COLUMN: Q.E.D. – Exorcizing the DEMON out of Nigeria’s Democracy
The TD Q.E.D COLUMN
– BABATUNDE FANIYAN
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2015 Elections: Before We Act, Let us Pray
LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, Creator of Heaven and earth and all that is in them. We thank you for being good to Nigeria and making us to remain one united, blessed country since 1914.
We know you love our country Lord. We have gone through several tribulations, which could have destroyed the corporate existence of our nation – many of them caused by ourselves – but you protected us and we emerged victorious through them all.
You have blessed us with abundant mineral and natural resources which are too numerous for us to count. We have the black gold (petroleum) and gas in abundance, (of which we are the sixth largest producer in the world. We have abundant land for agriculture and perfect climate for all year round farming; we have large reserves of yet untapped mineral resources e.g. bitumen of which it is said that we have the second largest reserve in the world.
We thank you for all these. Please accept our thanksgiving in your infinite mercy and goodness.
BUT NOW, LORD, we are approaching a critical and dangerous crossroads in our life as a nation. It is the forthcoming General Elections.
Our father in heaven, this is not the first time we are having critical elections. But this one has taken the image of a spirit which would either prosper or totally de-humanize us.
To be de-humanized more than we are presently may spell death. We do not want to die Lord. We want to live. But at the same time, we don’t want to just continue to live as disadvantaged, impoverished citizens amidst abundant wealth in our own land.
THERE ARE TWO MAJOR CANDIDATES who are vying for our votes to be elected king over us; from whom we have to make this seemingly life and death choice.
The one, Goodluck Jonathan is the incumbent king who has been ruling over us for the past six years; while the other, Muhammadu Buhari has, sometimes in the past, also been an unelected ruler over us for close to two years.
You alone, Lord, know these two men in and out. You are the one who created them. You can see their hearts. You know what they can do; and you alone know what each of them would do IF and WHEN he wins the coming election and assumes power.
As we are right now in supplication to you, you also see our own hearts – all 170 Million of us. Many of us are decidedly and fiercely torn between Jonathan – for “Continuity” and Buhari – for “Change”. Only a very few of us remain undecided even now.
NOW, LORD, YOU CAN HEAR what the number of us on Jonathan’s side are saying: that Corruption has been with us since Nigeria came into existence, and have continually been entrenched in us by subsequent rulers. Some radicals across political boundaries have even said that the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 was a “corrupt” move – as it did not follow due process involving us, the peoples within the geographical space themselves! Peoples who are made up of over 300 different tribes/languages! They argue that Nigeria’s demon of corruption cannot be eliminated overnight – and Jonathan is conscious and alive to the task. They say he is genuinely committed to the development of Nigeria and Nigerians; that he has set in motion a deep-seated Transformation process pan Nigeria, never before executed since independence. This revolutionary thrust are in the Power sector, Agriculture, Education (where, not even the so called Almajeri of the North are left behind) – to mention just a few. Because of the intensity of the rot and neglect over the years, the fruits of Jonathan’s Transformation will naturally take some time to manifest. However some of them are visible even now. Jonathan, they say, may look soft on the surface, but his inner resolve is tough as steel to execute all his developmental programmes. Thus the call for Continuity.
BUT, EVEN THE MOST ARDENT SUPPORTERS OF JONATHAN – who are not sadists, who are discerning – would not want the continuity of the Slaughter of innocent Nigerians almost on a daily basis by the Boko Haram terrorists. Even though they know that Jonathan’s enemies who heap all the blame of Insecurity on Jonathan are, in fact, the ones covertly fueling the Boko Haram fire to discredit his administration.
LORD, YOU ARE THE OMNIPOTENT, omnipresent and omniscient (All-Knowing) God. You are looking at Jonathan’s heart right now. Do you see your Fear in him? As it was you who brought him from relative obscurity on to the throne – (in the same way you brought David in the Good Book, from the bush and made him king over your people). Is Jonathan your chosen one for us, your people? Is he the one you are giving your covenant to? As you empowered King David are you poised to empower King Jonahan to serve us? If Jonathan wins, will these calamities continue – or would he be imbued with the renewed spirit to right all these maladies to our relief?
OR IS BUHARI THE MESSIAH WE NEED LORD? Is he the one you want to enthrone for our relief?
Buhari has governed over us before. Many of us remember vividly his War Against Indiscipline (WAI). We remember the herculean Decree 4. We remember the back-dated decrees and the elimination of Nigerians who were found guilty (in military courts!) of hard drugs, foreign exchange offences etc. Buhari strikes the stance of a No-Nonsense king who would whip trespassers with serpents!
