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Big Men, Democracy And Abuse Of Office



In a democracy, all men are equal! All men have equal rights because the rights of all are an outcome of their humanity, not their size, not their pocket, not their office, but their shared humanity. Therefore, it is a paradox of sorts to speak of big men within a democracy. Indeed, no man in a democratic setting is legally big or big enough to cast more than one vote! And since no man can cast more than one vote, all men are equal before the constitution.

Yet, we have serious bigmanism bothering on backwardism in our country. We have a situation where some are above the law and some are so small that they are deemed beneath the law and treated worse than animals. Yet, the ethics and spirit of democracy does not permit such. A situation where some are so big that they are above police summons and some are so small that many of them routinely spend months in police cells and years awaiting trial is not democratic enough. Such an anomaly is not envisaged by either human rights or by the constitution.

The foundation of democracy is the equality of all the citizens that make up a state or nation. Their rights matter and such rights are protected by the constitution. The rights of the smallest are as important as the rights of the highest office holder. The freedom of the innocent child is as important as the freedom of the Paramount ruler or the freedom of a governor. When laws are called common law, it is so called because it applies commonly and equally to everyone. The common law is not meant for commoners, it is for everyone. The word common means “general” as well as encompassing! For instance, water is common to fish as law is common to all citizens of a nation.

A privileged class is anathema to democracy because by the very essence of suffrage, all men can only cast one vote each. That equality of vote is what makes democracy the ideal form of government unlike aristocracy or fascism in which some men are deemed more important or more essential than others. Indeed, allowing any individual any privileges not enjoyed by everybody else is injurious to the orderly practice of democratic governance. Such privileges often stunt democracy and reduce its benefits to the generality of the citizenry.

The school sector of a country suffers when some privileged office holders can send their kids abroad for education. Naturally, they will be less inclined to work for quality education since their own wards are not direct consumers or beneficiaries of local education. It stands to reason that we should be suspicious of a food seller who neither eats the food she sells nor allows her children eat the food! It simply means that the food is substandard and possibly poisonous.

Same suspicion should be reserved for any official of government who refuses to utilise or use the same services that his department or ministry doles out. This is why western countries insist that politicians use only the services available within their nation. A minister of Education of a European country would not dare send his wards to America for education and vice versa.

If any minister does that, the scandal therefrom would not abate until the offending official resigns. Such is how sacrosanct accountability is regarded in advanced and mature democracies. But here, office holders award themselves privileges which exempt them from experiencing the true conditions in the country. We have no ambulance services for the citizenry, yet high office holders have paramedics and ambulances especially assigned to them. Such a privilege is clearly not in public interest since it is at the expense of the general public.

Whenever politicians award themselves privileges and opportunities not enjoyed by the general public, then an apartheid of sorts is created, and that is anti-democratic. Of recent, there have been revelations of underhand hiring of wards and nominees of office holders in government agencies.

Such a privilege can be compared to the rich stealing from the poor! Such can only be called an abuse of power to the detriment of the general public. Nobody elects people to steal from him. The public elects people into office to represent them, to serve them and not to take even the little they have from them.

The concept of a privileged political class is actually an abuse of office which in itself is a negation of the tenet of equality of all in a democratic dispensation! One such abuse of office is the idea of legislative quarters. Why would those who make laws for us live apart from us? Why would they suddenly become a distinct group that enjoys all the amenities denied the citizenry? In such quarters, they have power, they have water and well paved streets while the generality of those who elected them lack such facilities! Can such legislators even begin to understand the needs of their constituents?

The same applies to executives that move around in long convoys and fly around in private jets when their electors die daily from avoidable infrastructure deficits. Can such pampered office holders even begin to understand the needs of their constituents?

The democratic norm is for the office holder to live with and share the space with the citizenry so that they can better understand where the shoe pinches the citizen. It is easy to ban palm oil if you have no idea of the price of palm oil in the market. People have said that there is voodoo that hinders the performance of incumbent governors and presidents. There is no such thing. The only problem of those who rule is that the privileges they enjoy block them from knowing the true state of affairs in the states and country they govern.

Aluta Continua




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