Nigeria, the quintessential African nation

In 10 days, the most important elections since the ones marking the transition out of military rule in 1999 will be held in Nigeria. The moment is pivotal for Nigeria and Africa.

Right now, the opposition appears to be crystallising the hopes of tens of millions of Nigerians hoping for change. The incumbents who early on lost much critical support from within their ranks appear to be running out of steam. What looked like a close-call election gradually appears to be heading towards an assured victory in the ballots for the newly coalesced opposition.

The year leading up to the election has been cruel for Nigeria. The country has been plagued by unspeakable corruption and harrowing inefficiencies in safeguarding the security of its people. In the northeast, a gangrenous and increasingly brutal insurgency lead by Boko Haram terrorists has shattered the lives of many and subjugated to its murderous grip a territory that some say is as large as Rwanda and Burundi.

Dwindling global oil prices have left a once buoyant economy, a bright star of the “Africa rising” narrative, tethering on the brink of recession, only months after Nigeria reclassified itself to be the continent’s largest economy.

As fellow West Africans, we look at Nigeria with hope and angst, for it is “The Quintessential African country” – 180 million proud, purposeful, kindhearted, humorous, entrepreneurial and resilient people that embody the best and brightest of what our continent has to offer.

A colossus, who in a not-so-distant past, had harnessed its energies to create the continent’s most dynamic economy after years of ironfisted rule and steady decay.

A nation that not so long ago had marshalled its pan-African consciousness to sacrifice itself in bringing our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone and Liberia back from the sweltering gates of conflict hell; now, stumbling of its own doing.

Africa, once again, looks to Nigeria to lead. We look to its leaders and people to come together for the greater good of their country and that of our beloved continent.

Nigeria is our indispensable nation! It is an African country, unapologetically owned and run by its people, one not coy to wear its identity not just in its glowing gowns and headwear but also in its speech, ideals and actions. A country that produced, through hard work and perseverance, an exciting generation of inspiring entrepreneurs for millions of young Africans, who now know that holding political office is not the only way out of poverty for our people.

Much hinges on the outcome of next weekend’s election, including the continued stability and prosperity of many countries in the West Africa sub-region as well as the continued development of a homegrown humane African capitalism and democratic governance.

We hope sincerely that in the end, when the results are tabulated, fairness, humility and unity will prevail in our uniquely African “family” way.

We pray that the losers will accept the choice made by their people at the ballot box and that Nigeria will rise, once again, to demonstrate that it is indeed Africa’s greatest nation.

Finally, we pray that when the legitimate victor is announced, he will unite all of his people across Nigeria – from Lagos to Yobe, Port Harcourt to Sokoto, Calabar to Badagry – around a blueprint that will deliver on the many expectations and aspirations of one of Africa’s most admirable population.

- Malik Dechambenoit is a leading political analyst and mediator, with extensive experience working with government agencies at the international, central and local levels in Africa. He is the co-founder of Gumbi, Dechambenoit & Associates, a Johannesburg based specialist consultancy that advises global companies on doing business in Africa.

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