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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Let's invade Nigeria!

Where are the chickenhawks now?  This is perfect -- a hopelessly corrupt, oil rich country is causing untold misery for its inhabitants -- even if there aren't any weapons of mass destruction, really, the government has to go.  Right?  Right??

Seriously, the article in today's Washington Post by Sarah Chayes is worth reading.  Obviously Boko Harom is some kind of a scary and religion-based overreaction -- just like Al Qaeda -- but they are reacting to something.  And what are they reacting to?  A corrupt government, where every single government official (apparently) is essentially an extortionist, and where the top government officials are literally skimming off billions for themselves.

It does kind of put our own low-grade corporate-based corruption in perspective.  Our government is, after all, somewhat accountable to the people at the end of the day, even though you wouldn't know it based on some of the stuff our elected officials do and say.

Here are some key quotes from the article:

"As is nearly always the case in severely corrupt countries, high-level looting of this magnitude [$20 billion in oil revenue unaccounted for in the last 18 months] is part of a system. Government officials down the line take cues from, or have to pay kickbacks to, their superiors. Almost any encounter, including with nursery school teachers and doctors, involves a demand for money. “People feel they can’t get a fair deal,” said Muhammad Tabiu, a lawyer in the northern city of Kano. “They have to bribe. They can’t get justice.”

. . . .

"To get one of the juicy civil service jobs, an aspirant needs a diploma. But the education system itself is corrupt. Students often have to shell out for their teachers’ transportation to examination sites. Meanwhile, membership in ruling networks guarantees success — and impunity.

"In this context, many Nigerians see schooling less as a way to expand the mind or gain essential skills than as a way into a corrupt and abusive system. This education system — and its use to confer unfair advantage — is a holdover from British colonialism. Which helps explain Boko Haram’s moniker: It means “Western education is unclean.” As one Kano businessman put it: “It’s the system of going to school and getting a job in the civil service and skimming off contracts — that’s what they’re angry at. We all feel that way. If they had taken a secular approach, all Nigeria would be with them.”


So that's pretty sad.  It's institutionalized corruption, where the common morality seems to be all about finding a position that enables one to simply steal money that one has not earned.  As for elected officials, I suppose it's not that different from our own system -- elected officials do whatever it takes to get the campaign contributions that are needed to keep them in their cushy, high-profile positions of power and influence.  And while our government bureaucracy may be bloated and in some cases incompetent, we don't have the problem that every single civil servant is corrupt.

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