Monday, April 23, 2007

A Tale of Two Elections

Two important national elections were held last weekend in France and Nigeria with very different outcomes. In France the election ran smoothly among the several presidential contenders, resulting in a run off between the center-right and the center-left on May 6th. Voters in France and the world public had a clear idea of the different choices offered by the contending parties, one favoring a pro-business policy and championing the omnipotence of the  market, the other a humane public policy and social concern, (albeit within the framework of the monopoly system).
The outcome in Nigeria, however, was quite different. There press coverage centered on campaign violence and charges of electoral fraud dominated the headlines. , According to the press in Nigeria, corruption has become a festering sore at the center of this great country's body-politic. Whatever issues framed  the debate between the various candidates seemed lost to the overwhelming charge of corruption. Indeed, were there other issues, like jobs, health care, land reform, agricultural policy, trade? What were the political leanings of the different parties and their standard bearers? It's difficult to get a clue from the US and world press.
In France, the issues were clear: immigration, jobs, health care, education. The electoral divide was clearly articulated not only by the candidates but also by the press. However in Nigeria there seems a glaring absence of detail, as if pressing economic concerns of this African giant of 130 million souls, are just not all that important, at least not when compared to the deep going criminality of Nigeria's political and business elite. Here an underlying assumption seems at work. Black folk are criminal. I's obvious. Why talk about anything else?
And what seems true for Nigeria, is true for the rest of Africa and extends to all of African descent. In the minds of the ruling bourgeois elite: a patent criminalization of the African personality is at work. Take the case of South Africa's Jacob Zuma (and other African National Congress politicians.Here too, the main issue as portrayed by the press is corruption with no mention of the political, ideological, and economic divides shaping the coming presidential campaign in 2008, to say nothing of the play of international forces bent on destabilization. Rather, bribery, foreign accounts and other forms of graft are placed as the main issue before the voters.
Which is not to say the corruption is not a major issue, as articulated by the Africans themselves. And yet is one to believe that Nigeria is anymore corrupt than the US, or South Africa, more corrupt than France? Please! Here is where corruption was invented and marketed as world-class export! Just ask Paul Wolfowitz.
It's time to dig deeper. Notwithstanding the recent spate of vile remarks by prominent US broadcast figures, racism is more often conveyed in crafted stereotypes and omissions. The criminalization of the African personality as most recently exemplified by the press handling of the Nigerian election is a case in point.
Joe Sims

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