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Nigerian Democracy Requires More Touch
Democracy Requires More Touch. Thirteen years into democratic governance after the military handed over political power to elected civilians in 1999, Democracy in Nigeria has been going through a seriously difficult gestation period.
The transition from dictatorial, authoritarian and autocratic, punitive military rule that existed for over 30 years into democratically elected political dispensation which we know today is yet to substantially change the fortunes of our people.
Gestation in terms of Democracy means new birth, a free country with a legitimately elected president, state governors, legislators, (Reps, Senators Assembly members, councilors) and local government chairmen. A nation of citizens safe and secured that their land is a shelter, not a threat, where its military forces remain in their stations, where the leadership includes the educated and the youth, where social, economic, scientific, technological development are achieved.
Nigeria has become an unhealthy model of democracy, which is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, for the people. Hardly is this definition or perception of Democracy seen as being applicable in our country.
The myth surrounding Democracy when the people waged a bitter, fratricidal struggle to get the soldiers return to barracks with hope of a better life afterwards, has been shattered.
Elections are always disputed because of inherent electoral malpractices, rigging and manipulation of votes that had ridiculed democracy, making the country a laughing stock among many other nations in the world.
To a considerable extent, votes don’t count any longer in Nigerian democracy. One man, one vote is an empty slogan. Leaders are elected often without genuine and honest mandate of the people. Political godfatherism, money bags, ethnic and religious bigots have trampled on the electorate, virtually rendering them impotent and ineffective in choosing their leaders through the ballot box. Some of the prominent military functionaries resurfaced under Democracy to occupy vital political offices such as the president, governor, senate presidency, sharing in the spoils of legislative and executive offices. Politics degenerated to an all comers business as public office became the last refuge of the incompetent – all in the name of democracy.
As pointed out by Socrates, the great philosopher, “no man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet everyone thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades – that of government.” This aptly applies to what is happening in our country at the moment.
Poverty, hunger, deprivation and illiteracy have compelled many people to trade their votes, counted or not, for a mesh of porridge. Politicians come out with all kinds of subterfuge, bribery and corruption to acquire political power and amass personal wealth at the expense of development of the nation. Public service has been jettisoned for private accumulation of public wealth. As they cast a longing eye on public political office, then a rottenness begins in their conduct and character.
It was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who ruled Nigeria for eight years like an Imperial Emperor under the PDP platform who said that election is a “do or die affair.” Existing political parties have neither carefully worked out, implementable manifesto, programme or stipulated agenda for the development of our nation and the welfare or well being of citizens.
Democracy is being practised upside down in Nigeria with emphasis on how to selfishly accumulate the common wealth, dominated by greed, nepotism, avarice, ethnicism, and reckless plundering of the national treasury.
Our experience of Democracy since return to civil rule seemed not follow the cherished dogma that Democracy is the belief (practically) in freedom and equality between people or a system of government based on such belief in which political power is either held by truly elected representatives or directly by the people themselves.
Most of our leaders claim to be democrats, (that is people who believe in democracy), but in actual fact, they are autocrats, behaving like military despots in civilian garb. This is the unfortunate spectacle of the Democracy that we now have in the country. Rule of law is not there; now replaced by arbitrariness, true federalism handed down by the founding fathers has been heavily compromised by unitarianism, over bloated executive system that accommodates all kinds of political opportunists, and a bicameral legislature (House of Representatives and Senate) that is superfluous, inefficient and highly expensive to run.
Nigeria is believed to be running one of the most costly democracies in the world with the system consuming about three-quarter of the national budget, leaving a meagre one-quarter for economic, social and infrastructural development. Under this type of democracy, driven by highly corrupt, unpatriotic, selfish and incompetent political office holders, the country is reeling under massive unemployment, insecurity, decayed infrastructure, poverty, hunger, deficient healthcare delivery, high infant and maternal fatality rate, lack of adequate power supply, high crime rate, no potable drinking water, broken down education system, disorganised transportation, lack of affordable housing, bad roads, a corrupt judiciary that can’t become the last hope of the citizenry in getting justice.
Many negative factors are rearing their ugly heads that could truncate our nation’s fledgling Democracy and for which the political leadership is not willing to confront. Insecurity, corruption, poverty, unemployment are some of the most striking.
As canvassed recently in a dialogue, a political scientist, Prof. Adele Jinadu submitted that, “we have to be confrontational towards the powers that be to achieve desired change in this country,” adding, “Nigeria has deficit in transparency and accountability in government.”
In a similar vein, Mr. Mike Omeri, Director General, National Orientation Agency, has called on the electorate to hold their state governors and local government chairmen accountable for their non-performance while in office.
He had declared reportedly: “Our state governors have the wherewithal to deliver dividends of democracy. They have all it takes to fully implement their budgetary provisions, and if they fail, people should hold their governors accountable for non-performance and ask them questions for their inability to improve on infrastructural deficiencies in our communities.” The president has not fared better.
It is common knowledge that people tend to vote, if at all, for those who made lots of promises, but at the end the electorate is disappointed. Dividends of Democracy is a mirage coined by the political elites to deceive the people.
Another unfortunate aspect of our Democracy is the high level of electoral malpractice that has followed every election since the end of military rule. In several cases, winners are not determined by election, but by courts across the country. In the most recent elections conducted in April 2011, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said over 825,000 cases of electoral offences were recorded.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, called on the National Assembly to hasten action on the proposed electoral offences commission in order to drastically curtail cases of electoral offences ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Against the backdrop of electoral malpractices inherent in our Democracy which had caused violence and killing of many people, General Muhammadu Buhari, a former military Head of State and many times presidential candidate in previous elections warned of a bloody episode if the 2015 polls are rigged. So our Democracy will be on trial again.
By far, the most devastating feature of our Democracy so far is the subjugation of the local government tier by the state governments, existing at the whims and caprices of governors. Local councils and chairmen are dissolved or sacked without respect for tenure. They are not independent.
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