The threat to democ­racy

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - EDITORIAL -

WITH a marathon of thought­less de­fec­tions across po­lit­i­cal par­ties and a gale of im­peach­ments haunt­ing po­lit­i­cal big­wigs ahead of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, it is be­com­ing ap­par­ent that a dark cloud is hov­er­ing over Nige­ria. For those dis­cern­ing enough to hear the un­spo­ken, or de­code the signs of the times, it is also ob­vi­ous that Nige­ria sits on a clear and im­pend­ing dan­ger.

In the last few weeks, the level of an­i­mos­ity among politi­cians lead­ing to wide­spread de­fec­tions, mu­tual mud­sling­ing and vi­o­lent ex­changes, has been hav­ing its toll on the state of the coun­try. As if a malev­o­lent spirit has be­gun to tra­verse the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape, there are sud­denly re­newed killings by the com­bined forces of Boko Haram, mur­der­ous herds­men and cat­tle rustlers. In­creas­ing economic hard­ship from a lethar­gic lead­er­ship and po­lit­i­cal insen­si­tiv­ity, as well as a seem­ing clue­less­ness em­a­nat­ing from sit­u­a­tions run­ning at cross-pur­poses, also buf­fet the Nige­rian peo­ple. That po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and the rul­ing elite would be aloof in the face of the un­fold­ing drama threat­en­ing Nige­ria’s democ­racy is hor­ri­fy­ing for the hap­less masses.

Nige­ri­ans should be re­minded that the 18year jour­ney of its re­nascent democ­racy has been a tor­tu­ous one. The price for that no­ble jour­ney was paid for at a huge cost of the hon­our, lives and toil of well-mean­ing Nige­ri­ans who fought self­lessly and re­lent­lessly to wrest power from mil­i­tary au­toc­racy.

Sadly, it seems those sac­ri­fices are be­ing laid to waste be­cause the present ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests that power has been handed over to an­other set of mind­less au­to­crats. Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who are un­de­serv­ing beneficiaries of democ­racy have so far demon­strated that they lack demo­cratic tem­per­a­ment and are im­per­vi­ous to demo­cratic cul­ture. In ret­ro­spect, it is as if Nige­ri­ans have been short­changed in the past 18 years. At no other time has this been made ev­i­dent than now.

The qual­ity of lead­er­ship so far has, at best, been ap­palling. The glar­ing ab­sence of a cut­ting-edge road-plan to de­liver the coun­try from loom­ing economic perdi­tion, the de­fi­ance of the will of the col­lec­tive and ut­ter dis­re­gard for the predica­ment of a peo­ple at the mercy of all man­ners of in­se­cu­ri­ties, the propen­sity to grab power for its sake, the de­lib­er­ate wicked­ness in re­duc­ing gov­er­nance to mainly party in­ter­ests, and the dis­play of vi­o­lence and money as instruments of state­craft, are point­ers to im­mi­nent dan­ger. Be­sides, many po­lit­i­cal of­fice hold­ers who were known to have been elected as sim­ple or­di­nary men and women, have, upon get­ting to the precincts of power, trans­formed them­selves into self-ac­claimed all im­por­tant cit­i­zens with prof­li­gate life­styles of flam­boy­ance, haugh­ti­ness and dis­re­gard for their elec­tors. What is worse is that ques­tion­able char­ac­ters, who have brought mo­ral op­pro­brium to their of­fices as pub­lic of­fice hold­ers are the ones set­ting the roadmap for 2019 and also god­fa­ther­ing cronies to cover up their mess. This is in­ju­ri­ous to the po­lit­i­cal des­tiny of this coun­try. It is un­ac­cept­able.

Apart from the pe­ri­odic of­fi­cial rep­ri­mands that come from the coun­try’s ju­di­cial coun­cil, all arms of gov­ern­ment, the leg­is­la­ture, the ex­ec­u­tive and the ju­di­ciary, all tiers of gov­ern­ment are em­broiled in this grav­i­ta­tion to­wards an­ar­chy and self­ish­ness, all of which put democ­racy in harm’s way.

The Pla­tonic hang-over that por­trays democ­racy as the worst of all law­ful gov­ern­ment, ow­ing to its propen­sity to equalise peo­ple’s right to choose, is en­cour­ag­ing ex­ec­u­tive im­punity and par­lia­men­tary ras­cal­ity. And this seems a phe­nom­e­non sweep­ing the whole world.

