Lecture Tour

2000 - The struggle for democracy in Brazil: possible lessons for Nigeria

The struggle for democracy in Brazil: possible lessons for Nigeria

José Murilo de Carvalho (Brazil)

Nigeria, 2000

University of Port Harcourt

Introduction

It was with some fear of misunderstanding that I accepted a suggestion to add the second part to the tittle of this conference.  I would like to make clear that I do not mean that Brazil can offer any lesson to Nigeria in the sense of  examples to be followed. What I do mean is that I believe that our countries share some characteristics that go beyond the fact that part of the Brazilian population descends from slaves the Portuguese brought to Brazil from the Bight of Benin. Both countries have large populations, plenty of natural resources, and they went through the experience of European colonialism.  In the last half-century they have both experienced long periods of military dictatorship and they still face severe problems of poverty, inequality, political and civil violence, extensive corruption and impunity. A comparative look at our history can be helpful in improving the understanding of our common evils and in clarifying the paths that may be open to us. That is what I mean by lessons: they include both positive and negative examples and they work both ways.

Reading the book The Trouble with Nigeria, by Chinua Achebe, I was struck by an amazing and unsuspected (to me) similarity between Nigeria and Brazil in many aspects. Except for the chapters on tribalism and on the Igbo problem, all the others could apply to Brazil with minor adjustments.