Whither democ­racy in Nige­ria af­ter two decades?

Weekly Trust - - Views - Muham­mad Ajah Satur­day, Novem­ber 3, 2018

Iwould have writ­ten this piece last week in re­sponse to an ar­tic­u­lated col­umn by my dear com­pa­triot and se­nior col­league in so­cio-po­lit­i­cal analy­ses, Bala Muham­mad who fas­ci­nated Nige­rian politi­cians and democ­racy lovers on how not to play or sup­port the (mis)con­cep­tion of democ­racy in the coun­try, es­pe­cially dur­ing the elec­tion pe­ri­ods. I had to wait for an­other week, so as not be con­trolled by sen­ti­ments and trep­i­da­tion. Nige­rian democ­racy is in dan­ger and all Nige­ri­ans, es­pe­cially the po­lit­i­cal elites, should rise up to safe­guard it.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts are like pub­lic “talkatives” be­cause how­ever solemn their ob­ser­va­tions, sug­ges­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions are, they are treated like those of the en­ter­tain­ers who make peo­ple laugh and ges­tic­u­late. If only half of the so­lu­tions they of­fer for the prac­ti­cal peace, unity and devel­op­ment of Nige­ria are adopted, all these trou­bles be­dev­illing the coun­try would have been over or brought to the barest min­i­mum. Writ­ing un­der the ti­tle: “...And you call this democ­racy” in his Satur­day col­umn of Daily Trust on Oc­to­ber 20, 2018, Bala queried the un­be­liev­able com­mit­ments, crim­i­nal­ity and in­hu­man­ity by both of­fice seek­ers and sup­port­ers in the name of democ­racy.

I felt the pains Bala un­der­went while he put up his piece. It is painful what used to hap­pen dur­ing gen­eral elec­tions in Nige­ria. Only one who has the na­tion at heart and has fol­lowed the quag­mire sur­round­ing Nige­ria’s democ­racy would write the story as it is. Nige­ria re­turned to demo­cratic rule in 1999 but till date, it is not yet uhuru for demo­cratic norms and cul­ture in the coun­try. I felt his soul trou­bled by the re­cent cha­grins called pri­maries for var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal of­fices es­pe­cially by the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in prepa­ra­tion for the gen­eral elec­tions in 2019. The out­come and heavy crises that en­sued from the pri­maries are any­thing prospec­tive of demo­cratic ma­tu­rity. And he won­dered what would be ex­pected from par­ties who can­not guar­an­tee in­ter­nal democ­racy. Most politi­cians in Nige­ria have re­mained “un­let­tered” with the true de­mands of demo­cratic pro­cesses and gov­er­nance.

I was able to pick five se­ri­ous is­sues raised by Bala which have stag­nated our democ­racy to an ex­tent. How long shall we con­tinue to re­fer to Nige­ria’s democ­racy as “nascent”? A child born in 1999 is nearly 20 years old by now and can stand on his/her own. It is not how democ­racy should be, not even in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. It is be­com­ing an ac­cepted norm in Nige­ria’s democ­racy that po­lit­i­cal of­fice hold­ers do not feel free to hand over to a suc­ces­sor out­side a fam­ily nu­clear. As if it is not enough for politi­cians to sur­round them­selves with nu­clear fam­ily mem­bers while in of­fice, they sim­ply in­stall stooges who will cover-up the fi­nan­cial reck­less­ness and in­hu­man­ity they com­mit­ted through­out their ten­ure(s).

By do­ing this, in­tegrity, qual­i­fi­ca­tion, com­pe­tence and ex­pe­ri­ence are of no essence. The great­est re­quire­ment is “to be near enough to His Ex­cel­lency” and how “ever Yes-Sir­ing and reli­able Com­mis­sioner or Some­thing”, the stooge had been and has signed the pact to re­main. The stooge can be “some­thing-in-law to His Ex­cel­lency, who did the boss’s wishes with­out ques­tion”. To be adopted as a mere po­lit­i­cal ally out­side the nu­clear and ex­tended fam­ily mem­ber­ship, the stooge must have sworn to an oath in the pres­ence of a devil to ex­e­cute all the bid­dings of the mas­ter af­ter suc­ceed­ing him.

Is this democ­racy? Is this the democ­racy Nige­ri­ans have been fight­ing for in the last twenty years? Def­i­nitely, it is not. When gov­er­nance is to­tally run by fam­ily mem­bers, that is called dy­nasty. It is not demo­cratic gov­er­nance. In Nige­ria to­day, si­t­u­a­tions are found where a fa­ther, mother, son, daugh­ter and in-laws are in dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal of­fices in a state and at the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. They hold po­si­tions as mem­bers of na­tional and state as­sem­blies, mem­bers of the fed­eral and state cab­i­nets, spe­cial ad­vis­ers, se­nior spe­cial and spe­cial as­sis­tants and “cau­cus mem­bers” at state and fed­eral lev­els with­out clear po­lit­i­cal port­fo­lios. Some of the politi­cians have built such po­lit­i­cal en­claves that have be­come very dif­fi­cult to pen­e­trate.

