LESSONS FOR NIGERIA FROM FRANCE’S ELECTIONS   20 comments

President Goodluck Jonathan visited France in November 2011 to meet with some French investors. He also secured a French loan to the tune of $100 million after he met his counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy. Jonathan used the Sarkozy audience to, among other things, solicit France’s assistance to tackle the Boko Haram menace.

Beyond that, however, and whilst not justifying the French loan Jonathan took, Nigeria must now appreciate the unsolicited ‘gift’ of France’s exemplary political culture that was once again on sublime display at her just ended 2012 presidential elections. Nigeria has plenty of lessons to learn from this latest amiable chapter of French politics! Such of these lessons include the following…

First and foremost, French politics is particularly unique for its solid ideological blueprint. Fair enough, extreme ideological persuasions could sometimes lead to democratic stalemate as the recent case with the US Congress shows. But, almost all the time, a politics of ideology where fine distinctions could be made between the candidates and their various parties’ platforms and manifestos, such as is in vogue in France, is a joker for the strengthening of democracy in that it makes it easy for the electorate to rationally decipher where to pitch their tent.

Secondly, Nigeria must copy from French politics the practice that denies a governing party the selfish, divisive perception that it can remain in power for as long it desires. Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) likes to think of itself as politically disposed to governing Nigeria for generations. A former national chairman of the party once said the PDP will be in power for at least the next 60 years! When politicians make such silly comments, it simply shows that their interest is not in governing aright but in wielding power at any cost for their own selfish interests. Harvard Professor of International Development, Calestous Juma, says: “Political parties [are] tools of democracy, not delivery vehicles for political leaders.” When asked what would happen if he lost the elections, defeated French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, simply and unhesitatingly said, “There will be a handover of power. The nation is stronger than the destinies of the men who serve it!”

Yet another lesson Nigeria should endeavour to learn from France is that of a politics that guarantees an incumbent’s defeat if he doesn’t deliver irrespective of whether he created prevailing problems or not! I have encountered a handful of Nigerians who attempt to excuse the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, on the premise that many of the problems Nigeria is faced with today didn’t begin with him! No one denies that. But then, when someone puts himself up to be president, he is accepting responsibility for all that the country is facing. We must evolve a system wherein, like the French, if a president or any other elected official cannot deliver, even in his first term, he or she should be fired! For all his merits, especially on the international scene, Sarkozy understood this fact. Indeed, he fully accepted responsibility for his defeat at the polls! The presidency is not a platform for on-the-job training. The welfare, and in some cases, the survival, of many people depends on the policies and actions that the president makes and takes. There is no room for mediocrity!

In addition, the overall civility and tolerance of the French political establishment throughout this hotly contested campaign should further remind us that politics is not a do-or-die affair! It is only in an atmosphere of maturity, civility and tolerance such as the French have shown, that an incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost an election by 48.33% to his opponent’s 51.67% and yet we don’t hear of any civil uprising or threats of violence by his supporters.

Above all, one pertinent lesson Nigerians must themselves learn from the sterling example of the latest episode of France’s inspiring democratic practice is that sovereignty lies with the people and they must not fail to use it at every given opportunity in determining those who should govern them. Turnout was very high in both the first and second rounds of the 2012 French presidential elections. Whilst the first round was pegged at above 80%, the second round was said to hover around 75%! Indeed, the high turnout was majorly influenced by prevailing economic hardships. This explains what Prof. Juma meant when he said: “French voters have made it clear that economies serve people and not the other way round.”

In life, we excel when we emulate the positive examples of those who have gone ahead of us. From the French Revolution in 1789 till date, France has evolved a sound political-cum-democratic culture worthy to be emulated by a nation with a nascent democracy like Nigeria.

NB: The French President-Elect, Francois Hollande, told his friends at age 15 that his dream was to become president someday! Today, at age 57, he has fulfilled that dream! Hopefully, Hollande’s motivation, rooted in his psyche, will urge him to do his utmost best for his country. For Nigeria, this is a lesson that indicts our system which has produced mostly unwilling and accidental folks as our president – with unsurprisingly below par leadership performances.

