Democracy Anniversary: An Inconvenient Truth.

by Tunde Ali

On his way to London in 1983 shortly after the so – called landslide victory of the No
Plan for Nigeria Party, I mean National Party of Nigeria. Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo – (the best President Nigeria never had), in his response to a poser by a reporter from the Concord newspaper about his opinion on the practice of democracy in Nigeria. Papa said with finality “your generation will never know democracy”. Four years later (1987), he transitioned into life after life; but his “prophetic statement” continue to taunt the nation

The landslide political victors were routed out of the corridor of power, no thanks to Buhari / Idiagbon coup of December 1983. Since then, Nigeria have experienced coups in different shapes and colors. For instance, there were coups, counter coup, suspected coup, suspicious coup, palace coup, unsuccessful coup or mutiny. All the coup oriented governments finally gave way to democracy in 1998 with the “controlled election” that ushered into Aso-rock, the erstwhile prodigal Esau – General Olusegun Obasanjo rtd.. After eight years rulership that sprang mixed feelings in the mind of Nigerians, and unsuccessful bid for a third term, Obasanjo returned the baton of rulership to the exact people that enthroned and arranged his second coming. His beneficiary and brother of his late friend, (Shehu Musa Yar’Adua) now two years in office has nothing to show for occupying the oval office. His 7 Points appealing Agenda, has been reduced to paper theory and mere political gymick. Power energy remains elusive, unemployment rate is sky high, roads and transportation are nothing to write home about, education and health sectors have virtually collapsed; corruption has been institutionized especially among the operators of government business. From the presidency to the local council, corruption and political thuggery are the order of the day. They assume immortality and operate without conscience. Their ten years in office is a combination of foul and fraud.

Nothing is wrong in celebrating achievements or accomplishments. It is either a way to appreciate God or celebrate self. But what is being celebrated must be a prelate that is worthy of exhibition or emulation. In May 29, 2009 Nigeria government resolved to celebrate 10 years of democracy. Whao! Ten years of uninterrupted government of the people. Or is it presumptive government of the people?

If the celebration was to showcase the extent to which the khaki boys had been restricted to their Barracks and disoriented from their ignoble conviction that power emanates from the barrel of gun”, then its fine!

If the celebration was an attempt to portray the hitherto giant of Africa as a democratic statistic that should be recognized and respected in the committee of responsible and civilized nations, once again it is superficially ok.

If the celebration was an attempt to disprove the propaganda of the Western Media and their imperialist financiers that democracy is alien and incongruent to African culture; it worth it.

However, if none of the above or perhaps any other reasonably justifiable reason is the cause for the celebration; then the organizers and of course the Yar’Adua led government should bury their face in abysmal shame.

Ten years of democratic government in Nigeria has further plundered the nation into darkness and chaos. The elected representatives, evidently lacked clarity on the purpose of representative government. Rather than been responsive to the needs and yearnings of the electorates, they have chosen to be irresponsive and irresponsible. They have turned service to the nation into a commercial enterprise where profit making is the ultimate goal. Unlike the civilized nations of the world where democracy bring about human, physical development and progress, democracy in Nigeria has brought misfortune and misery to the populace. Its misrepresentation has further polarized the gap between the haves and the have-not. It has widened poverty to an unimaginable proportion. Democracy (Nigeria model) promotes mediocrity and reward dishonesty. It institutionalized corruption and creates shelter for the incorrigibles.

It takes shameless people without conscience to rebrand, and celebrate their packaged mischief, misgovernment and associated malaise. The last ten years of democratic government in Nigeria was a monumental wastage in human and natural resources. It has also trivialized the efforts and sacrifice of all Nigeria democratic heroes and martyrs alike.

Nigerians continue to suffer in the midst of plenty. An average Nigerian is hardly able to afford two meals per day; some are walking ghosts, others are hopelessly awaiting a better tomorrow that seems utopia. While the elected few live in affluence, the electorates continue to suffer and wallop in abject poverty without end in sight.

Modern day democracy is a modification of the representative government that was introduced by Cleisthenes in Athens in 508 BC shortly after the defeat of Isagoras in a succession struggle. His model was to involve all male citizens of Athens in the running of the City government. Each year 500 male citizens were drawn from the total number of eligible people, and they serve as law maker for that year. The following year, another set of 500 male would perform same function. Any law created was voted on by all male citizens of Athens. The result of this model was that people were involved in the determination of their destiny by participating in the government of their City. It brought government closer to the people; ensured uniform socio-economic developments, restored peace, progress and stability to Athens.

In spite of the primitiveness of the Cleisthenes’s representative government model, elections/selections were not rigged, participation was neither considered a matter of life and death, nor was it considered a means to corruptly enrich themselves. It was considered an honor and an opportunity to make a positive impact in moving their society forward.

Nigerian democracy is antithetical to this noble concept. The aspiring representatives of the people considered winning election a matter of life and death. They become monstrous and engaged in animalistic behaviors. They kill; they mame; they kidnap; they harass, they intimidate, they deport, they commit arson, they rigged election and other forms of despicable acts just to get into office. To them, winning election is pivotal to their economic transformation. Therefore nothing, not even human sanctity is compromised in their pursuit of electoral victory. Because of their hidden agenda, on assumption of office, rather than serving the electorates, they served and satisfied their greed. They became corrupt and steal from the treasury with effortless ease. They used the state time to pursue their private businesses and schemes. They are immodest and personified imperfection.

