Nigeria’s independence and democracy are testaments that testify to the victory of the tenacious grimly persistent and unfaltering founding fathers of our nation. The tales of the travails of Anthony Enahoro, Sultan Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and M.K.O. Abiola still remain faultlessly exemplary in Africa’s quest for citizen-focused governance. However, with Nigeria’s current torrent of shames, it becomes reasonable to reconsider the rationale for the travails of our past heroes in their quest for Nigerian democracy. Were they being heroes, or in pursuit of ulterior motives?
Every quest has an aim, the attainment of which signifies the end of the struggles. When Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1958, he and his caucus supposedly had a vision of a liberated nation that is able to use its resources for the betterment of its people. They also sought to put an end to the age-long British colonial rule which added nothing to Nigeria but membership of the Commonwealth and loss of great minds like King Jaja of Opobo to slave trades that went too far. However, as it is now evident, Enahoro et al only succeeded in transferring the wealth of Nigeria from the soft gloved hands of Queen Elizabeth II, to the bloodstained coarse palms of Nigerian politicians.
Obafemi Awolowo and colleagues never thought that the nation for whose liberation and emancipation they were sent on innumerable involuntary exiles would still remain under neo-politico-colonization where vox populi is noise, pain is painless, and sanity is a far fetched word. Democracy warriors are the most disappointed.
Nigeria’s democracy struggles climaxed in 1993 with M.K.O. Abiola’s hope-themed presidential campaign which gave Nigerians a much deserved taste of what real democratic governance would be like. From the east to the west, north to south, Nigerians shouted, chanted and possibly enchanted to favor MKO. But thanks to IBB, the journey is still long. Our Pseudo-Democracy Day— May 29, 1999—is another indication that the quest for democracy is not over. We only went on recess.
According to my Pocket Oxford English Dictionary, democracy is a government by the whole population through elected representatives. It signifies a classless and tolerant society. Let’s take a look around us and be the judge.
Which sane nation elects touts and hooligans (e.g. Oyo state House of Assembly); wrestlers and boxers (National Assembly), looters (past and current governors like Peter Odili); cultists and ritualists (like the nudists in Ogun state lawmakers); jesters and bisexuals (like Alams) and other people of low or no integrity to the helms of affairs? Nigeria of course! About 70 per cent of Nigeria’s present crop of leaders is difficult to lead, talk less of leading others; and most of them don’t even understand what leading at various levels entails. This is beautifully shown in their campaign manifestos.
It’s only in Nigeria (and other failing nations) that prompt payment of workers’ salaries is a campaign agendum. I’ve seen a Ward Councilor aspirant’s campaign poster with 24hr interrupted power supply as a manifesto. When one sees bogus claims like this, one cannot but pity the citizenry who presently care less.
M.K.O. was incarcerated because he was in pursuit of the validation and recognition of the notion of the nation. If he is by any means looking at the Nigeria of today, I believe that teardrops would roll down his face.
Nigerians, no thanks to past experience, have become masters at what Fela described as Suffering and Smiling. It’s still both amazingly amazing and vividly ludicrous that Nigerians no longer care about what happens at the various government houses; and it is currently impossible for them to make their representatives responsible and responsive to the yearnings at the grassroots. Everyone had resolved to fate and the only thing that brings satisfaction is personal well being with an abstruse government. Is this democracy? I don’t think so.
I wonder what the First Republic’s lawmakers would make of the current crop of shameless legislators—from the local governments’ shops-turned-chambers to the dome-shaped edifice of the federal House of Representatives— where seats had to be made irremovable as a result of the Proudly Nigeria maddening wave blowing through our law making and breaking houses.
Democracy in other countries enthrones separation of powers among the executive, legislature and judiciary. In our case however, we all know that this is not true. It’s only here that a president could boast that he will allow the judiciary to operate freely. This tells us that the wigs of the judges are nothing but potential rudders in the hands of the man—in—charge. Let’s ask ourselves why is it that Ribadu and El Rufai were sinners during Yar’adua’s tenure, only to be allowed back into the country by Goodluck Jonathan?
What we have in place in Nigeria is a deceptive façade— democracy on paper, subtle authoritarianism in practice. This new brand of dictatorship enables Jonathan, without extensive consultations, to disband a national team— The Super Eagles— without seeking Nigerians’ opinions other than those of potbellied politicians who can’t even juggle football talk less of fathoming the impending national disgrace that awaits anyone that goes to FIFA with that one-man-decision.
Power which was intended to be given to the masses by our founding fathers is now a means of oppression, suppression and frustration. Show me someone who is not frustrated in Nigeria apart from politicians and their benefactors, and I’ll recommend a psychological evaluation. We daily live our lives as refugees in a foreign nation where nothing but leftovers could be obtained; no one could guarantee safety, insecurity reigns supreme and the next breath could actually be the last.
Literature reviews showed that the voice of the people, in democracy, is the driving force behind any working democracy. But so far in Nigeria’s 50 years of independence, a large proportion of the history is devoted to tales of selfishness, greed, pride, ego, nebulous hopes, empty promises, ulterior motives, double talking, deception and insignificant episodic recess from the status quo. What a bouquet to celebrate with a whooping ten billion Naira!
As we gradually crawl to our 50 years as a nation, we cannot but marvel at how easy it had been for a national history that was written with gold to be rewritten with greed and bad blood. It now becomes expedient for us to decide our next line of action- siddon look, purchase a garrote and a gas chamber; or go the Ghanaian way by adopting Jerry Rawlings’ style.
Anyhow we choose to progress, we need to agree on one fact which is that politicians had clogged up Nigeria’s system with sufficient dirt to stop it from progressing. These clogs must be flushed out if we seek retribution and redistribution of the dividends of democracy. However, if the status quo is what democracy is all about, then our founding fathers must be crazy for sending away the Queen and her men.