Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Get ready for a fight

Nigerian President Obasanjo's efforts to guarantee himself access to a third term are bursting into flames, and he has begun to turn his attention to what had at least partially occupied his time prior to the third-term debate: family values.

The Vanguard (Nigeria) reports [emphasis mine]:
President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday challenged Nigerian women to strive and restore the nation’s core values within the family, at work, in the community, and nationally, arguing that failure to do so would impede national progress and growth.

Addressing the opening Ceremony of the Mothers Summit in Abuja, the President noted that the image problem ''we have is not unconnected to the breakdown of the family structure. Its attendant vices are cultism, exam malpractices, teenage pregnancy and truancy, among the many manifestations of deviant behaviour in our youth.

"The reality today is that the youth deviance index is unacceptably high and there is no indication that it will abate if urgent steps are not taken to correct it. Posterity will not forgive us if we allow things to go on in this manner. Time was, when patriotism, respect for one another, excellence, integrity, communality and hard work were the cornerstone of our value system.

" ... A study of our image problem reveals that factors such as long years of military rule, weak democratic institutions, poverty, and a breakdown of the family structure are largely responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves today. These resulted in the monetization of dignity, the contamination of long-cherished values, and the commercialization of morals."

"Youth deviance indices" aside, as in the US, poverty leads to the breakdown of families. So I'm not sure what progress Obasanjo expects to make without first treating the problem of poverty. The best he could do in the medium- to long-term would be to introduce a massive anti-corruption campaign so that funds from oil revenue could be better distributed to the deeply impoverished Nigerians on whose backs he and the Nigerian elite stand.

But don't expect an anti-corruption campaign from a guy whose party has distributed massive bribes for favorable voting on a third term. No, in a last gasp effort in the face of defeat, Obasanjo is revving up to appeal to the values voters, a strategy that helps him to generate cross-over appeal to both Nigerian Christians and Muslims.

The real issue here is the long-brewing, and now globally controversial legislation before the Nigerian Assembly that would ban speech, assembly, press, and religious expression in support or advocacy of homosexuality. Expect the bill to be introduced again, shortly.

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