This Buhari is the king Nigeria needs now! That, Lord, is the cry of those of us who are on Buhari’s side. They argue that from experience, Buhari is the one who can really fight the Corruption menace which is the main virus propagating all the ills in the country.
Heavenly Father, many of us are again not so sure. They swear that even while Buhari was apparently fighting corruption, there were loopholes and cases of favoritism in the dispensation of punishment. They remember the issue of a certain emir who passed through the eye of the needle with “53 suitcases”.
Can these isolated cases prove that Buhari is not the right one for us? Or is it just a lone inconsequential speck on a clean, clear blue sky?
If it is our sins that has been making you to be angry with us, Lord – that we have not had the good fortune to eat from the good of the land, please forgive us now.
Have mercy on us O God/ According to your unfailing Love/ According to your great compassion/ Blot out our transgressions/ Wash away all our iniquities/ And cleanse us from our sins.
We are now gearing up to vote for one of the major two candidates to be king over us. We can only act according to our own limited knowledge and wisdom.
WE PRAY that you the Almighty, All-knowing God will move mightily against all forces of evil, suppression and oppression. Move mightily in the way only you can. Let your Spirit move mightily over our entire land. Move decisively in all of usl move over us and move around us – and enthrone the RIGHT ruler over us on February 14, 2015.
HEAR US OH, LORD! Let your will be done in us and in Nigeria.
(THIS IS A RE-EDITED VERSION OF THE ARTICLE WHICH WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL CONCORD OF SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 1983, PAGE 3)
At this stage of our political calendar – marking TEN YEARS of unbroken, but sickly Democratic governance, it would be worthwhile, for one to consider as if from a philosophical pedestal, what manner of Democracy we are rearing. And to try and foresee if this democracy growing wild amongst us is not going to turn into a monster capable of tearing us apart.
It must be quite clear to us now that a great gap exists between good, old democracy in theory and the fatally abused democracy in practice – a discrepancy between ideal and reality.
Or how else can one explain a situation in which the United States of America acquired her democracy and is still rearing and living with it harmoniously and prosperously over 200 years after. Contrast that with our own Republic of Nigeria – where (the same?) democracy had killed and buried three Republics in only 40 years of Nigeria!
Now which is the villain? Is it the Republic or the Democracy?
Is the deadly virus resident in the democracy or in the Republic – the Republic meaning the soil, the air, the people, the climate…?
We are now in the Fourth Republic – our fourth democracy. And the Republic is very, very sick…
Nigeria produces 3,200,000 barrels of crude oil daily –the sixth largest producer in the world. She has an expansive land area and conducive climate all year round suitable for a wide array of agricultural production. Even taking these two indices alone, what a healthy and prosperous Democracy Nigeria should be! But what do we have? Ask any citizen in the street! And what about future prospects? On the horizon, thick, dark clouds are prominent. Two major projects, which are critical to the survival of the country, are currently on the drawing board – Constitution Review and Electoral Reform. It is unfortunate and disturbing that the handling of both projects by our government officials AND politicians gives cause for real alarm.
As if these disturbing prevailing situations are not enough, a full-fledged war is raging in the North-Eastern region of the country – the Nigerian army versus Miliitary terrorists, apparently condoned and fuelled by enemies of Nigeria within and without. Where would this war and the entire disturbing situations lead us?
DEMOCRACY-THE DREAM OF DEMOCRATIC THINKERS
Back to the question: Which is the killer – Democracy or the Republic? Which is killing which? From the brief analysis of situations above, it is easy to see through to the problem in Nigeria’s Democracy. But what about the source of Democracy itself – has it got an inherent virus which has infected its practice in Nigeria?
Evidence gathered gives one the impression that Democracy on its own is innocent.
In fact, it had to be invoked at the dawn of Western Civilization by revolutionary-democratic thinkers like Locke and Rousseau as a weapon against feudalism and Monarchy.
Pre-1914 Europe featured an assemblage of Empires where emperors and kings did not ask nor care for what their peoples wanted, but governed over them anyway. The setting was that of a continental time bomb lodged in Europe. No amount of wishful thinking could have entrenched peace and stability in place of the world wars which subsequently dismembered the European empires and rocked the world at large.
