Peruvian hairs and lessons from Peru

A lot of things have happened on the South American continent in the past one year. Brazil and Argentina got new presidents (well, not so new for the Argentines. Fernandez has been around quite as much as I have been on earth); Chile protested about a lot of bad things and finally got the nod for a new constitution on the first year anniversary of the protests that rocked the country.

Bolivia flirted between left and right wing politicians, gave a giant middle finger to the American controlled Organization of American States (OAS) by electing Luis Arce, a socialist and a former cabinet member of the ousted Evo Morales’ government as president.

As mindblowing as the antics of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro–the acclaimed Trump of the Tropics–they’re not as profound as what has happened in Peru in the past week: three presidents in the space of seven days. President Martin Vizcarra was impeached by parliament on corruption charges just six days ago, much to the anger of Peruvians who banged pots and pans in protest. In his place, an interim president, Manuel Merino was appointed by parliament. Protests continued. You know that saying by Nigerians that goes like: “I was on my own o, that’s how trailer came and jam me ”? President Merino was on how own, quite alright, trying to get accustomed to the rudiments of governance and bridge the political divide, when suddenly, trigger happy policemen opened fire on peaceful protesters, killing at least two. Just five days into the job, he was faced with an ultimatum to resign, by congress. Merino resigned yesterday.

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According to the World Bank, Peru’s GDP per capita in 2018 stood at $6,941.24 for a population of just 21.9 million. For Nigeria in the same period, it is reportedly $2,028.18, for a population of allegedly 200 million people. Peru ranks 59 (flawed democracy) on The Economist’s Democracy Index for 2019. Nigeria ranks 109, in the hybrid regime category.

For people who do not understand the rationale behind the tale between two countries: both countries are poor countries, but one is clearly, thousands of miles better than the other in the above index and even more indices not mentioned. The simple fact responsible for this dichotomy is:institutionalization of democracy. Without boring one about the minutiae details of how democracy was entrenched in the country in a continent torn between holding on to Marxist-Leninist authoritarianism of the 20th century and political and economic liberalism of the 21st, that the head of the country’s congress could give an interim president an ultimatum to resign over something he probably had no control over, is mind blowing and unfathomable to the coconut heads we have in Nigeria.

On October 20th, the Nigerian government sent soldiers to mow down peaceful protesters at the heart of the country’s financial district. At least nine people were killed. That incident–though denied by the government and their lackeys–is now known as the Lekki Massacre. Previously, at least 17 other people, including police officers were killed in Mushin, Lagos. In other states like Oyo, Edo and even the FCT, police officers opened fire on protesters on live TV, without a care in this world. How did the senate president in Nigeria react to the Massacre? He simply called for an end to the protest by calling on the protesters to “allow peace a chance.” No probe of the incident. No demand for accountability. No asking President Buhari to resign. Nothing. He turned his ire on the protesters with a “class dismissed” attitude and said “we move!”

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The fact that the 9th National Assembly is simply a simp for the executive is not lost on me. The bellwether of every crumbling democracy is always the violation of human rights. Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and many past autocracies proved this. Nigeria under Buhari is proving it. In Chile as mentioned above, they made conscious efforts to do away with the reminder of the past–the constitution of Augustino Pinochet which provided for deep inequality–and charted a new course forward, Peru, with all their poverty, tried to protect their democracy. In Nigeria however, it bears the lowest rung of what both of these other countries avoided and dumped. If the head of Peru’s parliament and his fellow parliamentarians really deserve applause for standing up to Vizcarra and Merino, the same stick should be used to beat our lawmakers at both federal and state levels for their ignoble roles they’ve played in sinking Nigeria’s democracy to Abacha-era levels.

It is not so much about buying Peruvian and Brazilian hairs for their side chicks as much as understanding and applying the lessons from Peru itself on their coconut heads.The lessons are clear. Democracy dies in darkness, and if grey hairs cannot see this, by all means, get them new hairs from Peru to cover their shame.

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