GOD bless Nigeria!

Follow me on Twitter @Raymond_Eyo

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20 responses to “LESSONS FOR NIGERIA FROM FRANCE’S ELECTIONS

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  1. Sincerely, Raymond I’m inspired. Ethnicity, greediness and lack of strong institutions were some of our politics

    Adebayo Sheriff
    • Adebayo, I’m happy to know you’re inspired. Sooner than later, we must discontinue this practice of ethnicity and other ills stifling our democratic progress.

  2. My favorite sentence, “Yet another lesson Nigeria should endeavour to learn from France is that of a politics that guarantees an incumbent’s defeat if he doesn’t deliver irrespective of whether he created prevailing problems or not” …articulate article and very relevant to the current polity…kudos Raymond Eyo

  3. “French voters have made it clear that economies serve people and not the other way round.”
    Nigerians let treat this present Government same way Sarkozy was treated.

  4. It’s high time Nigerians do what the French did.The power is in our hands

  5. “…one pertinent lesson Nigerians must themselves learn from the sterling example of the latest episode of France’s inspiring democratic practice is that sovereignty lies with the people and they must not fail to use it at every given opportunity in determining those who should govern them.” This is a nice write up. Weldone my brother.

  6. We can learn more than even elections from d French. I met a French man who has lived in Nigeria for more than 25yrs and he said Sarkozy was never going to win. He said Sarkozy had put his son in a post for political reasons. That in France, you don’t ever do that. If you are president, your children must not do anything that has to do with politics.
    We can learn from this too. David Marks son imports most of the weapons we use in Nigeria because of his father. We have to change such nonsense

    • Wow! Seun, many thanks for adding your perspective to the topic. We absolutely must change these nepotic tendencies that inhibit democratic progress and accountability.

  7. Good write-up; our people are full of excuses for the non-performance and outright failure of our leaders….”he didn’t start it”, “those before him were worse”, “XYZ people don’t want him to succeed”, “he needs more than 1 term”. Leadership is about solving problems, not just holding an office, representing a sect or region. We have to rise against ethnic &religious inclinations when choosing our leaders. Even as we congratulate the new French President, i’m sure he knows he can’t sit easy or else the same broom that swept Sarkozy out will sweep him out.

  8. Politics as practiced in Nigeria will take a while to get to the level of France…to get us there sooner, Nigerians must realize the power they hold as a people, stand up in every sphere of civil influence and force that change…I am afraid the efforts will need to be more concerted, structured and corruption-proof if we must fix it NOW…thanks Ray for ‘lighting’ the path and drawing attention to the facts and failing…

    • Our problem has never been ignorance and will never be. We have always known how it ought to be but have always made a choice based on how we want it to be. Where we are now is a choice driven by greed, corruption. The lesson’s in this publication will be ignored just as the truth has always been. The only animals that cannot be tamed are the human animals of the black continent. How I wish we were advanced to the level of monkeys, lions,dogs, cats etc…..at least we could have been able to be tamed by circumstance and experience (of others)…

    • Our problem has never been ignorance and will never be. We have always known how it ought to be but have always made a choice based on how we want it to be. Where we are now is a choice driven by greed, corruption. The lesson’s in this publication will be ignored just as the truth has always been. The only animals that cannot be tamed are the human animals of the black continent. How I wish we were advanced to the level of monkeys, lions,dogs, cats etc…..at least we could have been able to be tamed by circumstance and experience (even of others)…

    • You’re welcome, Imago. All our hands must be on deck to bring about the change we want in Nigeria. I especially love where you said: “Nigerians must realize the power they hold as a people, stand up in every sphere of civil influence and force that change.” GOD bless you.

  9. Good write up. Lessons for the opposition of the Hollande victory? a well articulated vision and plan by the opposition plus a broad based party with national acceptance and coverage to win a presidential election. Lesson for Nigeria? The power of the ballot, the respect for the views of the electorate, the non-incitement to violence by losers plus the need for a credible and transparent electoral process where results are published almost on real time basis! congrats, Raymond.

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