Then the revolutionary-democratic thinkers said: “Let us have a form of government which would be a panacea for solving problems; a means by which community defends itself, fosters its economic prosperity and, in other ways promotes what it conceives to be the general welfare of her citizens. Thus was Democracy born on the continent of Europe with pomp, pageantry, for peace and progress.
Apart from the catastrophic antecedent, which led to the birth of Democracy on Continental Europe, the form of government had been firmly rooted in the USA and Britain. In both countries, the steady growth of democracy in harmony with economic advancement was a subject of admiration to the rest of the then civilized world.
What are the features of this democracy that has endeared it to the free world since the end of the second world war? The greatest attraction of the instrument as mentioned above, is the USA herself – the doyen of world democracy. A political garden of eden on earth where the freedom, economic and social development of her people has been equalized to the success of democracy.
To-day however, democracy in reality and in practice and especially with incompetent operators, has been exposed as not being so holy and innocent after all. It’s historical ties to class interest and it’s own irrationalities have begun to initiate the same unpleasantness associated with feudalism and monarchy that it sought to eradicate in the first place.
Thanks to a work on ‘Democracy Today: Problems and Prospects’ edited by Messrs. Williams N. Chambers an Robert H. Salisbury, both of Washington University, even Western political science experts have since un-masked the ominous discrepancy between ideal and practical democracy.
The two editors commented on “ …a gap between an exalted picture of democracy inherited from Western tradition on the one hand, and the reality of democracy as we see it today on the other…”
In his own contribution, Louis Hart of Havard University regrets that “…we are bound by a classical image of democracy. It is an individualistic, equalitarian ideal image of direct popular control through rational agreement and action…”
Now, let us zero-in on our own poor but dear Nigeria. There could be little wonder why the America-type democracy was adopted in 1979. The classical and ideal image must have been clear in the minds of the members of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). But not in their wildest dreams could they have foreseen a democratic monster which would kill three Republics and is now threatening the Fourth.
Nor could anyone blame the Committee. If democracy is an instrument of government by which a society “fosters it’s economic prosperity and general welfare”, then this democracry should do Nigeria- especially Nigeria! – a world of good. As it did, and still doing to the USA and Britain.
Being fair to the CDC, the adoption of this system could not have been a deliberate error of commission. But it could be an error of omission.
Writers from Aristotle to Rosseau have recognized that pure democracy is un-suited for any but the smallest societies. (Later on in this piece, we shall see how the USA could be regarded as a “small” society)
But Nigeria can never be defined as a small society by any stretch of imagination. 120 million citizens made up of about 300 separate ethnic groupings makes our dear Nigeria a complex structure. Few Nigerians can ascertain the vast diversification in development efforts and aspirations between the average man in Ikeja, Lagos state and another in Kotangora, Niger State for example. To further compound the structure, there is the high level of illiteracy, Ignorance, Poverty and disease.
In contrast, the relative homogeneity, high levels of literacy, political (democratic) sophistication and economic development of the USA makes her a simple and “small” society.
The American secret is not that their democracy is the best form of government in the world, but that it is the best for them, and they are competent at its operation.
Not so for Nigeria. While the US is marching towards perfecting the practice of democracy, Nigeria is unwittingly but alas! still enmeshed in a stone-age, savage counterfeit of democracy – blindfolded!
Is there any wonder therefore why (the same?) democracy which saved continental Europe from catastrophe is flexing its muscles to plunge Nigeria into catastrophe of pre-1914 Europe?
DEMOCRACY-IDEAL ONLY FOR A “SMALL” SOCIETY
What about the actual practice of democracy? Samuel Beer, also of Havard University has suggested that two key-values make up a viable conception of democracy. These are “efficiency” and “coherence and innovation”. This suggestion is very apt indeed. And I dare say that together with freedom and equity, these key-values form a criteria by which a democratic system could be judged.
Efficiency is not a complex phenomenon without consulting any dictionary at all, the “ordinary meaning” as understood by ordinary citizens would suffice for our purpose here.
Efficiency is doing something or carrying out a task in a way to yield the maximum benefits for all concerned.
If democracy is run efficiently by democratically elected government/political officials, then it should fulfill the dream of the original midwives of the noble system. That is, an efficiently run democracy should be “a panacea for solving problems, a means by which community defends itself, fosters its economic prosperity and in other ways promotes what it conceives to be the general welfare”
This dream has been achieved in the USA, Britain and most of continental Europe where Democracy is being efficiently run.
But here in Nigeria, democracy breeds problems the way flies breed maggots. Is there any defence, and hope for Nigerian citizens today?
