In the beginning was the word and the word was with God; That same word was the power with which creation came about but not without the utility of order. The very powers that governed the earth in the beginning were forces of chaos but God used the natural laws to bring about order and it remains so till this day. Creation came about with words uttered by the Supreme Being and what this means is that there was a thought pattern; no one utters words that are meaningful without the cognitive being at work, so we can say that the ability to think is at the very core of creation. The above stated is the genesis of my arguments as regards why democracy seems to be failing in black most populous nation, Nigeria and this is because I believe the process that led to our democracy wasn’t well thought out; in this article, I make an attempt to explain.
The Nigerian transition to democracy is faulty, this can be blamed on the fact that the whole process that led to it was hastily done and this is why we still operate our democracy with the 1999 constitution which was drafted by military men who had no respect for the supremacy of the rule of law or human rights; the system we operate presently is better termed civilian rule and not democracy. It is my personal opinion that before a people can move from military dictatorship to a democracy, there are certain activities and processes necessary for the sake of posterity and one of such process happens to be a constitutional conference, please understand that when I state ‘constitutional conference’ I do not mean a conference for the sake of procedures but an all inclusive constitutional conference. We need a conference in which every group’s interest, beliefs and values will be presented, considered and a discourse will ensue as regards the means of protection of such interests and beliefs; this way it is the people that are responsible for the laid down guidelines of how they want to be governed and once it is passed into law, it becomes a constitution. What the above will imply is that there is a social contract between the led and the leaders and the contents of the constitution will be binding on both the people and those who aspire for political leadership. I am of the opinion that we do not have a social contract in Nigeria because if we do, our constitution will begin with ‘we the people..’, what we have is a document produced by men in khaki who are used to giving orders, mandating the people to live by a construct they documented and call constitution. The foregoing are reasons why there are certain tenets of democracy that ought to feature prominently in the Nigerian democratic system but are unfortunately absent and it is also one of the reasons why the Nigerian political space is devoid of ideologies, morals and principles instead it is an open field where hawks swoops and the leftover carcass is food for vultures.
Furthermore, I observed the democratic process and noticed a second aspect of things that ought to be in place but was evidently missing in our transition from military dictatorship to civilian led governance and I make an effort to explain. The transition to democracy in Nigeria was carried out without an effort to change the mindset of Nigerians; a people who had experienced over twenty years of military dictatorship and weren’t used to the process infested ways of democracy. I expected that an attempt to change the mindset of the people would have been given a lot of consideration especially to those who were aspiring for political leadership- this would have saved us a lot of the predicament we are experiencing presently in Nigeria, there is a need to educate the masses of Nigeria and it’s leaders about what democracy stands for and this could have been achieved with a mass reorientation campaign exercise; An exercise that is meant to teach the people the power they have with their votes, knowing their rights as citizens, their benefits as constituents and ability to discern between rights and favors. The absence of this re-orientation in the process that brought about democracy has led our democratic practice to a downward spiral. The people are ignorant as regards the power they wield during elections and as such vote buying has become the order of the day in Nigeria, the painful reality is that the two most prominent political parties have been accused of shamelessly engaging in vote buying in past elections; This has been made possible because there has been no mass advocacy or an attempt to educate voters in areas with large voter turnout, instead the Nigerian politician capitalizes on their ignorance and encourages the manipulation of election results through vote buying . The other aspect I would like to touch on that concerns Nigerians is knowing their rights as obtainable in a democracy- voter intimidation has been cited in most elections that have been conducted in Nigeria in the last twenty years- the last election that took place this year was one in which the politicians openly intimidated voters, there are video evidences of these irresponsible acts in places like Rivers, Lagos and Kano state and to make matters worse a sitting governor threatened to send foreign election observers back to their countries in body bags; permit me to say that these type of behavior is not synonymous to one party or government but it can be traced to the fact that most citizens are ignorant of their rights as protected by the constitution and most politicians have become reckless as a result of that. Permit me to touch on the issue of constituents knowing the benefits accruable from political office holders and ability to discern between rights and favors; Nigerian politicians are crafty and most times they usually play pranks and mischief; most of them know that by law they are accountable to their constituents and that there are certain benefits that those constituents should enjoy but the average politician in Nigeria will rather pass it off like he is doing a great favor and this results in master and serf relationship instead of active representation of the people, so at the end of the day the people worship the politicians and act like sycophants just to get what should be constitutionally and naturally theirs, this shouldn’t be a feature in any democratic system and if it is, what exists is civilian rule and not democracy.
