INSTITUTIONALISATION of democracy in Nigeria seems to be the surest way of bailing the nation out of the throes of identity crisis- a stigma that persistently shrouds the nation’s image during the military era.
Is it a democracy? This was a question from a book, ‘The British Constitution’ (3rd edition). “In 1940, an American citizen wrote to the spectator from Seattle, Washington, to explain why many American citizens were at that time isolationists. His argument included, the assertion that Britain was not a democracy in his sense of the term.
According to the author “if what you mean by democracy was the system practiced in England just before the war, you will find many here in America who will dissent to your use of the term. I, as an American, do not consider equal justice for all as denoting democracy, or even equal political representation.”
“Democracy must stand on a different basis from something which is grudgingly given by a conciliatory upper class to classes which are hard pressing it. Democracy must stand on the ground of the most common and least priviledge of the people composing a country. It must first be of the people before it can be by it or for it. Therefore, you do not touch us when you say that you are fighting for democracy,” the author informed.
Furthermore, the scholar said, “if it is necessary for democracy that the country should be rent by fierce conflict between the privileged and the under-privileged, we have not a democracy. But that kind of democracy is to be found neither in our books or in our experience. To him, democracy, as we understand it, means that the people must be free and the rulers govern according to the wishes of the people”.
Nigeria’s race for the future has begun. Politicians decamp from one political party to another. They regroup to set agenda for another democratic dispensation come 2019.
Whatever any person or political parties are strategizing, let them realise that we are the focus of the entire world and we cannot fail to uphold and entrench the spirit of democracy in Nigeria
Nigeria’s political scene is gaining momentum presently as political heavy- weights are cross-carpeting to parties they find comfortable but one would ask, is it time for the fat dividends? Former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, in The News Magazine, 14th June, 1993, on ‘Case for Democracy’ caught the vision and saidm: “Many Nigerians are not ready to follow a leadership that will abandon them mid-stream and perhaps turn to settle on their looted wealth in London, and New York”. Also on the way forward for Nigeria, he informed that our solution to attain great height in democracy is “good government that respects the people of this country and that government can only be brought about by democratically elected custodians”.
We have not learnt our lessons, especially when results of elections are released. We often say the election was better than the previous ones. INEC will say the same but the fact remains that political progress does not stop at winning elections, but winning and performing.
You will remember that when U.S President toured Africa, he refused to come to Nigeria. This was because we have refused to make considerable progress as a nation despite our huge financial and human resources, and this is very sad indeed.
“Whatever past governments have put in place to package the Nigeria unity, their efforts will appear in the manner in which we practice our democratic faith. Our liberty will have real meaning for every Nigerian so long as it confers not just freedom, according to late Sam Epelle – from the white man’s rule but the absolute right to fair trail, to freedom of speech and thought, to worship as one’s conscience dictates, to choose one’s way of living and to use this freedom to help overcome distress, hunger and poverty in others”.
On vanities to avoid in leadership, the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (Ikemba Nnewi) advised that “the new Nigerian leader should never strive towards the perpetuation of his office or device means to cling to office beyond clear mandate of the people. He should resist the temptation to erect memorials to himself during his lifetime, to have his name embossed in coins, to have roads, institutions named after himself. He should not convert government into a family business, gang of conspirators, a mafia clan or ethnic associations. A leadership, according to him – who serves his people well will be enshrined in their mind”.
The late Odumegwu Ojukwu, still in the book, I Did My Best, written by Jude Ekwunife, pointed out that “leadership is a business for serous minds. We do not want leaders who are erratic, whimsical and vindictive because they lack the maturity required for leadership. We do not want leaders who push their ignorance of the basic tenets of democracy to the extreme point of referring to our people as subjects. In a democracy, he continued, such as ours , the people are masters and the leaders only their servants”.
He revealed that” the test of a good leader is this.” Let me therefore advise that whatever obtains your support must pass the test of personal integrity, of good family background and traits and must have a good history of commitment to public services”.
According to Alice .A. Barley, writing on the problems of humanity, “Men and women of goodwill exist in every nation. Let them realize that the solution of the critical problem with which humanity is faced at the portal of the new age will not be found by deciding upon some line of action by propaganda or by campaigning. It will come by advocating a spirit of good will (with its result, a right atmosphere and a sound attitude)and an understanding heart”
Furthermore, SAM Epelle, in his book: The Promise of Nigeria stated, “It could be said that the difference between democracy and dictatorship is that in a democracy, the people are free to question their governments and to change it if they think fit, whereas under dictatorship, they can do neither. If this distinction is genuine, then Nigeria is a democracy and will remain one for a longtime to come.”
There is no gain saying that if we remove corruption, the future of Nigeria will be bright. Nigerians look forward to an active and vocal public opinion which must react as occasion demands to keep governments within reasonable limits. To guide this public opinion, without which dictatorship will flourish, is the most important duty of newspapers and Journalists in Nigeria.
Election is not a do or die affair. Nigeria’s political class should learn to discuss ideas and ideologies of their parties to the electorate. They should go for election campaigns as sportsmen. After al,l there is no perfect political system anywhere in the world, even the perfect ones are infuriated with perforated imperfections.
In Time weekly magazine (vol 142 No2), Jul 12, 1993 world issue titled: ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’ The publication pointed out, “I cannot think of a period where there have been so few great leaders,” said Jean Lacauture. Are they here and we are not aware of them?
In its latest issue, American Enterprise Magazine documents the case. The publication revealed that “large majorities of polling samples in every G-7 country but one – Japan, surprisingly – express unhappiness with the direction their nations are taking: 71% in the U.S, 70% in Canada, 67% in Britain, 61% in France. The survey bore out a growing sense that the electorates see their leaders not temporarily lost pathfinders so much as empty suites”.
The task of governing is too difficult to be undertaking by ignorant and vacillating minds. Western civilization will be torn down by monomaniacs if democratic states cannot rely upon the efforts of the most intelligent, the most farsighted, and the most altruistic of each generation”.