What about economic prosperity? Remember our abysmal placing year after year on the HDI – Human Development Index- as compiled by the UNDP? And what about promoting general welfare? The verdict is unequivocal: Democracy is NOT being efficiently run in Nigeria. If anything, all indices point to the fact that what is being run in Nigeria is a Voodoo Democracy. A demonized democracy
For an official to be efficient, he does not need to have the academic capacity of a professor. To promote the “general welfare” of the people for example, an official running the original democracy would promote the provision of food, Housing, Health, Education, Job creation and Transport cum Communications in that order of priority. These half-dozen areas constitute the greatest need for the greatest number of citizens.
Any other approaches are exercises in voodoo Democracy or simply inefficient or corrupt Democracy.
Have the Nigerian political “actors” not asked themselves why even the USA does not pack all her election-battles to be fought in one ring at once? Rather, they hold presidential elections every four years; senate elections every six years. It is a lesson in diffusing tension and efficiency in the system. Also, the legal and judicial system is strong, independent and efficient, so that a wrong or corrupt act is punished and serves as deterrent.
In Britain, both political parties and pressure groups are strong and firmly rooted. While parties compete – in a honest, and efficient process – for popular parliamentary majorities to control government, interest groups rely on direct and continuous contact in critical administrative decisions. Thus the government, the political parties and group associations are all integrated in a massive and smooth concentration of power. It is this “integration and concentration” which symbolizes the glorification of democracy in the Western world.
These civilized democracies feature two wings of efficiency working together. The first is coherence and adaptation of means to ends in policy decisions, so that policies are not only consistent but also mutually supporting. It is pertinent to slot in here that policies must be in the correct priority order vis-à-vis the general welfare of the people. The second wing of efficiency is innovation or the capacity in a system to produce solutions to persistent or new problems. This demands not only the correct perspective but swiftness, creativity and drive.
How is our political climate shaping our democracy? This piece will not be concerned with the partisan controversies that accompany general elections which had been programmed to corrupted from the onset. Rather, it aims to challenge the dream of our aristocrats that the American-type democracy is ideal for Nigerians.
Democracy – popularly hailed as “the government of the people by the people and for the people” – has no reason to taste sour to the same people it boasts of serving if it is worked honestly to promote general welfare.
Suffice to say that our experience since the 1963 general elections has been sour to say the least. The unethical conduct of partisan federal and state media establishment; highly suspicious electoral returns which defiled all reasonable computations; wave of killings and arson; the arrogance, insensitivity and power-drunkenness of federally paid agents and officials. All these wrapped up with the growing economic and social degradation of the Nigerian citizenry constitute a definite bad omen of the inherent un-workability of the Voodoo democracy or the inability or our rulers to run the original, real democracy efficiently.
NIGERIA NEEDS A DEMOCRATIC UNITY, A MEETING POINT
As if the demons in the system are not enough, Nigeria is still no where in sight of what can be referred to as “Democratic Unity” in which partisans on opposite sides in a civilized democracy agree on some basic criteria which they wish to see displayed by the instrument of government. As such, “opposition” political parties and even interest groups in Britain and the USA for example do not have any cause to take the hardliner posture. No do-or-die war cry in the heat of election campaigns. This is so because in each country an acceptable level of Democratic Unity has been achieved.
It was former US president Jimmy Carter who in 1976 stressed that leadership, especially presidential leadership must take its strength from the people. And Hamilton Fyfe, in his work “The Nineteenth Century And After” declared that “…in a democracy, everything depends on the character and ability of leaders and officials…” Just as everything about a moving vehicle depends on the driver, I daresay.
Before Democracy can work here, Nigeria needs first and foremost a Meeting point. A unifying point and a democratic unity from whence efficient governance can commence. This is where a National Conference comes in.
It is a manifestation of the king of demons in the Nigerian system that operators of a Voodoo democracy continue to shun the call for a National conference from whence would evolve a Democratic unity, which in turn, would enable and enthrone democracy – the original, people-friendly system.
As we open the door into the Second Decade of our democracy, our present leaders and politicians have a historic role to play both individually and in concert: It’s their choice really. And it’s only one choice on the table – to put Nigeria above self, denounce the voodoo democracy they are practicing, put their act together and subject themselves to the true practice of democracy – fashioned for the benefit of the people.
The only other alternative to the above is catastrophe.
REACTIONS ARE CORDIALLY WELCOME
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- “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”
– George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)