Nigerian Democracy is Dead!

by Taju Tijani

Closet political philosophers should by now be out telling perennial Nigerian optimists that our democracy is dead. Our democratic experiment is a disaster. Backward looking, wasting demons and money eaters have invaded our National Assembly. The opportunity to refashion our political destiny through Americanised but African adulterated democracy is gone forever. Common sense and intelligent vision have been replaced by grandiloquent gestures. The oppressed classes have no chance of even a mild protest against the politicians they voted to represent them. The euphoria of a new beginning that brought in OBJ in 1999 has turned into illusion. The style, symbolism and processes of our constitution and its implementation are so cumbersome, so tedious, so useless and so impractical. It makes everyday governance impossible. Ladies and gentlemen, ten worthless years on, Nigeria is still under the grip of malignant, manipulating marauders.

It is time to view Nigeria as it really is. Far from demonstrating any robust gains from our democracy, we have, on the contrary, reaped broken hope, stalled vision, economic disarray, empty rhetoric and comatose nation building projects. Yar’Ardua and his team are in quandary and his political crises are a huge demonstration of the error of our democracy. Nigerians are becoming upset at the unbelievable reversal the Yar’Ardua’s presidency has brought to virtually all areas of our national life. Looking back in the next 50 years, what would the historians say of his governance?

Historians will see a gasping, unwilling and imposed president who is deficient in idealism, a waster of national resources, a wimp for tough decision making, national liability and a regressive compromiser. There has been a stunning lack of vision in the provision of employment, security, housing, economic regeneration, electricity, education, health, pension, market and constitutional reform. Today, these core concerns, these areas of greatest public concern, these articles of faith with the electorate, have been abandoned to the dissatisfaction of millions of Nigerians. The government activities as a whole, while they include rejection of palliative measures, may as well be seen as ‘managing’ Nigeria rather than solving the problems as calibrated in Yar’Ardua worksheet, the seven points agenda.

Nigeria’s chance to further advance and advertise the gains of democracy has been crippled by ongoing corruption, rampant and violent armed robberies, unemployment, zero infrastructure, poor roads, political violence, penchant for expensive committees, the opulence lifestyle of our senators and legislators, their untamed greed and graft and grandiose jamborees like the recently concluded Afro-Arab summit.

There is disdain for justice and the eradication of corruption. Many Nigerian politicians are supposed to be locked away for life but surprisingly many of them are dancing and carting their daughters away for wedding every weekend while millions of naira is spent to the chagrin of poor and dispossessed Nigerians. There is popular agreement that Yar’Ardua is not a popular leader principally because of his lack of leadership ability and the lip service to corruption under his watch.

Nigerians have had so many probes, pray what sort of justice we serve when no public servant is in jail for corruption. In the last 10 years we have had not less than 100 probes and our jails are still empty for lack of convicts. The Siemens probe, in spite of the huge international interest it generated, has failed to produce one convict. The aviation probe caught no convict. The health sector probe produced no convict. The power or electricity probe is yet to send anybody to Kirikiri to face justice for embezzlement and corruption. Are there not enough pointers as to where the Halliburton probe will end? Do we need a new prophecy for the Okiro-led, wasting jamboree? Why do we delight in rabble-rousing as a nation? Our government, our bureaucracy is malfunctioning because it is hugely secretive, complex, unaccountable and distant from the public and in sum, we are faced with the problem of “democratic deficit” as opposed to “democratic dividend”.

Everyday constitutional deliberations have failed to translate into material progress for Nigerians. Many egalitarian decisions are trapped in legalism, framing, processes and lack of will on the part of our politicians who are nothing but vile, stupid and brainless dotards with voracious appetite for corrupt enrichment and narrow understanding of their real mandate or purpose.

Enthusiasts for democracy are becoming downcast. They failed to grasp that democracy in a black man’s hand is different form the American and European models. If democracy means that everyone gets a say in the way he is governed, how many Nigerians have a say in this government? Rather, our politicians are insulated in fenced mansions in Abuja, drive around in custom-made, bullet-proofed SUV, Mercedes and 4X4s. They earn stupendously evil salary for doing nothing. Half of their time is spent away in unnecessary and unjustified foreign junkets either on shopping spree or to understudy other countries working democracy.

