The news that health workers were murdered while trying to eradicate Polio in Nigeria comes as yet another warning about how far extremists (Islamic/Sharia law proponents in this case) will go to force their beliefs upon the vast majority of the moderate Christians and Muslims of this huge country. Nigeria has a complex makeup and a large number of ethnic groups. Most of them have a love of their country and hold views that mirror those of most humans; a desire to bring up their families, receive an education and be able to provide for their families.
Take any country and this ‘middle group’ is usually the majority, but all too often an ‘extremist tail’ holds sway to a point that does not represent their actual numbers. The majority does not ‘become involved’ to the extent that these marginalized do in everyday politics. If they do, it is from a peaceful/legal perspective; quite unlike their violent and militant opposition.
It is the very nature of ‘moderates,’ not to use extreme methods to push their agendas. In countries where ‘democracy is still emerging,’ the struggle itself is fraught with danger as groups vie for the baubles of power. Where ‘religion’ is used as the driving force to effect ‘policy,’ the picture changes from that we see in the USA, India or indeed New Zealand, my home country, to one of violent street movements and assassination of those opposing the views of the extreme element.
It has taken countries like the UK a thousand years to arrive at their ‘Westminster’ system of democracy and two centuries for the USA to practise and work their system which in turn drew from other historical examples. We cannot expect emerging democracies to suddenly ‘hit the mark,’ but they will work out their own systems.
They may not mirror those of the ‘West,’ but that is their decision. Trying to impose ‘our’ systems will not work. They will have to find their own solutions to the extremist threat and only when ‘invited’ should the West intervene, and then only in a manner that is agreed to by the emerging nation.
The days of the USA and others trying to force the issue, under the guise of the UN or some other body (NATO, EU) should be seen as an action from the past. We have seen countless examples of such actions being counter-productive to the forces of democracy as the local population becomes the loser. We need to look at our own histories to see that there were whole segments of the populace that were either alienated or subjugated during these formative periods.
Nigeria’s struggle to become a modern democracy is one that is going to take time. As an emerging middle-class demands an increasing say and an end to corruption, the picture will become clearer. They will need to find a way forward to deal with those extremists, mainly in the North of the country.
Perhaps they can become the South Korea of Africa. That country has moved to a position that is the envy of Asia and that struggle had its moments. Of course they have the unsolved issue of their Northern ‘cousins.’ Religion is not the only ‘dogma’ that divides and ‘political dynasties’ also cast their controlling shadow over the aspirations of the ever suffering populace.
For those of us in the middle; some of us lucky enough to live in nations where the political/power sharing desires of the citizens have outlets that do not cause fractions and where political change is ‘peaceful.’ We should give some thought to the struggles to those countries that have barely begun their journeys. Let not those who wish to impose their narrow views of what constitutes the make-up of a nation state have their way. Those in the ‘middle’ need to step up to the mark and garner a good deal of courage in order to stand up to the ‘despots.’
Nigeria----your day will come!