Achebe on Nigerian democracy
“The Colloquium on Africa” focusing on the forth coming elections in Nigeria summoned by the Honorable Chinua Achebe should contribute to solving the problem of voting machination in the country. Achebe must be commended for organizing an important event, mostly for his continue devotion and patriotism. Nigeria must be shepherded and guided by men and women of goodwill who knows that for Nigerian greatness to be realized, we cannot abandon the course of democracy to lethargy and cynicism.
“Nigeria is preparing for another election cycle beginning in February 2010 with state government elections in Anambra, a state in the southeast of the country. Anambra sparked the most violent and protracted scenes of ballot rigging and resistance in 2007, and the conduct of elections there in 2010 will represent a test case for national elections that will follow in the rest of the country.”
"If Nigeria's recent democratic failure passes without consequences from the international community, then the very idea of democracy in Africa is at serious risk," concluded Human Rights Watch.
Honorable Achebe has done the right thing by calling the country to self-examine herself on the issues of politics, election and democracy. No one is saying that democracy is all about election but it is an integral part of a democratic process. Election is an indicative of the longevity and richness of a democracy. The Achebe’s Colloquium on Africa was held at Brown University on Dec. 11, 2009 with the focused theme, “The international Conference on Nigerian Elections” which by itself is accumulative breakthrough in making democracy works in Nigeria. The symposium was honored with notable individuals from diverse walks of life including the Nigerian Nobel laureate and social critic - Great Wole Soyinka, President of Brown University -Ruth Simmons, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State who was the guest speaker and many others.
The ramification of this December gathering on Nigerian polity will be difficult to be quantified but its awareness on the polity cannot be overemphasized. The people of Nigeria must be aware that the responsibility of governance and democracy do not rest only on the politicians but also on the voting masses. Therefore Nigerians cannot afford to be disorientated, nonchalant rather vigilant and active stakeholders in the democratic process. The noble idea of democracy as a political ideology cannot be allow to be faltering in Nigeria. Democracy has worked for so many countries and it can work in Nigeria too. One thing we must recognize it’s premature to say that democracy cannot function in Nigeria until we have given it our best. It is about making mistakes and corrections that we can build a credible democracy in Nigeria. Confidence building associated with free and fair elections will consolidate democratic process in the country.
“The Colloquium on Africa” cannot be only an intellectual exercise but a pragmatic Townhall Meeting that should assemble together all the communities and organizations that are stakeholders in our great country Nigeria. The representatives of Nigerian Students Association, Nigerian Labour Congress, Market Women Association, Trade Unions and officials of Nigerian Electoral Commission should participate and play a vital role in such event for these people are at the grassroots and are closer to the action.
The logistic and location for this important event must be considered. The ideal location and venue for the Colloquium on Africa should be on African soil – Nigeria. But for all practical purposes the venue at Rhode Island is a good one. The modern technology of satellite and telecommunication should be utilized to connect all the citizens of Nigeria that cannot make it to America.
Chinua Achebe has given so much to Africa and indeed to the whole world. This great dialogue he initiated must be replicated in all parts of Nigeria and Africa, so that we can come together to brainstorm and strategize on the pitfalls and vulnerabilities of democracy in our hemisphere and apply credible solutions to stop the hemorrhage. African countries and Nigeria in particular can rise to the challenges of modern Democratic governance for the sake of our children and posterity. The sustainability of democracy in Nigeria rests on having a fair and free election. On election credibility a durable foundation is laid for survival of democracy in Nigeria.
Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. Africa Political and EconomicStrategicCenter (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org
written December 21, 2009