Nigeria Matters

Of Critics and Propagandists

The foundation of

democracy is the ability and readiness of the people to replace those political

office holders perceived as betraying their votes. There can be no functional

and effective democracy where the people are stuck with a set of rulers

irrespective of their misuse or abuse of power. Tyrants or dictators are not

only rulers who silence opposition and dissent with the gun and bayonet; they

include those who are kept in power by their fellow citizens despite their

ineptitude, cluelessness and fundamental inability to maintain and put the

state on the path of sustainable growth and development.

Because of our history

of coups and military dictatorships, most of the third world – and in

particular, African – countries have grown to understand political tyranny in

the narrow sense of usurpers. Even in the

worse cases of presidents-for-life like the Robert Mugabes (of Zimbabwe) and

the Yahya Jammehs (of the Gambia), there are people who are ready to kill in defence or promotion of their

belief that those despots are products of democracy. This explains why it is

difficult to sell the expanded definitions of tyranny and dictatorship

to leaders who have the unfettered power to personalize public office and

resources, and those who use public office and resources to pursue or promote

personal agenda, including the gratification of supporters and disentitlement

or denial of patronage to perceived enemies or political opponents.

Nigeria is one good

case of how political institutions reflect the cultural values of the societies

in which they are established. Many people can offhandedly finger leadership as

Nigeria’s major problem; but no leader has ever featured in our political

landscape without having an army of those who would swear to the heavens that

he is the very personification of good and effective leadership. Nigeria has

never been in short supply of government supporters who are very inventive and

adept at turning logic on its head regarding the purpose of government and

opposition in the polity. These sycophants and apologists, ably aided by the

lethargic apathy and permissiveness of the generality of the citizenry, have

been effective in perpetuating the cycle of weak, purposeless leadership

characterized by ineptitude and abuse of office.

The promotion of the

undemocratic argument that Nigeria has no opposition is a typical case of

deliberate mischief stimulated with the aid of effective propaganda machinery.

The core argument of this rhetorical nonsense upon stilts is that all those in

opposition were once members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and,

as such, theirs is merely a pilgrimage of disgruntled elements. The supporting

argument is that the opposition hardly offers constructive criticism or provides

viable and productive alternatives to issues or problems confronting the state.

Such clever arguments have permeated the citizenry and have diverted their

attention from the need to relate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of

governance to the ability to meet their basic daily needs and respond

appropriately to their challenges.

There is no human

society where the opposition does not come from among the people. The history

of an oppositionist is as immaterial to their functions and purposes as the

origin of Robin Van Persie in his present Manchester United Colours. What

matters, and that which the opponents of the opposition are afraid of, is that opposition

stands as a constant reminder to those in government that there is an

alternative to them. The opposition is

that physical manifestation of the saying that power belongs to the people and,

as such, the people have the power to replace those in government if they fail

to meet their expectations.

The qualitative

assessment of the opposition is therefore not a democratic instrument but a

moral tool. Yes, a better and qualitative opposition would be a good reward for

the decision of the electorate at the polls, but it is not a requirement for

democratic governance. What matters in democracy is the availability of options

for the people. That is the situation that promotes quality leadership across

the strata of democratic institutions.

Of course, the people

will benefit immensely from constructive criticism, but the opposition does not

owe that to the people. It is the government of the day that owes the people;

it is the government that needs to show a clear political vision, and has to,

as a matter of obligation, equip itself with the necessary intellectual and

scientific-cum-socio-political base to formulate, promote and implement

policies and strategies capable of delivering the proverbial dividends of

democracy. It is the duty of the government of the day to do the right thing

and be right in all things that border on the purpose of government. That is

why the government has the sovereignty and power to appropriate the resources

of the state. That is why government functionaries are handsomely remunerated,

and deferred to in matters pertaining to the use and management of the public


The opposition is doing

its job gratis – a sacrificial job that must be assessed and evaluated as such,

and until it enters into a social contract with the people when – and if – it

wins power, it will have to use its resources to do the opposition job.

Indeed, there are

categories of oppositions – the opposition that is localized and the one that

is national in outlook. However, no matter their location and area of focus or concentration,

what is important to democracy is for the opposition to put the government of

the day on its toes and, thus, strengthen the people’s ultimate sovereignty.

Without the opposition,

the word ‘corruption’ would have long disappeared from our lexicon. Of course,

some of those in opposition are as corrupt as – sometimes much more corrupt

than – those they accuse of corruption; but the important thing is that they

educate us on the magnitude and effects of corruption, and thereby, provide us

with material to make informed choices regarding those who are immersed in or

promoting corruption.

Without corruption,

Nigeria would have been at par with countries like Canada and South Africa;

Nigeria would have been much more than a numerical giant of the African

continent. Without corruption, history would have, by now, provided a pride of

place for Nigeria’s contribution to civilization. Without corruption, the

surrender value of graduates of Nigerian universities would have been at par

with their Israeli counterparts. Without corruption, Nigeria would have been

the best place on the continent for a child to be born in. Without corruption,

Nigeria would have been a great medical tourists’ home. Without corruption,

Nigeria would have been exporting more rice than Thailand. Without corruption,

every Nigerian graduate would have been gainfully employed or contributing to

global wealth creation and aggregation. Without corruption, every Nigerian

would have been well off, even if not a millionaire; the Nigerian would have

lived much longer and better than any other creature under the sun. But alas!

Nigeria is today the butt of all and sundry, including hypocritical critics and

analysts who are now calculating the amount of dollars our country is losing to

corruption and the opportunities we have been missing through corruption.

Elena Floristeanu, discussing the Causes and Effects of

Corruption, declares that:

Corruption interferes with economic growth,

generates inequities and erodes government credibility and the efficient

functioning of state institutions. As it becomes generalized and perpetuated,

corruption becomes a major threat to stability and democracy, eroding the

fundamentals of the state. Consequences of corruption that are acknowledged as

well include: low quality services, public resource embezzlement, increase in

the degree of population poverty and suffering, high social costs, abuse

spreading, property impairment, decrease.

This is a golden

message for our beloved country.

Post Comment