BY SIMON REEF MUSA
The dawn of democracy on May 29, 1999 brought with it refreshing hope for the citizenry that had groped in darkness under 15 years of unbroken military regimes. A former military leader who had then become a strong advocate of democracy, General Olusegun Obasanjo (retd) was elected as president. Many Nigerians then saw his emergence as capable of serving as a fertile ground for growing and deepening the seed of democracy.
It is incontrovertible that Obasanjo’s eight years, with all its deficiencies, proved an inspiring prologue in opening up the country to the international community which instantly removed it from the list of pariah countries. Not worried by the problems that were encountered during the Obasanjo years of 1999 – 2007, lovers of democracy took solace in the words of former Chinese president, Chen Shui-bian: “The road to democracy may be winding and is like a river taking many curves, but eventually the river will reach the ocean.”
Aware that democracy is a journey and not a destination, Nigerian electorates were too willing to be patient with Obasanjo, knowing that in a democracy the people have the ultimate responsibility of deciding where the pendulum swings to when it matters the most. Realising that democracy is not a magic wand used in resolving societal problems, the electorate were patient as they believe that in democracy, the seed that carries the resolution of societal problems is innately built on the interest of the overall majority.
In recognising the power of the poor who constitute the overwhelming majority of society, Aristotle notes, “In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich because there are more of them, the will of the majority is supreme.” The strength of democracy is manifested in the power to empower the wretched of society for a prosperous future unhindered by the manipulative power of the rich.
For democracy to work, the individual must not only play the role of living up to their responsibility of electing the best of candidates during electoral contests, but also the process of ensuring the best of candidates emerge is strategic in deepening and sustaining democracy.
The development of democracies in various nations is hinged on transparent electoral systems evolved by governments. The ability of growing, deepening and sustaining this form of government has become the anchor of development for most countries. With all the achievements of former President Obasanjo, not much was done to strengthen the electoral system that gives credibility to the ballot.
In condemning the manipulative powers of the electoral ballot, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua acknowledged this virus, when he vowed to embark on measures aimed at cleansing the Augean stable that had become the albatross of Nigeria’s electoral system.
Despite the ‘clueless nature’ of President Jonathan Goodluck, even his critics acknowledged that he conducted transparent polls that led to his defeat in 2015. As a beneficiary of fair polls, not a few looked forward to President Muhammadu Buhari to improve on the conduct of 2019 polls.
Not a few are wont to agree that the last polls were fair and transparent. The cacophonous voices that trailed the 2019 elections rankled the minds of some citizens, leading to various litigations across various parts of the country. Even before the conduct of the polls, the appointment of the present Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammadu Tanko was interpreted by the opposition as a veiled attempt at bringing a pliable justice to ensure control of the judiciary in the event the outcome of the 2019 polls is taken to the Supreme Court for adjudication.
After over 21 years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria, the myriad of issues confronting our country have made it imperative to question the type of democracy the country is practicing. It is unrealistic to accept what is happening to us to be in line with the type of democracy as defined by the former president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln who said, “democracy is a government of the people by the people and for the people’.
If indeed our democracy is similar to the one defined by Lincoln, why has our type of democracy become so anti-people and now the greatest facilitator of bloodbaths and violence never seen in the history of our country? It is obvious that this democracy we are presently practising is a variant form of a government that thrives on bloodshed and founded on the emasculation of the rights of Nigerians. More worrisome, this form of democracy is being controlled by mostly heartless and unpatriotic politicians whose visions have never wandered from personal aggrandizement and enthronement of their empires.
Without recourse to national development and defence of the rights of citizens, this Nigerian democracy has become a strange sickness that has criminalized self-defence by people who are constantly victims of premeditated murderous attacks by bandits that cannot be tamed by the state.
The hope for a better tomorrow has been sacrificed as political representatives that should take a stand for the electorate are now preoccupied with the task of acquiring mindless wealth and collaborating with a system that seeks to obliterate the interests of the people that elected them.
Our Nigerian democracy is gradually becoming a burden and a despair, with many citizens raising fears over the capacity of the present power to resolve challenges confronting the Nigerian society. Trapped in the midnight of our darkness of incapacitating hopelessness brought about by banditry, bloodbaths and cascading corruption, can this form of democracy bring our nation out of the Plato’s cave of self-inflicted misery?
Despite years of spiraling levels of insecurity, the military high command remains as it is. Has democracy become a tool in the hands of the nation’s enemies to conquer and suppress the rights of citizens? I am sure what is happening in Nigeria cannot be tolerated by the vilest of tyrants in any part of the world. Thousands of Nigerians have been killed in various parts of the country just as nearly a hundred towns and villages have been turned into killing fields. Even when international bodies wept over the tragedies confronting vulnerable citizens, top government officials have often come up with excuses on why these killings have continued to reoccur? Have our democratic leaders given up on the onerous task of protecting the lives and property of citizens?
Democracy still remains the best form of government, but how far can citizens endure the daring exploits of murdering criminals running riots over their lives and communities? How long can a people survive the debauchery of political leadership trampling on the rights of suffering masses?
The truth is that our democracy is getting rotten by the day, and there is the urgent need to ensure that Nigerians take charge and elect leaders that can truly stand for them. For now, most of our political representatives are money changers that have taken advantage of trade for profit.
When politicians know that a fool-proof electoral process is in place to make them accountable for all their actions, they will think less of themselves and do more for the people. With those in charge of politics still in full possession of the electoral process, the end to our long night of lamentations is not in sight.
A nation that worships money and enthrone selfishness will always have politicians who will deploy ethnic and religious sentiments to control various levers of power. That is why our form of democracy has become a strange sickness that has underdeveloped our nation, subdue citizens and render them as slaves.
BY SIMON REEF MUSA