Opinion: Nigeria still searching for true democracy

by Peregrino Brimah

anambra-protestWhen people are unable to select their candidates but are only imposed candidates, and when only certain party-elite blocks’ imposed candidates have the ability to win, and when candidates cannot be voted out until two terms are completed and/or terms are extended, and then finally when impeachment for failure within term are unavailable, then we have a disguised dictatorship.

“The values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy.  In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” –UN.

Nigeria does not have a democracy. There is politics in Nigeria, in fact too much of it, but no democracy. Having civilian rulers does not make a democracy. And unlike the USA, where as Hilary Clinton said-in-Nigeria, “our democracy is yet evolving,” Nigeria does not yet have a democracy, so nothing is evolving.

Democracy is about the provision of, and protection of Human Rights. It is not simply a process of putting papers in ballot boxes. The conditions to test; questions to ask ourselves are: Are we lead or ruled? Are any of those who rule us the people we would really choose with our eyes open? Do those who rule us represent us and provide us our basic rights? Do they lead us to where we need be, or do they only rule over us for their gains? Are we able to remove them when they fail? And then, can we honestly say that the 80 million rural dwellers are represented, know candidates and vote for candidates to lead them in our current system, or these villagers do not count in the selection but suffer the most from its consequences; these rural dwellers who account for 80% of our 100 million destitute population. These questions are essential conditions democracy fulfils; do we have them?

Choosing leadership is not the single reason why democracy is advocated and why nations adopt it. Getting rid of leaderships is the difference, beauty, essence and unique advantage of democracy. That is the point of democracy. If a so-called  ‘juvenile’ democracy does not yet have the ‘eviction’ capacity, it is not a democracy. Democracy is a very expensive system. The idea of applying this method is not because you for one second think the candidate you are choosing is a great person. Does this mean we hate our sons and daughters who sign-up with the military? Or we think these disciplined family members are less of people and do not have what it takes to lead a nation? The ability to terminate the leadership is as important as the provision of selection. And we must actively have both; having only the one is as good as having none.

In biology of the cell, when a cell fails to pass a ‘check-point,’ the cell automatically tries to repair the problem, and when it is unable, the cell kills itself in a process called Apoptosis. This protects cells from becoming cancerous. In our traditional systems, we used to apply such systems as giving the king the empty calabash or gift of parrot’s eggs, which tells him he has been disapproved of and must take his own life.

Good enough people are plentiful and we actually usually end up with the worst of us with democratic choice. The politician candidates we choose, even if ‘good’ now, we do know they can change to bad people too, and may already be bad people in sheep’s clothing. But we go through that arduous, money wasting, ethnic-fracturing, nation-wrecking, lengthy process of campaigns, political jamborees, pauses in governance, political mismanagement and all other pains of democratic processes, simply because democracy should provide us certain conditions. These conditions are the primary reasons and requisites of democracy.

The first is the perceived ability abinitio to have a choice of candidates that all have a real chance of actually coming into power. Democracy is all about choice. One and even two party systems limit and cancel any reality of choice. A malicious cabal chooses in primaries and the nation is forced to accept and vote-in that one choice or tops, two choices in two party systems. Abolishing parties and at least, prohibiting or capping party expenses which could be by government equal funding of all campaigns, with no private financing allowed, can resolve these, embezzlement and many other campaign financing related issues.

The second condition for a true democracy is the ability to vote out candidates at their term, without conversation of extension of term or threat of terror if they lose the next round. We do not have this.

The third is the ability and likelihood of impeachment of candidates who fail to execute their obligations, within terms. After all, nature usually has its way of ridding us of military dictatorships, and they are usually replaced in our particular experience in about 8 years, making them not much different in terms of lengthy terms, than civilian regimes. Our rules should be firm and protected.

When people are unable to select their candidates but are only imposed candidates, and when only certain party-elite blocks’ imposed candidates have the ability to win, and when candidates cannot be voted out until two terms are completed and/or terms are extended, and then finally when impeachment for failure within term are unavailable, then we have a disguised dictatorship.

On Tuesday the 3rd of December, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary met to discuss the impeachment of President Barack Obama. The hearing was titled “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” {Washington Post}

Republican senators felt Obama had not faithfully executed the laws of the land and so they considered impeachment. Ex-US President Bill Clinton was impeached for “laughable” reasons.

The risk and reality of impeachment is as vital to democracy as is the voting process. Leaders merit democracy’s bounty when they are voted in power, and the masses reap its fruit when the leaders know they can and will be impeached when they lie, steal, or in any way fail in their duty to execute the law.

The Nigerian system does not have this key aspect of democracy and as such it is not a democracy. The entire legislature is bribed to abandon their obligation to protect the right of the masses for a check on government.

But to make our non-democracy even more apparent, consider the recurrent dimension of our system with the proposal of term elongations when candidates either realize their term is set to expire or they realize they cannot win again.

The CNPP party said those who suggested a term elongation deserved investigation and repudiation. They were spot-on. Nigerians elected leaders based on 4 year term expiration. That was the deal, the package. To waste time, money and muddy the national intelligence by proposing term elongations is frankly criminal.

Will there be a referendum? Are there term truncations? How about the more suggestion to consider a term reduction to 3 years to more favorably resolve the quagmire that this political block has put the nation into?

As it stands, the Nigeria is begging for a democracy. One had to just take a look at the recent Anambra elections to know it was and will continue to waste its time as the leadership continues to take advantage of and promote our dictatorial system.

The pictures of those women throwing themselves on and rolling on the ground were pathetic but clearly pretentious. Overall they demonstrated the fact that the system in place did not serve the people and abused the people.

Secondly, in the Anambra election, there were over a million invalid votes, the second largest vote counted. Ballot sheets where voters filled out nonsense. With the general interested populace not being able to vote, this democracy is no democracy as far as people’s choice goes.

There was open and widespread distribution of bribes to buy voters. Indomie noodles boxes (not scholarships) were one such cheap buyoff.

And the candidate party disputes, the widely reported fraud, these things will never go away and as long as they exist, we end up with imposed rulers and not leaders we sort of chose.

In satisfaction of my ideals for my human rights, that I may deem I have a democracy, the minimum I would require is for the administration to establish an enlightened committee to sit down and trash our leadership selection process from scratch. So long as we continue with this useless selection program and are denied expulsions for failure, my rights are not protected and I am not under a democracy.

Our return to a less tribal and ethnic provocative and less societal rendering parliamentary system of leadership selection is a proposed tactic many have presented that needs to be tabled. When 40 million people go to ballots all around the nation to vote for candidates they know next to nothing of, except a few posters here and there and as we know, having received some peanuts in enticement during campaigns, what results is wars, and the election of the most unworthy. With a parliamentary system, people are restricted to choosing only their local representatives who they have a better chance of actually knowing and holding to account, and it is these reps that select from among them the President. This reduces cost and eliminates volatile complaint and social-media curses being thrown at the top.

We should consider reducing usage of ballots which simply do not work for us. Let us redesign from our objective—representation. The idea is to get representatives and in this, this system fails us. Our market places have representative leaders we are comfortable with. Our Universities have representative leaders we trust, our mechanic unions have leaders we are comfortable with. Our religious organizations select leaders based on skill, rather easily. And all these are chosen inexpensively without bloodshed or precipitating hatred. These same social group leaders can be our representatives? This can be considered to stave off this billion dollar wasteful system that yields nothing.

It is time we have a democracy in Nigeria.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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