Jerry Gana's Nigeria and the Search for a Politics Based on Ideas: A Review By Professor Chidi Odinkalu

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Title: Democracy, Good Governance and Sustainable Development
Author: Professor Jerry Gana, Ph.D.
Publisher: New York/Abuja, Triatlantic Books
Year: 2015
Pages: 311
Price: Unstated
Reviewer: Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, Ph.D.

Professor Chidi Odinkalu

In the general elections of 2015, Nigeria for the first time replaced a ruling party through the ballot box. Until now, the ruling party at the centre had always been able to foist an outcome on the country through a brutal combination of cash, cronyism, coercion and cynicism. Together this toxic combination almost invariably made any effort at discovering the will of the people meaningless. As a country, we always managed to find needful jurisprudence to cover up this reality and grant it a modicum of judicial legitimacy. By so doing, we ensured that Nigeria’s politics for more than a generation was an ideas-free zone.
The outcome of the 2015 general election, however, makes the possibility of a different kind of politics built on ideas tantalizingly possible in Nigeria. To achieve this, citizens and political formations must seize the opportunity offered to put forward more competitive ideas for organizing for power.
As the ruling party for the past 16 years, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) could dispense material incentives as it willed. Without easy access to either cash or coercion since its loss in the election and unable anymore to make these the centre of its appeal to the country, the only course now open to the former ruling party as it seeks to rebuild itself in opposition must be to pursue the path of ideas.
Few are as qualified to lead this search for ideas as Professor Jerry Gana. His longevity in Nigerian public life is so unrivalled that some would be forgiven for thinking that he was present when Lugard procured the Amalgamation. For three decades and a half, through Military and civil rule and everything in-between, Professor Gana has been a constant in Nigeria’s public life. In December 1983, as a member of the Senate of the Federal Republic, Jerry Gana’s career in democratic governance was nearly cut short at birth by a coup that announced the tall and rangey 41 year-old General, Muhammadu Buhari, as military Head of State. 18 months later, General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew General Buhari and announced Jerry Gana as its Director-General of Mass Mobilization and Economic Recovery (MAMSER). Three decades on, his wit, enthusiasm and resilient longevity has become a constant in Nigeria’s public life.
He served as Cabinet Minister in various departments, including Agriculture and Natural Resources, Information and National Orientation, and Co-operation and Integration in Africa and as Presidential Adviser. In party political life, he was founding National Secretary of the PDP, a onetime aspirant for the office of President and, later also, the Secretary of the party’s Board of Trustees. Prior to public life he was an academic and professor in geography and regional development at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna State. In the private sector, Professor Gana is an investor in energy, agriculture, and hydrocarbons. He is also a university administrator.
This fecund background makes Professor Gana’s Democracy, Good Governance and Sustainable Development auspicious. In the book, Professor Gana attempts to marry his skills as an academic with his experience in public life and commerce. The result is a book that is at once both easily readable and characterized by a dual identity.
As the author boldly asserts, “the Central thesis of this book is that there are powerful linkages between democracy, good governance and development. Whereas democratic governance is valuable in its own right, democracy has to produce concrete development for it to remain credible and sustainable. Unfortunately, the links between democracy and development are not automatic. Pragmatic strategies must be designed and seriously implemented to achieve positive results.” Through the book, the author takes us through the meanings of democracy, good governance, and development and lays out his ideas for how to achieve, sustain and guarantee these in Nigeria. At times the book reads like seminar series in philosophy and political economy. In other places, it reads like the beginning of a re-set of a political manifesto.

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