The word ‘democracy’ which has been mostly used, misused, confused and abused by many people for centuries and, in recent times, also badly maimed by most Nigerians in their understanding and application of it, especially since our return to it in 1999, is a concept whose understanding, as universally accepted, should ordinarily not herald any controversy.
Most people, particularly our ‘ruling leaders’ in Nigeria, and I dare say in Africa, use it in some ways only to fit their realm, idiosyncracies and the selfish, parochial end they imagined they can achieve through its practice. They sholve it down the throats of their people as if to say ‘you asked for it and here it is’ discountenancing the fact that it takes preparation and information massaged by quality institutions to make democracy and its practice possible and seamless in any country.
Democracy is not an orphaned child or a toddler that was born yesterday. As with most other concepts and human reality, it has its own history and parentage etched in known and universally acceptable minimum standards. Even though still evolving, some of these standards are sacrosanct and characteristic of what constitutes a democracy.
Democracy originated over 2,400 years ago in ancient Greece, the word “democracy” comes from two separate Greek words (‘Demos’: people and ‘Kratia’: rule); meaning ‘Rule by the people’, leadership that takes authority and legitimacy from the people.
Citizens of a democracy govern their nations through a proxy selected or chosen by them in the presence of information and working institutions to lead them.
Democracy is simply people’s power to make a choice and determine who should lead or govern them for the attainment of certain fundamentals like the protection and promotion of their rights, as well as the protection of their interests and provision of welfare for them.
Democracy is about the people and for democracy to function properly in any country, it must ask and answer the following questions in the affirmative. The proper answering of these questions would determine whether indeed such country can or should practice democracy or choose other forms of government that would best suit their peculiarities:
Are the people ‘educated’ enough to make informed decision without prevarications that are devoid of sentiments and biases such as religion, ethnicity, colour, tribe, sex and other intangibles not necessary for making informed decisions ?
Are the institutions through which choices are made calibrated to be free, fair and incorruptible enough to only reflect the choices of the people at all times in Nigeria ? Ask INEC and the process of nominating its Chairman.
Are the people equally motivated to come out in their numbers to make their choices about who would govern them without being driven by unnecessary enticements provided them to so do? Reflect on what happened in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun States and even in the 2019 General Election.
Are the people able to make choices without poverty as the chief consideration that influences such choices?
Are the people able to collectively share or have expectations from the candidates they wish to choose or have others choose from or simply have expectations of the process? Reflect on the standard of education in Nigeria and the unwillingness of people from where majority of the votes came from to go to school.
Is there a guarantee that the process of the people making their choices would not be thwarted by the activities of state actors like the Military, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, and even cult groups and gangs whose only interest is to sabotage the will of the people? This we have continuously seen in the various and several elections that we have had in Nigeria since our return to democracy.
Does everyone who is ‘qualified’ to make this choice of who should govern them have similar or near similar levels of information, intelligence, exposures and awareness that would enable him/her rationally assess the candidates for competency to lead and administer our common wealth?
Should the court as an institution be used to usurp the people’s choice and will by always deciding for the people who to govern them through their very suspicious, frivolous and, in most cases, anti-people rulings that are based on technicalities to determine leadership for the people? It should be the people’s choice and not the choice of the court as it were in democracy. Judges must not be allowed to, as a result of political recklessness and rascality, always determine who should lead the people. Today in Nigeria, politicians no longer care about the people’s choice but bother most about judges’ choice and do all what is necessary and possible, including but not limited to giving of bribes, to secure judgement in their favour to become the people’s choice.
What really is the importance of ‘structure’ and ‘godfatherism’ in how the will and choice of the people are allowed to be?
Do all the candidates have similar levels of playing field that make it possible for them to be heard and seen so that choices can be said to be truly rationale?
When you most rationally and critically answer these questions in Nigeria and in most African countries, placing them side-by-side our recent statistics in the world as poverty capital, country with the highest illiteracy rate and out-of-school children, uneducated youths and adults, etc, you would, just like me, come to the conclusion that democracy cannot work in Nigeria today and that we should immediately seek an alternative form of government that would appeal to our peculiarities until, maybe, we mature and evolve enough for democracy tomorrow. But again, tomorrow is far yet near. Therefore, leadership now has a huge responsibility to bring the tomorrow that would make for the conditions precedent to good democratic practices guaranteeing good democracy, even closer today.
Akpotive is a Port Harcourt-based social reformer and activist.