Day 12: Feeling the politics…
A planning day in Eket…
An opportunity to meet Grace and Chief out of the school. It's a meeting to plan for our Better Schools, Brighter Futures project implementation; get some feedback to inform our strategic plans and a chance to get to know better these 2 very special people.
It's a good day. Plenty of practical issues are faced and resolved and we find out lots about the current issues around politics and education. The link between politics and daily life is stark here: we live and work in the UK and know deep down that politics affects us but somehow for most of us, I guess, it feels a bit distant; unconnected to how we live our lives every day.
It's completely different here.
Politics is tracked and dissected in minute detail. The federal/ state structures mean a lot of power is divested at a local level. We see this on the drive between Calabar in Cross River State and Uyo in Akwa Ibom: the previous Governor in Cross River State did not prioritise roads with the result that the highway between the 2 state capitals is atrocious.
Enormous potholes that wreck vehicles, increase risk to travellers and make the road virtually impassable in the rainy season are tolerated: it simply didn't interest the Governor.
People I've met take a huge interest in their politicians: systems of patronage run deep. Your livelihood and lives may depend on understanding where these people have come from, what issues motivate them and how they might impact on you.
Retribution occurs: communities that didn't support incoming politicians can be disadvantaged or worse. Land issues are a major source of conflict here and your ability to control the police, army or paramilitaries dictate the outcome.
Those with political nous dance sensitively around these challenges but it seems like extremely hard and dangerous work to me.