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From L - Fashagba, Mozaffar, LeVan

From L: Fashagba, Mozaffar, LeVan

My last event of a very busy Tuesday (other posts to follow) brought me to American University, where the energetic Carl LeVan had convened Dr. Joseph Fashagba of Landmark University, Nigeria to speak on ‘Politics and Parties in the Nigerian National Assembly’. Serving as discussant was Shaheen Mozaffar of Bridgewater State University, who bluntly noted that he did not find Fashagba’s analysis ‘very useful.’  All three are scheduled to speak at the National Endowment for Democracy tomorrow on ‘African State Legislatures & Democratic Development: Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia & South Africa.’  I wonder if Mozaffar will be so direct at a more high stakes venue (over half those in attendance were GWU students from a class of Yvonne Captain – Hidalgo).

Before Mozaffar unceremoniously ripped into Fashagba, LeVan opened by introducing Fashagba as a ‘rising star of Nigerian political science.’  The two met during a workshop LeVan administered under the auspices of the American Political Science Association at the University of Nairobi (and which I provided administrative support for) and continue to collaborate.

Fashagba provided a general, yet insightful view of the Nigerian national legislature under the 4th republic – since 1999.  I lack Mozaffar’s training, but I found Fashagba’s remarks to be informative and useful.  That said, I did not discern a clear thesis from Fashagba, although unlike Mozaffar, I was perfectly content with the broad primer on Nigeria’s legislature – analysis of the tendency of legislators to switch parties, the decline in power of the ruling PDP, and the relations between the Legislature and state governors.

Mozaffar immediately set off on a sourpuss note.  In addition to commenting that Fashagba’s analysis was ‘not particularly helpful’ he added that it was ‘very naive’.  I was personally disappointed to hear an aside from him in the course of an analogy that sports are ‘parochial’, especially as I spent most of last weekend in bed watching March Madness.

Telling Fashagba that he needs ‘to think about what political parties do’, Mozaffar commented that politicians seek to build power, pursue personal ambition, and that democracy is geared toward conflict.  He compared the Nigerian situation to two other large and complicated federal democracies – the US and India.

While I am not a trained political scientist, I am aware that Nigeria is notorious for its governance issues and corruption that should not be considered a normal part of the political process.  In my mind, Mozaffar’s intrinsic anti-democracy position constitutes simplistic commentary.  Just because the Tea Party is irrational and holds this country (the US) hostage to its obstructionist, defeatist agenda, it does not follow that Nigeria’s legislators are correct in following their personal ambitions to the opportunistic extent that Fashagba noted.

I will be interested in hearing from any readers who attend the NED event with the same cast (+ former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders) tomorrow.  In an aside related to nothing, I was slightly distracted throughout Fashagba’s talk by his slight resemblance to Arsenio Hall, greatly strengthened by their similar smiles.