Nigerian Democracy And Kleptocracy

by Tokunbo Awoshakin

Democracy appears able to survive in Nigeria amidst the sea of doubts caused by ethno-political violence and the period of recession through which the country is passing.

It seems as well that the people of my country, judging by the overwhelming interest and involvement of Nigerians in the forth-coming presidential elections, have understood the true significance of democracy.

The underlying problem therefore seems not to be that of any misunderstanding over the meaning of the term but that of identifying those who are in charge of perfecting it.

Over the years, Nigerian political parties and parliaments have sometimes proved to be the most discredited institutions, with low levels of trust from the electorates. Our political leaders have been incapable of nurturing trust in the population, and the majority of them have contributed to this instability in the democratic process.

The greatest problems are the institutional corruption and generalised kleptomania of leaders that have sacked the national treasuries, the lack of clarity and vision of the future among political leaders; and the lack of transparency in the justification of the policies implemented by these governments.

There is also a chronic absence of independence among the branches of government and continual bickering among representatives in the National assembly in Abuja as well as legislative assemblies across the country.

Take the ongoing drama over Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as a sampler. While many Nigerians are not taken in by President Obasanjo’s moonlight tales in Malaysia that several top government officials have been sanctioned by his anti-corruption drive, many at least had the hope that the anti-graft act of 2000 may eventually be given the needed teeth at one point

The drama over the anti-graft law appears to be not just another tussle between the Nigerian lawmakers and the presidency. More importantly, it is a struggle by both the executive and the legislative arms of government to use the judiciary to put some protection in place, just in case they later have to face the music for their individual and collective acts of kleptocracy.

To be sure, it is almost easier to say late General Sani Abacha was an honest man than to say that president Obasanjo, who quickly fired the auditor-general of the federation for indicting his administration for “cooking the books” of the country, is not corrupt.

Similarly, the Nigerian national assembly where large sums of money in “Ghana must go sacks” usually arrive for senators as bribe cannot be said to be the institution that is genuine about combating corruption in Nigeria.

Now that the Nigeria Senate has passed the new Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) Act 2003, to replace the one passed in 2000, some members of the lower chamber of the legislature continue to challenge the legality of the proposed new anti-graft law by the Senate. Now that Chief Mike Ozekhome, the senator’s lawyer has also challenged the competence and jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, what happens next?

Maybe the honourable Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo will be able to provide the judicial answer to this question. Maybe not. It might be useful to attempt some political answers, or rather to generate other questions. For instance, how did the Nigerian senate arrive at the decision to reduce the sentences or penalties contained in the anti-Graft Act of 2000? Also, did the lawmakers make the laws for the well-being of Nigerians or to suit only themselves as now being widely speculated?

While the lawmakers and Nigeria chew on these questions, it might be useful to provide some facts. First, Nigeria is still ranked as the second most corrupt country in the world. Secondly, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC). Thirdly, Nigeria is signatory to the general conference of the African Parliamentarians Against Corruption (ANPAC).

Several Nigerian lawmakers, including Nwuche participated in the global conference against corruption last October in Canada. They were there to discuss with lawmakers from around the globe on how parliaments can effectively instil integrity, by ensuring accountability, transparency and popular participation in the governing process. Now they seem to be implementing the opposite in Nigeria.

Some might say this is pathetically ironic but maybe it is just another lens scope into democracy and Kleptocracy in Nigeria…Demonstration of craze! Crazy Demonstration! Democrazy!

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Anonymous May 27, 2005 - 11:47 pm



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