Democracy in modern usage is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament.
Democracy is sometimes referred to as “rule of the majority”. Democracy was originally conceived in Classical Greece, where political representatives were chosen by a jury from amongst the male citizens: rich and poor. The English word dates to the 16th century, from the older Middle French and Middle Latin equivalents.
According to political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
Democracy contrasts with forms of government where power is either held by an individual, as in an absolute monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy. Nevertheless, these oppositions, inherited from Greek philosophy, are now ambiguous because contemporary governments have mixed democratic, oligarchic, and monarchic elements. Karl Popper defined democracy in contrast to dictatorship or tyranny, thus focusing on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution.
The journey in Nigeria so far has been a mixed one which will be x-rayed in this article titled: DEMOCRACY SO FAR: THE GOOD! THE BAD AND THE UGLY:
THE GOOD: We note with joy that some institutions of government are waking up from functional slumber and have begun to reshape their outlook to comply substantially with best global practices, respect for rule of law, respect for human rights and/or profession of readiness to accord respect to the constitutionally guaranteed human rights of all Nigerians.
We note with joy that the Nigerian Army has begun the mainstream of respect for the human rights of Nigerians in their internal security operations. The department of Civil/Military relations within the Army from our observations has been given a pride of place.
We challenge those heading that department to concretize and actualize the comprehensive aspirations of inculcating respect for human rights of all Nigerians on the non-commissioned military operatives because there are still a lot of issues with this demand of most Nigerians and it is a reality that most military operatives are yet to imbibe the lessons of respect for human rights. Several assurances in the news from the Army heads that their operatives and officers are more than ready to comply with Rules of Engagements which embodies respect for the human rights of Nigerians.
We call on all parties to the current petition being entertained by the National Human Rights Commission to give peace a chance and await a dispassionate resolution of the entire issue. The Nigerian government should also take measures to ensure that there is no cover up in the emerging allegations of arms smuggling in which Iran was singled out by Islamic cleric in Kaduna. The case of illegal arms shipment into Nigeria some two years is about to be swept under the carpets. The Nigerian government till date has yet to tell Nigeria the exact update about that celebrated case whereby some Iranians were arrested with heavy weapons at the Apapa Port in Lagos. Again, few weeks back, a leading mastermind of the Islamic state was stopped in Lebanon Airport enroute Nigeria on the invitation of some persons within Nigeria. Let Nigerians demand transparency and proper accountability in this regard.
We also challenge the Army Chief to fish out the military operatives who allegedly shot and killed protesters in the South East who were calling for the release of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Director of Radio Biafra.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
His words: “the prickliness of democracies towards elected and unelected representatives is encouraged by the fact that democracy thrives on separations. In monitory democracies, for instance, everything seems disconnected: civil society from government, representatives from those whom they represent, executives from legislatures, majorities from minorities, civil power from military and police power, parties from voters, experts from laypeople, consumers from producers, journalists from audiences, the young from the old, workers from capitalists, lawyers from clients, doctors from patients”.
Both government and civil society are internally fragmented in democracy, so says the University teacher of politics some years ago. These multiple, criss-crossing separations are necessary conditions of citizens’ equal freedom from concentration of power.
Democracies he says, try hard to take the sting out of imperiousness. They resist the call for social unity and political concord. Those who wield power are reminded constantly of their (potential) powerlessness. They are kept permanently on their toes by the push-pull dynamics set in train by differences. (The Death of Democracy, John Keane).
Last month a certain man who teaches criminology at the Zaria Kaduna State based Ahmadu Bello University went overboard and sounded like a peasant farmer with no former education when he told the Nigerian media that he is opposed to the notion of rule of law that would regard alleged offenders as being innocent in the eye of the law. He was angered by the fact that alleged thieves of humongous public fund are being granted bails by the Federal High Court’s in Nigeria. This man was supported by someone who is identified in the media as a Lagos based constitutional lawyer who also frowned at this idea of fair hearing for those former government officials accused of heist of security votes. Shortly after, the retired Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami was quoted as literally bullying high court judges that the executive arm of government will catch up with them and jail them if they fraternize with suspected thieves of public fund. These statements are unconstitutional because section 36 (5) of the constitution recognize that suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty not in the court of public opinion but in the competent courts of law.
