whatever they could from the national treasury and in the main time work for the demise of the polity.

An interesting phenomenon, however, is emerging in Nigeria. The leaders of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria are increasingly intermarrying among themselves. Thus we have Hausa leaders marrying Igbo women and vice versa. It seems that these so-called elites are building intertwined relationships among themselves.

Though these associations currently serve pernicious purposes: better enable the elites steal from Nigeria, still they have some positive aspects to them. This practice is creating a sense of one Nigeria among the rulers of Nigeria.

CONCLUSION

Interest groups politics characterize American politics. This type of politics is less developed in Europe, although it is becoming increasingly so. European politics is increasingly becoming like American politics, with less powerful political parties and more roles for interest groups.

In my next lecture, I will focus on political parties and show, among other things, how they are very strong in Europe and weak in America. America’s weak political parties play a role in America developing powerful interest groups. Where political parties are strong, interest groups tend to be weak. Europe tended to have powerful political parties and weak interest groups. Europe is changing and becoming more and more like America, with weak political parties and strong interest groups.

Nigeria and African countries neither have strong political parties nor weak interest groups. Nigeria and African countries are not yet democratic and those political institutions that play keys roles in Western democracies are weak in them. What we have in Nigeria is the politics of ethnic groups.

Nigeria’s politics is dominated by ethnic leaders. If a fellow manages to convince his ethnic group that he looks after their interests, they tend to see him as a candidate for national office. Even if the chap has zero policy propositions his group, nevertheless, present him as a viable candidate for national office. In this light, Governor Orji Kalu, who has no recognizable positive agenda of what he wants to accomplish for Nigeria, positions himself as Igbo leader and expects Igbos to put him forward as their candidate for the “Igbo turn at the national presidency”. This man overseers a state, Abia, where streams flow where roads are supposed to be. If the best that Igbos can produce is this nonentity, they are, indeed, in trouble.

It is clear that interest group politics is on the ascendancy in Nigeria. Should Nigeria become a true democracy, interest group politics would probably become more important in Nigeria than it is at the present. Thus, even though it is really inappropriate to talk about interest groups politics in Nigeria, I found it necessary to add the topic to my lecture series on Nigeria at age 45.

One is not sure whether interest group politics is the best way for Nigeria to go. As we have seen, the well organized elements in America get their wishes reflected in national policies whereas the weak don’t. The issues that concern the poor seldom make it into America’s national agenda; this is largely because the poor do not have access to the media. Only wealthy interest groups have money to buy access to the media, a media that influence what is placed on the national agenda for political discourse and action. Whether this is good or not for democracy remains to be seen. Nigeria ought to be careful in permitting self serving interest groups to inordinately influence public policies.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

October 10, 2005

Lecture 7, Political Parties in Nigeria, on October 12.


Here is the list of “ The Ozodi Thomas Osuji Lectures on the 45 anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence”.

Introduction: Why Study Politics?
Nigeria’s Political Culture
Nigeria’s Political Socialization
Political Ideologies and Nigeria
Nigeria and Capitalist Political Economy
Nigeria and Interest Groups
Nigeria’s Political Parties
The Media and Nigeria
Public Opinion and Public Policy making in Nigeria
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Nigeria
Nigeria’s Legislature
Nigeria’s Presidency
Nigeria’s Judiciary
Nigeria’s Bureaucracy
Nigeria’s International Relations
Nigeria and International Organizations (examples: UN, World Court, IMF, World Bank etc.)
Extralegal Gov. The Nigerian Military
Extralegal Gov. Nigeria’s Religions
Nigeria’s Leadership Issues
Introduction to Business in Nigeria
Introduction to Marketing in Nigeria
Introduction to Public Finance in Nigeria
Introduction to Business Finance in Nigeria
Introductions to Business Productions/Operations In Nigeria
Introduction to Human Resources in Nigeria
Introduction to Labor Relations in Nigeria
Introduction to Organizational Psychology In Nigeria
Customer Care in Nigeria
E-Commerce in Nigeria
Summing Up: Professional Management of the Public Sector in Nigeria.

Posted by Administrator at October 10, 2005 06:20 PM

Comments


BNW Writers A-M


BNW Writers N-Z

 

 

BiafraNigeria Banner

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BiafraNigeria Spacer

BiafraNigeria Spacer

 

BNW Forums

 

The Voice of a New Generation