Thus, even in es­tab­lished demo­cratic gov­ern­ments and newer states, strong and pop­u­lar men are emerg­ing who think au­toc­racy ad­dresses prob­lems quicker and eas­ier. Is it a case that Nige­ria is sheep­ishly drift­ing to­wards this wind of global change?

Given the con­tra­dic­tions play­ing out in the polity, Nige­ri­ans need to pose crit­i­cal ques­tions about the pos­si­bil­ity of an al­ter­na­tive. Since the po­lit­i­cal space is oc­cu­pied largely by per­sons of du­bi­ous char­ac­ter, is there an al­ter­na­tive to the current state of gov­er­nance? Do Nige­ri­ans have the ca­pac­ity to use the bal­lot box to bring cred­i­ble peo­ple into gov­ern­ment? Is there any in­di­ca­tion that the sanc­tity of peo­ples’ votes would be re­spected? Are Nige­ri­ans even will­ing to make this hap­pen? When the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal struc­ture is con­sid­ered, would it be true to say that it is in­her­ently weak? And is the current law­less­ness a man­i­fes­ta­tion of this in­her­ent weak­ness?

Ow­ing to the lack of con­cern for the peo­ple and even dis­dain for their well­be­ing, it is ob­vi­ous that the masses are mere can­non fod­ders for politi­cians’ self-ag­gran­dize­ment. As politi­cians carry on with their cal­cu­la­tion of per­fidy, lit­tle or no con­sid­er­a­tion is given to the plight of the Nige­rian. In the un­fold­ing drama of in­trigues and bick­er­ing, the peo­ple are mere spec­ta­tors. Those who are owed salaries are still lan­guish­ing in penury. Oth­ers who take laws into their hands are car­ry­ing on with shock­ing im­punity. There are more bad roads de­fac­ing the land­scape than be­fore, less health­care, more car­nage and in­creas­ingly low pre­mium on hu­man life and dig­nity. Now, peo­ple seem bet­ter ad­justed to a life of suf­fer­ing and more read­ily re­cep­tive to a life of cor­rup­tion. Suc­cumb­ing to the ne­glect of the state, peo­ple have be­come their own mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments; they are alien­ated while they are be­ing used. And this alien­ation of the peo­ple has in­formed the think­ing that there are two Nige­ri­ans: that of politi­cians and that of the or­di­nary peo­ple. The peo­ple, whose par­tic­i­pa­tion is at the core of democ­racy, are far re­moved from its pro­tec­tion and ben­e­fits.

All these call to ques­tion the real char­ac­ter and na­ture of the Nige­rian politi­cian and starkly present Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers as the most dev­as­tat­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ter of the coun­try. This is a coun­try abun- dant in nat­u­ral and hu­man re­sources; one that ag­gre­gates the best of pro­fes­sion­als and hard­work­ing peo­ple, and de­void of such nat­u­ral dis­as­ters that rav­age and dec­i­mate lives and prop­er­ties in other climes, yet thrown into the dens of the most ra­pa­cious and warped-think­ing rul­ing elite.

This coun­try does not de­serve the dam­age meted out by its rulers. Those who un­der­stand democ­racy by its Lin­col­nian def­i­ni­tion as a gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple and for the peo­ple, un­der­stand that po­lit­i­cal power is held in trust by lead­ers for the peo­ple. Whilst there are a few gen­uine politi­cians in the ocean of po­lit­i­cal job­bers and crim­i­nals, these few gen­uine politi­cians, en­dan­gered by the gangs of preda­tors and scav­engers of power, must speak out against the flight of rea­son and com­mon sense. They need to be counted by ex­pos­ing the inani­ties of po­lit­i­cal job­bers, and by tak­ing sides with the peo­ple.

As this news­pa­per once stated on the search for the Nige­rian leader, the prob­lem of lead­er­ship does not rest with pub­lic of­fice hold­ers alone. The vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple who see them­selves as fol­low­ers also have a role to play. The surest way for evil to thrive is for good peo­ple to do noth­ing. And truly, Nige­ria finds it­self in this state of threat­ened democ­racy partly be­cause those who call them­selves the fol­low­ers or the masses have elected to be cowed and re­peat­edly emas­cu­lated by self-seek­ing char­la­tans who have at­tained the pin­na­cle of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship by ig­no­ble, dis­hon­est and dis­hon­ourable means. The drama of buf­foon­ery and char­la­tanism has reached its cli­max. This coun­try must be brought back from the precipice.

See the re­main­ing part of this ar­ti­cle on www­guardian.ng for fur­ther read­ing

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