May we remind the current administration in Nigeria at all levels that since what we profess to practice are democracy they don’t have the leeway to tinker with principles of this novel way of administering the various governmental structures.
Those elected and inaugurated to govern Nigeria for Nigerians are constitutionally obliged to play by the rules of the game and must never be allowed to deviate to the practice of tyranny which is absolutely antithetical to the underlying principles of democracy anchored on the respect for rule of law, respect for the fundamental human rights of all and sundry and institutional building for good governance. Besides, the constitution provides for clear separation of powers by all the three layers of political administration to avoid fusing absolute power into the hands of a single ruler.
The amended 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria embodies some of the essential elements/provisions that must be complied with totally by all authorities and persons to guarantee smooth implementation of good governance and there are critical safeguards against arbitrariness on the side of the Head of State.
Section 14(1) provides as follows: “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.”
It therefore follows that those holding political offices must be careful not to fall into the temptation of dictatorship and tyranny. Has that been infringed in the present administration?
The best way to guarantee the life of Nigerian democracy is for officials of government to resist the urge to undermine constitutionalism and respect for the rule of law. Those urging president Buhari to disregard these constitutional principles at the alter of opportunistic chase and persecution of perceived political opponents in the guise of anti-graft war are only misleading the administration and inevitably if the president disregards the constitutional provisions that guarantees separation of powers, it therefore follow that the demise of democracy becomes imminent.
In going about carrying out the fight against all corrupt practices, those heading the respective agencies of law enforcement such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission/ICPC must be immune from executive interferences and the only way to ensure that this happens and the anti-graft mechanisms are seen as completely non-partisan is for the National Assembly to make legislative safeguards against all executive interference so the wheel of democracy is allowed to run constitutionally but that is possible only when the leadership of these agencies becomes elective and not by appointment as it stands.
Both the former and current presidents had in their respective handing over and taking over speeches on May 28th and 29th 2015 accepted the indubitable fact that democracy can only survive when the key players play by the rules of the game.
Erstwhile president in his speech stated thus; “My Administration has emphasized giving a free hand to our Anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). We preferred that they mature into strong institutions instead of being the images, the hammer and the anvil of a strong man. We must encourage them to abide by the rule of law and due process instead of resorting to dramatic or illegal actions orchestrated for cheap applause.”
The current president also on May 29th, 2015 inaugural ceremony addressed the importance of separation of powers thus;
“Elsewhere, relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government cannot interfere in the details of its operations, it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me, I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”
However there is a considerable atmosphere of mutual suspicions that the current government has embarked on large scale witch-hunt of political opponents in the guise of prosecuting key government officials of the now Opposition Peoples Democratic Party of corruption relating to the operations of the office of the major offices. Even before letting the accused persons have their days in court of law as prescribed by the constitution, key government officials including President Muhammadu Buhari have demonized all those arrested as thieves and the media has made caricature of these accused persons and the propaganda circulating is that the last ruling national party was made up of thieves. This is wholly untrue because majority of those who are the core members of the current party in power at the center known as All Progressives Congress were for many years leading members of the party which they now seek to demonize and unfortunately the anti graft agencies have joined the bandwagon of singing the anti- PDP chorus so much that many independent observers are worried that Nigeria is sliding towards dictatorship. All lovers of democracy must join hands to stop the drift from democracy to autocracy in Nigeria and we must give justice to all irrespective of political or Ethno Religious affiliations. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) stated rightly thus:” if justice be taken away, what are governments but great bands of robbers”.
Importantly, judges and lawyers must safeguard the independence and integrity of the judiciary and not let bullying tactics of some government officials to frighten them into submitting to dictatorship of one man.
