“If men were angels, no government would be necessary”
– The Crisis in Democracy, The Atlantic, October 2018
Barely three months from now, Nigeria will be celebrating two decades of continuous democratic rule. Unfortunately, Nigerians have not benefitted much from democracy. As the country moves towards another round of elections, we have a moment in history in which we must tell ourselves the truth. Even when some are not ready to listen to the truth, they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free when the time comes. In the past 20 years that Nigeria fell in love with democracy, what we have to show for the affection, is rise in unemployment, poverty and insecurity (Businessday, 6 Feb 2019). A situation where 237,000 graduates are in private guard job does not show that all is well with the economy (Businessday, 7 Feb 2019). Suddenly, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world parading almost 87 million poor people. Is this how we will continue as a country of 200 million people? No!
If one grabs an odometer, it may not be difficult measuring the tortuous distance Nigeria has travelled as a democratic country. Throughout the country, we have an army of unemployed youths as well as many children who have dropped out of school. Many children are now into shoe-shinning, cart-pushing, nail-cutting, and waste-scavenging among others. The reason for this ugly situation is simply due to our political leaders’ lack of commitment to good governance. They make loads of promises which they can barely fulfil. Most of our public schools, hospitals and roads are in deplorable conditions. Many Nigerians have benefitted from democracy but one wonders why those in government for almost 20 years- serving or out of office- cannot provide citizens with stable and uninterrupted power supply with cost reflective tariff. A large number of our medical doctors and engineers are outside the country in search of greener pasture. Most young and old professionals including illiterates who are inside the country are looking for ways to go abroad. They will tell you “the country is hard.” Can a country suffering from the brain drain syndrome ever develop? Negative!
Rather than spring into action, our brand of political leaders make speeches in Queen’s English. Oh my gosh, they are superb at making speeches. Their actions most times do not match their promises but the electorate still listen to them. You will recall that the administration of 1999-2007 was flawed with massive election rigging, executive interference in both legislature and judiciary, wild corruption, nepotism and self-enrichment. Truth is, most politicians in PDP are as guilty as their friends in the APC. Since the last quarter of 2018 when political campaigns started, politicians have been firing from all cylinders assorted salvos just to convince the electorate that they are better than their peers in the opposition. They think the electorate have been confused by fine speeches eloquently delivered.
Truly, if men were angels, there would be no need to form a government neither will it be necessary to have a constitution which mere mortals brazenly disobey. Since men are not angels, it’s necessary to have a government which will abide by the rules stated in the constitution of the country. With due respect, the Nigerian political space does not have people with a culture deeply committed to democracy. The presidential system of government will only function properly when embedded in a culture deeply committed to democracy. A culture of one man, one vote. A culture where institutions are stronger than men. It’s culture that sustains democracy, not the other way round. In other words, the culture of impunity, and total disregard for the rule of law cannot drive democracy. Rather, the culture of impunity and disregard for the rule of law will kill democracy someday if it continues persistently.
The country is in a perilous moment when one examines the trajectory of democracy in Nigeria. The National Assembly has sucked power into its chambers, while one shakes at the dictatorial character of the Presidency. The Judiciary, which is to be an independent arm of the government has been caged. Oh no, what a pity? Our nascent democracy faces acute challenge as the executive, legislature and judicial arms of government are moving in different directions. The atmosphere is tensed because politicians want to be elected by force. I have said in this column that “political succession is not a do-or-die affair.”
Nigerians are estranged along ethnic, religion and political party lines. In fact, family members and friends do not speak to each other because of politics. The estrangements are political, not personal. Politics is destroying the unity which we all crave for as a people. People have suddenly changed in the past two decades. Why? My answer is a complicated one because the explanation is universal. “Given the right condition, any society can turn itself against democracy. ”We don’t want our country to turn itself against democracy. That is why all Nigerians must take care and thread with caution. We must make democracy work because what happens in Nigeria, either good or bad, will affect the world.
Our political leaders must show that they have the capacity for progressive development without the tutelage of foreigners. I say this because you don’t need to prove the unprovable before affirming that the existing stage of our civilization, twenty years into the Twenty-first century as the most populous black nation on earth, is far below our potentialities for progress. Let our politicians and indeed Nigerians prove for once that we are fit to govern ourselves and so foreigners don’t have to interfere in our domestic affairs. Then there will be no need to procure body bags. I think reason should prevail over the lust for political power. As we expect our political leaders to be rational in their thoughts, I join other men and women of goodwill, to pray that democracy will not fail in Nigeria.