Worse still, “some lead­ers re­ally wish to play god by ma­nip­u­lat­ing the man­date of the peo­ple they have been en­trusted to gov­ern.” Yes, some Nige­rian lead­ers see them­selves demigods. They claim to be po­lit­i­cal or­a­cles that must be con­sulted and their wishes im­posed on the coun­try or their states of ori­gin. It is ei­ther them or no­body. Ev­ery­thing about them is “do or die”. They do not see any­thing good about oth­ers. Bala was so an­gry with this at­ti­tude of such lead­ers that he squeaked: “... Our at­ti­tude is faulty and we lack the good leadership to take us out of the woods.”

The sec­ond point of con­cern was the po­si­tion of the “sup­posed rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple, the so-called Civil So­ci­ety Or­gan­i­sa­tions (CSOs) and the Mass Me­dia”. These are en­ti­ties who are sup­posed to help the peo­ple, es­pe­cially the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, get things done right. But very un­for­tu­nately, they are al­ready busy lin­ing up to re­ceive “mon­i­tor­ing and ob­server funds” from Western donors whose only re­quire­ment is for Nige­ria to have the elec­tions done for elec­tions sakes. Noth­ing more! In­stead, they be­come prob­lems in the elec­tion­eer­ing pro­cesses and demo­cratic devel­op­ment.

The third point was on the pos­si­ble killings that will oc­cur over the next few months shortly be­fore, dur­ing and prob­a­bly af­ter the elec­tions. Re­call­ing past ex­pe­ri­ences, there had hardly been any gen­eral elec­tions since 1999 which did not claim lives and prop­er­ties. Bala is very sure that the ex­pected deaths, God for­bid, are nei­ther go­ing to be “ac­ci­den­tal nor col­lat­eral”. They will be in­ten­tional and wil­ful mur­ders that should be pun­ish­able by death. He quiv­ered with cer­tainty that no one will be pun­ished for such mur­ders, since that has been the case in the past.

He de­scribed this pe­riod as “a po­lit­i­cal mur­der sea­son”. Killings un­der any guise in Nige­ria have to be put to a stop. The politi­cians have been ac­cused of un­abated fa­tal­i­ties across the coun­try but no sin­gle one has been brought to book. Un­der Boko Haram, herds­men, cultists, armed ban­ditry, armed rob­bery, amongst other pseudo nomen­cla­tures, in­no­cent cit­i­zens of Nige­ria have been sent to grave. In ad­di­tion, road ac­ci­dents, build­ing col­lapses, stray bul­lets from armed force men and more new plans and tech­no­log­i­cal cre­ations to score po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences will ensue in the “po­lit­i­cal mur­der sea­son”. Nige­ri­ans must pray and act against these.

The fourth point was hinged on the elec­toral pro­cesses and per­cep­tion of the elec­torate of democ­racy. The Nige­rian elec­torate do not un­der­stand or con­sider the limit they have should reach in sup­port­ing or elect­ing their lead­ers in a demo­cratic setup. Re­flec­tion on the just con­ducted pri­maries re­veals that there is fury and risk in many quar­ters. There are al­ready in­di­ca­tions that there will be more anger at the “sec­on­daries” since the pri­maries were marred by mas­sive un­demo­cratic pro­cesses. And if it is not con­tained, there will be dan­ger dur­ing the “ter­tiaries” – the main elec­tions. From the “rigged” pri­maries to sec­on­daries’ to the ter­tiary elec­tions, peo­ple died at ward con­gresses, on their ways to their can­di­date’s ‘dec­la­ra­tion and out of frus­tra­tion. They have died and may die be­cause of “pol­i­tics and the vi­cious­ness of Nige­rian pol­i­tics and politi­cians”.

Those who will die or be mur­dered would have gone, some of them maybe un­no­ticed. They will leave their fam­ily mem­bers to suf­fer, if they were the bread win­ners. Their spouses, sons, daugh­ters, rel­a­tives, friends and well-wish­ers will mourn them. They would die in “cold po­lit­i­cal blood”, while the spon­sors of the mur­ders or the mur­der­ers them­selves, will walk away scot free. There will be in­crease in the num­ber of wi­d­ows and or­phans and school dropouts across Nige­ria. This will all hap­pen be­cause “some­one wants a big­ger piece of our na­tional cake”. Yet, many will not learn any les­son.

While these deaths of po­lit­i­cal thugs would be recorded, the sons and daugh­ters of the politi­cianspon­sors “be­ing fought for” would be aboard study­ing or hol­i­day­ing. The me­dia would pre­fer to dis­cuss the pol­i­tics rather than the politi­cians. These are fore­casts that should cause dras­tic change in the han­dling of the forth­com­ing gen­eral elec­tions. Nige­ri­ans must not die or be mur­dered for any politi­cian to win any elec­tion(s). And Bala em­phat­i­cally pro­claimed that Nige­ria’s democ­racy must go, if one life can be saved. The life of ev­ery cit­i­zen of Nige­ria must be held pre­cious above any­thing in­clud­ing any po­lit­i­cal pur­suit.

Muham­mad Ajah is an ad­vo­cate of hu­man­ity, peace and good gov­er­nance in Abuja. E-mail moba­hawwah@yahoo.co.uk.

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