Written by Sunny Lawrence- Oputa
Democracy is for the living and as a vital organic part of a social system; it should only be quantified through growth as it relates to the involvement of the people of a nation in making policy decisions or in electing their representatives in a free and fair electoral system. Democracy as a government of the masses could be a mere usage of word to fulfill political righteousness by the ruling class or a practical application of socio-political philosophy that promotes fairness in a civil society.
Therefore, democracy can only be alive when it is practiced with the involvement of the masses, respect of the power of the people, and with due recognition of their desire. Democracy is silenced and killed when the people’s wishes are forsaken or their consent never sought in the governing of their nation. However, a people on a start to grasp and put democracy in motion could be said to be on a match. Nigeria’s democracy is still at a juvenile stage as this most populous African nation, and OPEC 6th top producer of oil thrives in her 10th year as a democratic nation. At the age of ten, a child is undergoing growth and developmental processes. The child is not mature enough to be judged strictly on the strength and content of his decisions. Likewise, Nigeria’s democracy at this stage is on a developmental phase and a work in progress.
Democracy did not come to the nation of Nigeria on a platter of gold. Right from the vagaries of struggle that proceeded Nigeria’s attainment of independence in October 1, 1960 and the various autocratic military regimes that ruled the nation, the journey to be initiated into the league of democratic nations have been a mix of pain and hope. Pain in the sense that the people of Nigeria have through turmoil under many regimes that ruled that nation and have not fully began to reap the harvest of democracy. And it is a blend of hope by every stretch of imagination because Nigerians are hanging in there believing strongly that the wind of change is on the way to ensure total transformation of the nation’s political landscape to a land of freedom, equal opportunities and where power should belong to the people. Figuratively speaking, Nigerians are holding the tail of the cow, instead of allowing the cow to run away in its entirety.
Democracy in its true form should be government of the people, by the people for the people. This means that the people have the right to choose, to annul and revoke any power. Contrary to the real meaning of true democracy, in Nigeria power has been hijacked by the few nouveau riche who use the wealth of the nation to deprive the masses of their political right, intimidate and silence them. However, as Nigeria’s political metamorphosis is going on there are visible signs of change and transformations in the electoral system of this frontline African nation of 130 million people. These visible changes was orchestrated by the Nigerian Judiciary which picked up strength; became more independent in rendering its functions of interpreting the constitution, turning to the golden temple of justice and the hope of the common man. The nation’s judiciary was able to handle many election cases without fear of favor to the chagrin and joy of the people of Nigeria and the international community. Elections that were found fraudulent and questionable which were challenged before the nation’s judiciary saw many of the mighty falling and loosing their political hold on power. The new life that manifested in Nigeria’s judiciary was the beacon of hope for the emergence of a viable democracy. This single act of bravery by the judiciary built up a good level of national confidence.
Although the regime of Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria besmeared the transparency of democracy, showcased an epic of political witch – hunting, and built-up a massive range of corruption among the ruling class, however, kudos should be given to some members of the National Assembly and those executives who with the rallying support of the masses ensured the survival of the nation’s democratic trend by opposing Obasanjo’s inordinate ambition for a third term. It was a shocking aberration that Obasanjo – the man who received the baton of democracy without a drop of sweat was the one who the devil wanted to use to put Nigeria’s democracy in topsy turvy.
Nigeria’s democracy must not have attained the height and sophistication obtainable in the western world for diverse reasons. The sophistication and quality of operational democracy in the west could be attributed to its level of political development as a result of the good foundations led by their founding fathers. For example, the foundation of United States was led by a people who were determined to be free and live together for a common motive. And it was on the same premise that the founding fathers constructed the constitution of United States on the platform that those things that motivated the people to live together, for example, freedom and equality should also be their guiding principle. Nigeria is a case of a multi- tribal group with diversified interest that is now learning how to become a nation. The concept of Nigeria as a nation was forced upon the people by Britain who was her colonial master. Now, Nigerians are beginning to accept and understand the reality of working together to live as a nation. In the same vein they are striving to comprehend the modus operandi of a true democracy.
Political development goes parri passua with quality education. The level of literacy in Nigeria is still a far cry from what it is in the western world. Nigeria may have crop of reputable professionals in all corners of the globe, but a total percentage of its human capital like most Sub-Saharan African nations is still a far cry from what is obtainable in developed nations. Therefore, the high population of uneducated voters in Nigeria is another acute barrier to her political development.
It is not a hidden fact that lack of innovative, transparent and service-oriented leadership has always been a cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s democratic progress. While leadership should be blamed as one of the reasons of the stymied growth of democracy in this nation, the people of Nigeria should also be awakened to the consciousness that all hands should be on deck for the survival and acceleration of quality democracy in their country. Like Hillary Clinton said in her popular usage of an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. It will take the total commitment and sacrifice of the people of Nigeria to give democracy uplift and for her to occupy an enviable position among the league of democratic nations.
Sunny Oputa is senior fellow and political analyst at Afripol. He is also the publisher/CEO of Energy & Corporate Africa www.energycoporateafrica.com. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.