Saturday Column: BY SIMON REEF MUSA
What defines democracy is the triumphing of the majority votes in an electoral system for the emergence of a representative government that is committed to the attainment of the public good for the benefit of the overall majority. In countries ruled by jackboot despots, fear-stricken citizens cringe under the dread of state powers and desist from expressing views that are unacceptable to such dictators.
The suppression of opposing views by undemocratic military regimes remains the staying power of despots. While freedom to air contrary views opposed by leaders is allowed under a democratic government; such is abhorred by undemocratic leaders. Those unafraid to challenge tyrannical governments are often punished to serve as deterrence to others.
Democracy does not solve all the problems of a country, nevertheless, it provides solutions to grow representative government in attaining the common good for all. The pursuit of the popular good against the interest of the minority remains the quintessence of democratic government.
Democracy is not about strengthening the powerful against the weak of society, but strengthening the weak against the powerful. Since the poor and powerless are always in the majority, democracy affords them the opportunity to elect a government that can protect them from the claws of the ravenous powerful rich.
Arising from the supposition that the poor are always under constant threats of subjugation by the powerful, the adoption of one-man-one-vote rule in a democracy is hinged on granting equality of citizenship for all in a representative government. Thus, it is practically impossible for democracy to thrive in a nation where poverty is rife, made worse by greedy elites that are willing to hijack power for pecuniary interest.
Long years of Nigeria’s military rule has discouraged citizens’ capacity to participate in governance. Unfortunately, even after the dawn of the present unbroken democracy that was inaugurated over 21 years ago, and still running, not many appreciate the mileage democracy has gone in deepening representative government through citizens’ participation.
Unlike in a military regime where the Head of State is thrown in the corridor of power through the barrel of the gun and seen as the “supreme” figure and final signature on affairs of the state, an elected president or prime minister is a servant leader that is subject to the constitution of the country they head. To demonstrate that coups are, first of all, criminal endeavours before they are legitimized through the smoking guns of insurrection earned by coercion, the quick suspension of a nation’s constitution by the military upon forceful seizure of power is reflective of the criminal nature of the act.
On the other hand, democratic leaders are products of the ballot box system that upholds the sanctity of electorates’ choices. In recognition of the need to check abuses in a democracy, various arms of government are recognised to serve as checks and balances. The role of the media as a powerful tool in making elected leaders accountable to the public cannot be overemphasised.
Considering Nigerians’ experience with civil government since 29th May 1999, the frustration of our democratic experiment has been expressed in many instances, with some expressing regrets over the inability of democratic government resolving problems plaguing our nation.
Since May 1999, we have seen politicians deploying parties as mere platforms to capture power. The legislative arm is not only an extension of the executive arm that wields so much power, but lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels, have become rubber stamps of the executive arm.
Many of our state lawmakers have been reduced to noise makers that are too happy playing the second fiddle to governors. In some states, they grovel before governors that have become state gods to get approval for their allowances and other privileges.
In Nigeria, we run a rental democracy sponsored by godfathers who possess bottomless financial pits filled to the brim. The availability of money is what it takes to be a successful politician. Whenever anyone declares an intention for an elective position, the question often asked them is: How much do you have?
Playing politics in our country has become an investment to be recouped after victory. Getting elected under our democracy is not by ideas but by the quantum of funds available to bribe hundreds of agents involved in the electoral processes. Good men and women avoid y politics because the entire electoral system has been compromised and become a broken cistern.
While religion and ethnicity are now the twin evils of our stunted politics, voters have acquired wisdom in demanding their own share of the goodies, knowing that the politicians would only return after four years to seek re-election. Everyone is engaged in making hay while the sun shines.
Unlike in military regimes where corruption is restricted to the top echelon, our strange democracy has liberalised corruption, with members of the various arms of government engaged in fraud to buy property in Europe, Americas and United Arab Emirate (UAE), among others. Presently, lawmakers patiently await ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to turn in their annual budgets so that they can pad it up in order to get their own share of the national loot. Our judges have turned electoral petitions/cases into their own oil blocs in a bid to explore and exploit for maximum benefits
Professionals that should be making our country work have abandoned schools and hospitals, among others. They now prefer to be aides to some-never-do-well politicians. Our so-called elected leaders are no less than brigands and bandits who have turned their privileged positions into platforms for illicit wealth acquisition. The ability of these politicians to survive this rot called politics depends on how much they can fleece the common patrimony.
To demonstrate how deep our country has fallen into such a irredeemable pit of corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently disclosed that over 800 properties in Dubai worth $400 million were confirmed belonging to Nigerian politicians, top security personnel and public servants. Over 200 of the discovered property, according to the anti-graft commission, are owned by former and serving top security rednecks.
Nigeria’s strange form of democracy has led to widespread corruption among members of the various arms of government. Citizens had expected that by now, over 21 years after the inauguration of the present democracy, the dream of our nation for solid industrialisation to provide jobs to millions of our teeming youths should have been achieved. Sadly, over two decades after the birth of this unbroken democracy, it has been motion without movement.
Our weird democracy has promoted the enthronement of certain individuals and groups based on their ethnicity and religion to the disadvantage of others, with our democratic government unleashing grim despair among citizens amidst a blistering present. Little wonder, groups and individuals are becoming desperate in calling for restructuring in a nation that has promised so much but delivered so little.
Fortunately, we still have the remnant of patriotic leaders who spared no effort in the defence of the Nigerian state. Their silence at this time does not speak well for the memory of their fellow compatriots who laid down their lives to secure the unity of our nation. The silence of these old soldiers only serves to elongate our long night of national lamentations. They must rally their better angels to rescue citizens from this flawed system called Nigeria’s democracy.
Where are Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, TY Danjuma, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar? Where is President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan? Leaders and patriots of Nigeria that is still the hope of the Blackman, the House for which you gave the last full measure is about caving in to forces of conflagrations. Please hurry now to lend a helping hand to President Muhammadu Buhari.