“The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” is a 1966 Italian epic western film directed by Sergio Leone. Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach are the three major characters. The film chronicled three adventurous fortune seekers. Of the trio, one is at the extreme of evil (the Ugly), one a ‘moderate’ evil (the Bad) and one that stands opposite to them (the Good)
Each of this trio represents the different stages of Nigeria’s peregrination and the search for progress and development from October 1, 1960, when Nigeria secured her independence from Britain. Ordinarily, the journey ought to be a transition from ‘the Ugly’ to ‘the Bad’ and eventually the desired ‘Good’ which was the desire of the founding fathers. Alas! This was not to be. Rather, it was a movement from the good to the ugly and not able to accommodate the bad
Fifty-sixth year after independence and close to two decade of democratic government, Nigerian seems to be in extended infancy. Official corruption, vote rigging, assassinations, youth unemployment, militancy, terrorism and host of other evils permeated our society.
October 1, 1960 was a dawn of new hope. All was set to engender a new beginning for Nigeria. With the demise of colonial rule hope was high that all will be well within a short period again. While colonial configuration put together ‘a marriage of inconvenience’ call Nigeria, everybody believed things would work out fine with the marriage.
Independent Nigeria had its teething problems. Prominent was the civil war that ravaged Nigeria. Otherwise known as the Biafran was, the country was plunged into three years of implosion. Precipitated by injustices, the rest of the country was pitted against the East. Eventually, Nigeria survived and the war ended with “no victor, no vanquished”
The 70s was the era of oil boom. The country was so rich that the president then proclaimed that the problem of the country was not how to get money but how to spend the money. As insane as the comment was, truly there was so much money. Except that it was eventually squandered.
In Nigeria of yester-years, our currency was so strong that it was more valuable than the U.S. dollar. But what do we have today? Our economy thrown into recession and our Naira is as useless as it can be.
Nigeria of yesterday excelled in all fields. Our universities were well equipped and students received the best of education. We heard of the exploits of first generation universities like Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife), University of Ibadan, Amadu Bello University, among others. Today, the former glories of these schools and scores of other are in decline. With archaic libraries equipped with antiquated books and laboratories sans of reagents, one can only hope for a better tomorrow which has refused to come.
We hear of huge amounts budgeted every year for road construction and maintenance, for the health sector, agriculture, education, security, etc. But there is nothing to show for all these. Our health facilities are not improving, our roads are death traps for users and our education sector is collapsing day by day. What happens to all these monies?
Senior government officials and politicians travel out for minor headaches; unfortunate Nigerians are left at the mercy of our ill-equipped hospitals. Children of the rich school outside the country; millions make-do with schools without facilities, politicians travel in bullet-proof cars and well-protected mansions; millions are at the mercy of armed robbers
I grew up hearing that “I am the leader of tomorrow! When will my tomorrow come?
Sectional, regional and ethnic groups were then an abomination. Those in existence were mainly pressure groups. But today, Odua People’s Congress (OPC), Ogoja Peace Movement (OPM) Egbesu Boys, Arewa Youth Forum, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Boko Haram, etc. have all mushroomed to redefine our corporate existence. Everybody is obviously dissatisfied with the state of things.
Having been perpetually subjected to military dictatorship, the return to democratic governance in 1999 brought a glimmer of hope. Hope was again rekindled. But that too was to become another chapter in our litany of woes.
Our democracy only increased the number people to steal our money, and by extension, increase in the amount stolen every day. Yes, we all decried military dictatorship, but it was not as corrupt as today’s democracy.
While there are few imposed thieves during military era, our elected and ‘selected’ thieves steal more because they are more than quadruple military thieves. Worse still, they represent nobody but themselves.
Nigeria will celebrate her 57 years of freedom from Britain this year, but are ordinary Nigerians truly free?
A retrospection of what Nigeria was, what Nigeria is, and what tomorrow portends leaves much to be desired
‘The Good’ was when Nigeria secured her independence and the prosperity that followed; ‘the Bad’ was when we were confronted with teething problem like the civil war; ‘the Ugly’ is our current travails; leadership tragedy and avalanches of hydra-headed problems bedeviling Nigeria
God Bless Nigeria!