Record indicated that over 80% of Nigeria government income is spent on Public Service. This is a product of poor judgment and counter productive economic policy. If significant amount of the national income is spent on salaries, where does that leave the productive sectors of the economy? If each Representative earns 20 Million Naira every 4 months ($413,000.00) as salary (allowance and benefits not included) for doing absolutely nothing. You can do the computation and see the enormous wastages that the government of the federation is condoning. Few months ago, President Shehu Yar’Adua sent a letter of disapproval about the quality of the work done by the law makers to the Senate President – David Mark. In the said letter, the president reiterated that the law makers passed ONLY 4 LAWS IN 2008. A whole year! What an indolence. (This issue was addressed in part in my last Article titled National Assembly: Not a Den of Thieves) This is truly a sorry sight, especially when one considers the magnitude of the tax payers money that is invested in this Assembly. Year 2009 is mid-way through, who knows wheth

er the Assembly is still struggling to pass its first bill ?

The funfair associated with the Democracy Celebration of May 29, 2009 has come and gone. However it left series of unanswered questions. If democracy that is meant to bring better way of life inversely brought doom and misfortune to the citizens, what is the much ado about the celebration?

If democracy in Nigeria has created milieu for political insanity and socio-economic downturn for its citizens, why should additional millions of naira that could be used to provide or improve socio or infrastructural facilities be wasted on unceremonial ceremony?

If after 10 years, Nigeria democracy is unable to stand on its two to feet and conduct violent free and fair election, that could usher in a government that would better the lives of Nigerians, what was the cause for celebration?

If the law making body (National Assembly) which is the heart of democracy can not make good laws that could transform the society and improve the condition of living, it was a needless celebration.

After 10 years of democratic government, if the principle of accountability remains elusive and corruption thrives endlessly, celebration is not only a mockery of Nigeria nation state, it was a misrepresentation of the democratic founding fathers.

I did not agree with the school of thought that contend that Nigeria democracy outcome is the consequence of the curse placed on the nation by the transitioned elder statesman- Chief Obafemi Awolowo. His comment, to me was an expression of frustration from a man who tried to do the best for his country; but was prevented by the collaboration of the forces of darkness – (remember, the Unity Party of Nigeria’s slogan was “The Light”).

To me, no system is entirely perfect. The imperfection that have been witnessed in the Nigeria democratic terrain should not be construed as the needed evidence to write-off democracy or invite the inordinate military brats to the center, rather the country should reflect on its experience and fashion out solution, so as not to repeat its failure. Conversely, subscribing to the dictum that a worse democratic regime is better than a good Military regime holds no water. What is bad is bad.

The basic problem that confronts Nigeria democracy is fraud. Inability to organize free and fair election, Inability to enforce the Rule of Law as opposed to the arbitrariness of Man. The plagues of corruption and the need to re-orientate political office holders and aspirants alike, that the essence of leadership is service, and that genuine service should not be seen as a matter of life and death. The role of money and the qualifications of office contenders should be review. Independent judiciary should not be compromised. There is the need for an independent body outside the executive and legislative assembly to monitor and ensure that political office holders do NOT violate the sanctity of their oath of office by engaging in corrupt behavior and practice. Constitutional amendments to promote parochial and selfish interest of obnoxious and repugnant few should be prevented. The use of plebiscite and referendum should be popularize to check politicians and government excesses but enforce the peoples will. The Police Force should be reorganize, restructure and decentralized.

Corruption, a mega monster in Nigeria body politics must be confronted and fight to extinction. China, a country in the 1970s was in the same developing cadre with Nigeria, now an undisputable world economic power; partly because of the way through which the issue of corruption was addressed .Corruption attracts death penalty in China. This consequence injected sanity and transformed Chinese political system. It brought about tremendous progress in the country of ‘the shorts’.

In the western world, if any public office holder is indicted for corruption, such person would lose his/her office, forfeit the proceeds of the corruption to the state and end up in jail. Nobody is above the law. It is only in Nigeria that corrupt public office holders are above the laws of the land. They were heralded with chieftain titles and parade themselves as evil genius among the civilize citizens. They used the stolen wealth to destabilize the country and create a niche of god-fatherism around themselves. Paradoxically, they stole from Nigeria and safe in the developed nations such as U.K, U.S.A, Switzerland, France, etc. Their continued existence is a confluence of confusion. Until Nigerians realized the potency of their political power and demand accountability from their leaders, success in democracy will remain a mirage. Continue existence of the corrupt political or public office holders will not only blunt the inherent transparency of democracy, it will prevent its growth.

When the likes of Rev. Dr. Peter Jasper Akinola- former President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) wholeheartedly states that “Those who steal the wealth of Nigeria will die unmourned”; and, Peter Yaiyock Jatan – Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna stated that “death penalty will tame corruption in Nigeria”, I know that the days of the corrupt public office holders are numbered. The men of God have spoken with the power of anointing, and the Bible says that the prayer of the righteous availeth much (James 5: 16). I therefore suggest that the men of God should go beyond “prayer of unmourned death and death penalty,” they should take their message to the pulpit. Other spiritual leaders, (Islam and traditional religions) should follow suit by condemning corruption and other moral decadence that permeates our political system. They should refuse any money or material donation from any follower or political leaders whose source of income or lifestyle is questionable. They should influence and or sponsor bills that would address this malaise at the Legislative Assemblies (Federal, States & Local Councils). Nigeria deserves the best, therefore anybody that constitute cog in the wheel of the nation’s progress should be uprooted even to foundation.

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1 comment

Nathaniel August 21, 2009 - 3:46 pm

Nice piece. I hope the governmnent would reflect on the present democratic status and right the wrong as well as improve on the few legacies that are good.


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