• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Let us sustain democracy, not banausocracy

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Since 1999, Nigeria has been practicing democracy as a form of government in which supreme power is held by the people. Democracy has ushered in freedom of expression, while other achievements have equally been recorded both at the micro and macro-economic levels, but a lot more needs to be done. The centre of gravity of democracy is the people. The supremacy of people in democracy is not in doubt but what is disturbing is the conduct of politicians and their followers during political rallies and elections. The atmosphere is charged with accusations and counter-accusations between political contestants who go to any length to occupy public office. This has been the practice such that one wonders if it has become our culture to kill, maim, and destroy. The antics of many politicians have betrayed people’s confidence in the democratic system as there are various reports of blackmail, treasonable comments, and other electoral malevolence. It appears that the political class has forgotten nothing and equally learnt nothing in the last 16 years of continuous democratic governance. Accordingly, our dear nation is caught in an unpleasant situation occasioned by the undemocratic behaviour of politicians and even the electorate.
The undemocratic behaviour of politicians and the electorate creates a situation which brings democratic system of governance to disrepute. For instance, throwing of stones at Mr President is not acceptable. The publication of a rabble-rousing advert in newspaper by a governor that a presidential candidate is going to die in office is an abomination, while the song of war by some youths in the Niger Delta leaves much to be desired and it is highly condemnable. Politicians must call themselves and their followers to order to enable democracy survive. Or is the peace accord no more effective?
No nation can develop politically and economically by allowing its people to repeatedly exhibit acts of barbarism or non-adherence to the rule of law. In spite of advantages and disadvantages of democracy, we do not want banausocracy in our society. Banausocracy “is government by the uncultured and vulgar elements of the society”. The low quality of some individuals in politics and government has been exposed by their poor attitude and misdemeanour in the last three months or thereabouts. We do not want liars, touts, economic and political robbers, acid attackers and assassins to occupy our nation’s political landscape. We want well-mannered and well-cultured individuals who have esteemed regard for their fellow men to take charge of our democracy. This brings to fore the cultural dimension of democracy.
Culture plays a significant role in any nation’s quest for development. The cultural dimension of democracy covers factors as diverse as religion, belief, and value systems, social and political structures, national psychology and modes of behaviour. Culture makes up an integral part of the entire society that one must be cautious in its evaluation. This is because an examination of culture in any society as diverse as ours may be seen as an attack on the society. However, any nation that cannot develop its democracy to create wealth for its citizens must begin to critically evaluate its culture. In realization of the cultural dimension of democracy, developed nations have accepted that we should practice democracy our own way. The blame culture of Africans, and indeed Nigerians, has disabled us from fully enjoying the dividends of democracy.
Democracy is an event that should not collapse the nation’s economy; rather institutions should drive the process to ensure continuity in governance. This is because there is a very strong linkage between politics, economics and society’s values. When electioneering campaign is at its peak, attention drifts towards elections with everyone forgetting other problems such as budget deficits, insecurity, inadequate health care, epileptic power supply, and drop in oil price, etc. Each election enables politicians to promise to reverse whatever the preceding government has done. This is one of the many ways of wasting scarce resources.
Lasting economic solution is achieved when all the components of social life are brought into focus. A nation that refuses to strengthen its democratic institutions does so at its peril. Democratic institutions strengthen democracy, propagate good governance, probity, accountability and transparency. They are made strong by educated citizens who will evaluate all promises of politicians during campaign by considering public beliefs, the country’s socio-economic history and society’s underlying values. For better results, all these variables are compared with the world’s economic parameters through trade, finance and geopolitics. Sound ideas about economic reforms must pass a truth-test, thus making sense at the local, state and federal political levels. It is not sufficient to tell citizens of a state or nation that one or two million jobs will be provided when electricity supply is below par, health workers are on strike, salaries not paid, projects poorly executed and abandoned, corruption is at its peak, etc.
Just like conventional warfare, no society can win the war against hunger, poverty, disease and climate change without visionary leaders. All things being equal, the probability of getting good leaders will be higher in a society where the people are relatively educated, well-mannered and well-cultured than one peopled mostly by boorish. Hence the truism that nations get the leaders they deserve. Consequently, the quality of leaders is a mirror of followership who elected them to public office. Unfortunately, leadership problem in most African countries is legendary and pervasive at the local, state and federal levels such that reality is not discussed. On several occasions, leaders including their yes-followers have failed to match perception with reality, unable to learn and incapable of distinguishing acumen from recklessness, governmental responsibility from self-glorification, growth from delusion, self from state, and national interests from poorly articulated personal greed. All of us must note that democracy is what is desirable for our overall development as a nation and not banausocracy. Institutionalizing and sustaining democracy in our nation is a task that must be accomplished by all Nigerians in the year 2015.
MA Johnson