The ruling government as the dominant partner has obliterated the opposition. Its majority has led to the strange notion of imposing democratic control through the use of bribe, intimidation and coercion of the opposition in its shameless creed of ‘do-or-die’ sort of political orthodoxy. Nigeria continues to remain weak socially, morally, politically, economically and spiritually because those bread and butter policies the Nigerians care about most are not immediately seen as priorities. Hot-button issues like employment, security, health, fiscal discipline and education have no popular support among our politicians because many of them do not know the cure for our national ailment.

And yet we have entered into the final fallacy of our democracy. In western democracies, popularity is invariably proportionate with accountability and excellent economic performance. Those gains will then transform into electoral asset that may provide future victory. There is a reverse of that principle in Nigeria. President Yar’Ardua in spite of his disastrous handling of our national destiny, his unmistakable lack of will to tackle corruption, his empty and symbolic style of governance and his consistently and incremental unpopularity still believes that he has a chance to win an election in 2011. His party, the PDP, once made an outlandishly, audacious prediction to govern for the next 60 years.

Statement like this makes me believe that politicians are donkeys with no brains. Where is that dividend of democracy for the voters to encourage loyalty for Yar’Ardua’s second shot at power? Whoever divined that a party like PDP will govern this nation for the next 60 years must be crystal gazers. Thank God, sober voices have told Yar’Adua and his PDP acolytes to tone down their political sentiment or more appropriately, wish list.

Kitians, I mean the Ekitis, are now counting the disastrous cost of moneyed and state-funded hooliganised democracy with its stark ambiguities. Believing in an average punk’s nihilist assertion that there is no future, balaclava-clad and unemployable youths toughened by area boy acculturation now decide the outcome of every election. The victory of Segun Oni has expressed abstractly that Nigeria is facing incendiary democratic crossroads. The electorate is rejecting its role of passive observer handed down by unearthly monarchs, called politicians, who will not mingle with the commoners. No wonder the generational tension in the Niger Delta remains unsolvable. The mindsets of a generation bought up on “Yahoozee”, “Korikokojikoko” and “You do me…I do you” are different from those brought up on the sterling ethos of Awo, Zik, and Aminu Kano


There are real grievances behind the apocalyptic songs of Ajegunlerite ghetto dwellers like Daddy Shoky, Baba Fryo, Daddy Fresh, Yellow Banton and Tall Man to suggest a hostile and deep disconnection with our money-driven politics. There is an unhidden breakdown of social contract between the ruled and rulers. Democracy in Nigeria is seen as a realm of promises that are not carried out, of systematic lies, source of material accumulation and an enterprise which no longer deserves our deference and respect.

Since democracy is dead in this government, what is the alternative? Who will put an end to Yar’Ardua show of yawnathon? Where are the clench-fisted, black-shirted “Yes We Can” brigades with a Nigerian own Obama leading a new revolutionary cadre of new politics? Why are good leaders becoming ambivalently apolitical? Why is the crisis of leadership crystallising into a source of resurgent antipoltics?

Engaging, rational, intelligent, ambitious and purpose-driven Pat Utomi who once made a gallantly audacious challenge for the presidency under a burst of intuitive, moral and ideological insight is in retreat. The radical vision of a modern, progressive and participatory politics he envisioned is in conflation with the antiquarian and musty kind of PDP politics and its rapacious capitalists. Utomi and all other progressive liberals should regroup for 2011.

The aftershocks of 2007 which have kept the progressives in the stifling dungeon of political oblivion, should not keep them there forever. The progressives should fall back on their instincts and rethink, regroup and recalibrate a winning formula that would usher in an audacious peaceful revolution of power transfer. Obama should be a source of infinite inspiration. There should be a way to recycle or clone an audacity of hope in Nigeria.

Whoever will win the next presidential election in 2011 must be able to develop a new discourse of national and populist-driven agendas, fight corruption and jail corrupt politicians, provide jobs, security, fine tune our constitution, provide economic and financial stability, destroy the power of oligarchs, ban all distracting jamborees and bring in pragmatic, visionary and lateral thinking geniuses as trigger for our belated seismic change. Failing that, this nation may rise up in a single symbolically significant act of civil rebellion against 50 years of inhuman, political exploitation. We may be delaying our destruction, we cannot prevent it. Nigerian democracy is dead, long live Nigeria!

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