The issues raised above is part of the reasons why every election season in Nigeria is a period when the polity is over heated- let no one fool you that the cause is a mystery, it is not a mystery nor phenomena, it is because the democratic process established in Nigeria wasn’t a well thought out scheme. The average Nigerian politician is aware that the system in which he operates in is not a well thought out concept and as such resorts to manipulation of facts or mischief as his/her campaign tactics, this is because they are aware that the democratic process in Nigeria doesn’t put performance evaluation of political office holders in the front burner and as such he/she doesn’t bother to prepare a scorecard of the policies, agenda and programs of his/her tenure or administration. The Nigerian people have also been very lukewarm in their attitude towards politicians as they have never made it a point of duty to make elected officials give account of their stewardship and there is no sense of duty to monitor government policies, agenda and programs; as such the Nigerian politician has learned the art of lying his way out of the tight corners when called upon to account for the years they spent in government. Politics is a dirty game but it isn’t said to be a game for the desperate, the desperation of Nigerian politicians to cover up as regards their ineffectual presence while in political offices makes them resort to lies, theatrics and ‘rascalism’ just to remain popular. It seems to me that it is only in Nigeria that notoriety is almost a value addition to the campaign chances of electoral candidates, good character almost counts for nothing and when the candidates are called forth for probe, they throw in the usual ‘divide and rule’ as learned from the colonial masters and that is when Ethnicity and religious difference become important. I have also observed that Nigerian elections come and go without any form of intellectual discourse as regards nation building, the only time Nigeria witnessed a robust discourse as concerning moving the country forward during elections was when Obasanjo was President and that was twelve years ago; what this means is, Nigeria has conducted four presidential elections without having a keenly contested presidential debate, this goes a long way to tell you that our democratic experience is lagging in terms of intellectual assessment of candidates that can aid an educated person’s choice. So in the absence of issue based electioneering what we usually have is heated argument between citizens that is peppered with tribalism, spiced with partisanship and emotional sycophancy in full display, then when electioneering is gone, the politicians are smiling and the citizens lick their wounds.
Finally, I must state that the beginning of anything is the most important aspect of its creation or else midway adjustments will just be about parching what is already broken. Nigeria itself as a polity wasn’t a well thought out process and the constitutions that heralded the amalgamation of ethnic nationalities which were nation states before colonialism wasn’t an act of ingenuity but a move made out of desperation, however, I wouldn’t want to touch deep as regards it as it is a topic for another day. One thing I need to point out to Nigerians is this- the world is no longer as it was during creation as the forces of chaos are fighting back hard and anarchy seems to be getting a upper hand, many believe we are witnessing the end of a civilization but what is considered the end for some is often the beginning for others. In the midst of all these chaos we witness around the world, Nigeria still has a chance to put things right, we as a people can still try to right the wrongs that has been forced on us by colonialists and their military collaborators; the task is daunting but it isn’t impossible. We need to give our individual best in educating the illiterates in our midst about the purpose of governance and the need to hold political office holders accountable when they fail to govern right, we need to learn to stand for the truth and rise above partisan sentiments or ethnic prejudice. We need to put in a serious effort towards advocacy geared at making people realize that elected office holders are not doing favors by building roads, providing clean water and free education, those are basic needs expected from the leader to the led. We must start thinking in terms of ‘We’ and not just ‘me’ because it is only then that we can be able to negotiate for our collective interests and not just for crumbs we get as individuals; let us be mindful that none of us is gifted eternity and what we have is the time bequeath to us by fate- let us do the little we can while we breath and demand for just laws that will ensure order and peace, for only when we do this can we be remembered as thinking beings. Lastly, it is important for us to know that encouraging evil just for the sake of partisanship can only sink the ship called Nigeria into the dark waters of the beginning, we are not forces of anarchy and as such let us not act as one; If we urge bad politicians on and encourage the survival of a faulty system, we just might end up like the forces of chaos long forgotten after creation.
Ayekooto is written by Gbenga Ogbamola, a creative writer.
You can get in touch with him via- firstname.lastname@example.org.
@thebardogbamola on twitter.