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Mo Ibrahim's governance index matters more outside Africa

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AP

(Read caption) Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan waves to the crowd during the 50th anniversary celebrations of Nigerian independence, in Abuja, Nigeria, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. Two car bombs blew up on Friday as Nigeria celebrated, killing at least seven people in an unprecedented attack on the capital by suspected militants from the country's oil region. The attacks claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta came as the president and other dignitaries sat only a 10-minute walk away.

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Something that irks me about Mo Ibrahim's governance index is that the people in these badly-governed countries have little agency with which to correct the situation. This would take voting, for example. A plebiscite, maybe. A changing of the old guard preferably by popular vote to instill good governance in a transparent, efficient manner that respects the people it governs.

For the most part, if you were to go on the streets of Niamey or Luanda and tell people their ranking on the index, they'll probably just shrug. I don't blame them. When I saw Nigeria's ranking, I texted my Nigerian friends and had a good laugh about it.

Increasingly, I wonder if the point of the index is to show, not that many African countries are governed badly, but that there are "good Africans" out there who care that respective African countries are governed badly. I think this is a good thing to say and think. The problem, however, is to which audience this is directed at.

The world in which so many non-Western people live is such that one must go West – Europe, America, Canada – to prove oneself worthy, even amongst ones own. Nigeria's literary darlings are proof of this. Chimamanda Adichie wouldn't have gained such acclaim, for example, had she been based entirely in Nigeria and only been published in Nigeria. Even beyond that, so many Africans in the diaspora are in the diaspora in order to get educated, that we may go to our respective countries and be taken seriously and/or noticed.

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