By Dr. Isaiah Osifo
October 1st, no doubt, is an important date in Nigeria. It is a memorable date when Nigeria became an Independent country. Sovereignty has its overall importance-Social, Material and Psychological to the individual citizen and the generality of Nigerians. The annual celebration of this date is significant.
The 57th commemoration of the Political Independence of Nigeria requires a critical reflection at this time when there is a high demand for the Restructuring of Nigeria.
The starting point of my contribution to the debate for the Restructuring of Nigeria is to ask; which should come first between Restructuring and Democracy. This question and the possible answer are important to because l believe in both Democracy and Restructuring of Nigeria. However, for the potency of both to be actualised, one must come first before the other can survive and serve its political relevance.
You cannot have a strong house without a strong foundation. The ultimate aim of Restructuring is to have a strong, united and a viable Nigeria. These cannot be achieved without a strong foundation.
The logical sequence is that Democracy should come first, and it will be a strong foundation for the Restructuring of Nigeria.
Nigeria government is run by civilians, but Nigeria and Nigerians are striving for Democracy. In other words, Nigeria is not yet a democratic country, but an evolving Democracy in need of the patriotism of government and the citizens for its enthronement.
Democracy is a simple process that is inevitably linked with Natural Law. Every individual is born free and equal. The necessary integration of individuals into a Society or a country requires a regulation that will provide security and the sustenance of the Natural Rights of the individual member of the society. It is the process of selecting or electing the mechanism for regulation or government that John Locke simplified as, “Social Contract.” The guarantee of the Natural Rights of each citizen was simplified into “Rule of Law “by A V Dicey.
Any form of government that lacks the ingredients of Social Contract and the Rule of Law is not a Democracy. Democracy is inevitably required for the laudable objectives of Restructuring to be achieved in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, undue excitement and momentary parochial interests have always worked against the success of positive political programmes in Nigeria. Majority of the politicians and the leaders of the country are always pre-occupied with their immediate personal interest.
I hear loud and enthusiastic talks about the need and urgency to Restructure Nigeria, but l don’t hear the urgent need for a Democratic foundation before Restructuring in Nigeria. Restructuring is being presented as a magical solution to all the problems in Nigeria, but no special acknowledgement of the foundational need of Democracy and the present failure of Democracy in Nigeria. If the failure of Democracy inflamed the call for Restructuring, why are we not committed to the success of Democracy as a requirement for our development and as a foundation for a sustainable and a successful Restructuring?
Do we require Restructuring for-1-For Political Parties in Nigeria to accept and internalise Internal Democracy? I do not know of any Political Party in Nigeria that have successfully and peacefully conducted a free and fair party Congresses and primaries to elect party Executives and candidates for election from wards to the national level. Political Parties and its leadership have a responsibility to Nigerians and to their conscience that talks about Restructuring when parties cannot accept the basic principle of internal democracy are deceitful and self serving. Political Parties executive members and the candidates are compiled in the house of the “Leader”, the office of the governor or that of the president. Restructuring will not achieve its good intentions under this situation. Internal Democracy in all the Political Parties in Nigeria is a requirement for a successful Restructuring in Nigeria.
Do we require Restructuring for-2- Independent National Electoral Commission,(INEC) to conduct a Free and Fair Election? Reforms in INEC under the leadership of Prof Jega saw an improvement in the conduct of elections in Nigeria. The present leadership of INEC refused to improve on the reforms of Prof Jega, instead it is perfecting a setback and vigorous defence of the failure to live up to its responsibility of conducting conclusive, free and fair elections in Nigeria. If Restructuring will make INEC to conduct a free and fair election, why are States Independent Electoral Commission, (SIEC), not conducting free and fair Local Government Elections. I do not know of any state that have conducted a free and fair local government election. Free and Fair election is a motor requirement for a Democracy. This is the definition of John Locke “Social Contract”, and its significance is obvious. The citizens decide the government, and in return the government is accountable to the citizens. If there is no free and fair election, Restructuring will be hanging on nothing.
Do we require Restructuring for -3-the Independence of the Judiciary? The Rule of Law is a major index of Democracy. This can only be sustained by an Independent Judicial Arm of government. Former president Goodluck Jonathan supported and approved the independence of Judiciary at the federal level. If Restructuring will promote the independence of the Judiciary, why have states refused to support and approve the independence of the judiciary at the states level? I dont know of any state in Nigeria that have state judicial independence. The governors enjoy to see Judges and Judicial officials with cap in hands coming to beg for money for biro, furniture, official cars, medicals, etc. These governors are clearly power hungry and anti Democracy. The doctrine of separation of power is not for fun, but a requirement for sustainable democracy. Restructuring without total and financial Independence of the Judiciary in Nigeria at all levels will grow power mongers and nearby tyrants at the states or regional level.
Do we require Restructuring for-4-Independent Legislative Arm of Government? Former president Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives supported and ensured the Independence of the legislative arm of government at the federal level. Governors at the states level coerced the states legislators to vote against their Independence. Governors in Nigeria aspire for the fusion of executive, legislative and judicial powers under their control. How can states that worked against the Independence of the legislative arm of government present Restructuring as the solution to all the problems in Nigeria. The state Houses of Assembly members are the representatives of the governor not the people. Their survival in the House of Assembly is dependent on the governor not on the electorates.
I strongly believe in Democracy as a veritable foundation for the success and benefits of Restructuring in Nigeria. I am for Democracy and Restructuring. I am a strong believer and supporter of the Restructuring of Nigeria. However, all sincere advocates of Restructuring must join in the mobilisation of all resources and institutions for the enthronement of Democracy as necessary foundation for the positive realisation of the gains of Restructuring in Nigeria.
Restructuring without Democracy will be additional burden on the citizens because nearby tyrants are worst than the distance version.
Democracy as a foundation for Restructuring will guarantee equitable distribution of resources and opportunities to the citizens. Federal or state police will know that they are not agents of the governor or the president, but the people. The armed forces will know that they are not agents of the president, but the property of the citizens, etc.
Dr Isaiah Osifo
Dept of Political Science and Public Administration, Igbinedion University, Okada, Nigeria.