In The Path of Much Needed Democracy

Two decade ago, it was unthinkable to millions of Nigerians that Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, a canoe-maker’s son, would one day become their president. Today, this veritable politician who easily represents the free-will political strata of the power elite is on the international media and on podiums in the capital, maintaining his democratic credentials with a portrait of “the ziks” gracing an increasingly clear political background. His approval ratings across Nigeria are chronically high, as a number of political commentators in Nigerians have observed, but in the list of candidates who would barring past military error, appease Washington, and allow the informal power centre to retain their stranglehold of the helm, he was at the top.

With the 2011 elections scheduled to be held next year, international quarters and concerned countries, look forward to the impact the elections will have on the political landscape of the Nigeria, as well as its relationship with the rest of the world. The election could be a farce just to legitimize the role of the military in modern democracies. Under the circumstances, although the national election is known to be an outcome of international pressure, the way in which the election is going to be carried out, remains a grave concern. Foreign election observers and international media are expected to be in the country prior to the elections. That gesture gave way to further assurance on how fair the election will fare. Besides, experts on diplomatic and international relations who have closely observed the country believe that the election will vote to power a party that will continue to serve as a vanguard of this democracy.

To make this country; Nigeria and her politics most respected in the world, anti-corruption drive should be waged. Though the newly reorganized Anti-Corruption Commission; EFCC was supposed to carry out this task, but it was the same old pattern headed and manned mainly by madam Waziri camp, is commanding this anti-corruption drive. Though at first every corrupt Nigerians and officials were included, it was the politicians who were the targets of this anti-corruption drive. It soon became clear to all that the anti-corruption drive, though netted many of the bigwigs who could not have been touched otherwise, this drive was using the fear factor, was mainly aimed at succumbing them to the political plan of the power that be. The anti-corruption drive and anti-politics were combined together and the theory of minus two came into play which intended to exclude the two leaders of the two main political parties from politics and also to divide the parties and create a new political base for those who really controlled power.

So as is usual with other changes, this better rule measures in Nigeria could not and did not bring in any change, rather people suffered from lack of basic fundamental rights, souring prices and uncertain future, which in particular hampered business and economic activities. The anti-corruption drive though could halt the brazen corruption at the top it has now taken a new dimension involving new sets of people who control power from behind. The corruption at the base level, as was reported by the Nigeria chapter of Transparency International, has rather increased manifold and the rate has also gone high.

In the political field, though the reform slogan could make some dents in the main parties creating confusion and almost dividing them. But now that phase is over. The main political parties and their leaders wrested back the authority and also the initiative and the politics has come back to their old self. The old division, rivalry and intolerance have come to the fore again. Though the powers that be are still pursuing with their attempt to establish a controlled political system with the military establishment pulling the string in running of the state and even making out some concessions from the politicians about their role, it seems that time is over for that too. This they can only do by taking some drastic measure, but that would also put their positions in difficulties both with regards to the people at home and also with their international mentors.

But these are beside the point. The point is that this time also, these better rule measures, as is lamented by its supporters as a missed chance of the century 1, could not bring in even some perceptible difference with the rules before. Actually the intervention by the military, with the full support and also connivance of western powers, who want to see a stable government in Nigeria to pursue their political and economic end, was not aimed at changing and curing the fundamental cause of the malice but giving the system a good look by facelift here and there. The drive against corruption and the slogan of political reform was aimed at making the system governable.

But the malady that pervades the system is not only symptomatic but systemic. By doing away with the symptoms would not do, but the whole system is to be overhauled and overhauled from the root. Of course, this requires a radical and revolutionary reform of the system which Nigeria should have ventured at the beginning of its new journey as a nation state. This desire for a rationale society with equity and participation of its people at the base was spelled out in the constitution framed immediately after the independence, but it was never meant, because of the class character of the ruling class. The ruling class that assumed power after independence wanted to amass wealth by using the state power and by that way they accumulated the primary capital and from since then on the protection and expansion of this capital became the primary concern of the ruling class. And in the pursuit of that the whole economy was downgraded to loot and plunder and its manifestation was reflected in the corruption, criminalization and communalization of the politics.

So, if any change is to be made, it is to be made in the system, in the economy, which is to be brought out of the loot and plunder of the crony capital which has developed itself under the guidance of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the donor agencies and is acting as the subservient of the foreign multinationals, rehabilitating industries, particularly rehabilitating our main industries like jute, reforming the land tenure system and land used and introducing new technology in agriculture and implementing a policy of inclusion of the poor and the downtrodden in the whole economic process.

In the field of politics it is unfettered democracy and upholding of fundamental human rights that are basic for the governance issue. Any control in the name of development would rather distort and ultimately destroy democracy and democratic institutions, howsoever little that has developed in our country. The main plank of politics here again should be the inclusion of the poor and downtrodden in the running of affairs of the question of empowerment of these people; this becomes the most important issue. And with it comes the education and culture. The whole education system must be rid of the commercialization and communalization process which has already divided the society and mass movement in this regard is to be ensured.

These are some of the points to make a new start. But this start is not a new one. The liberation struggle of Nigeria threw this issue in front of the new nation to chart out its course for its nation building, its development along the path of progress and make its place among the nation states of the world. Much time and precious ones have been lost, but not lost forever. Nigeria can be rebuilt and rebuilt not for the few, but for its millions of people who in the past without caring what would happen to them took up arms for the future. The future still awaits us and it is important whether we would brace this future with courage to change.

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