The Implication Of Nigerian Democracy History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Abraham Lincoln in his immortal Gettysburg address may have defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, but anybody with eyes on either side of the nose of course knows that the late great president of the United States did not have the Nigerian brand of democracy in mind when he formulated that definition. What passes for democracy in Nigeria has nothing at all to do with people. It is quite simply government of ghosts, by ghosts, and for ghosts. A situation where 150 million Nigerians cannot set eyes on their so-called president for 100 days and counting sums up the vast ghost town that the land has been turned into via the grossly abused name of democracy. A secret society is what democratic practice in Nigeria has been turned into.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is quite adept at using the word “people” to deceive people. But some Nigerians are effectively wising up to the fact. For instance, in the recent re-run gubernatorial election in the rebel state of Anambra, when the PDP cried “Power to the people!” the real people ran away to Peter Obi’s All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) leaving only ghosts to vote for the PDP! Not even Professor Maurice Iwu’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could account for the fingerprints of the secret ghosts that massively voted for the PDP in that election!
It is in the character of this spooky practice of democracy that Nigeria now boasts of two half-presidents. In the abracadabra sense of “the more you look the less you see” there is the invisible president that nobody sees and the acting president who as his title implies merely acts, an ordinary actor just like that funny man Mr. Ibu of Nollywood! Not even the best writers of magical realism or science fiction can configure the phenomenon of Nigeria’s two half-presidents.
It is against this phantasmagoric background that a body that calls itself the Isekiri, Urhobo and Isoko Democratic Union issued a release that runs thus: “The chaotic melodramatic farce enacted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by military personnel on Wednesday, during the reurn of our ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from his 90-day absence without leave (AWOL) can best be described as a dance macabre. That a whole President sneaked into his own country in an ambulance and was hurriedly transferred into another ambulance and taken straight to Aso Rock, without informing the Acting President, speaks volumes about the relentless nefarious activities of the infamous cabal that has held the nation to ransom since the President took ill and was flown to Saudi Arabia. The open and naked show of brute force exhibited by military personnel, who chased and horse-whipped innocent Nigerians from the vicinity is another testament that our nascent democracy is being held captive by a tiny but powerful cabal.”
As is the case in the mafia, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has just been remotely controlled to administer the oath of secrecy, aka Omerta, on his ministers. It is now a democracy of speechlessness, just like in any other secret cult. Minister of Information and Communication Professor Dora Akunyili who had been quite communicating on the incommunicado of the sitting president that necessitated the “acting” president caper has thus been silenced, much to the applause of the cabal on the jugular of Nigeria. The feudal juggernauts claiming to represent the North are not entirely pacified as they are insisting that the Nigerian cosmos must come apart if poor Dora does not resign her post and apologize to the feudal lords. Shout “Up North!” ye brethren! Dora who defers to the Blessed Sacrament as a Catholic in doing her beat will soon understand that nothing is sacred or blessed in the cultic inferno of the PDP, the quintessential secret society. It all amounts to a family affair of “man-eat-man-or-woman!” As it is written in the Bible and put to song, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
The PDP is to all intents and purposes a strange land to personages like Dora and Jonathan. They have been told in no uncertain terms that they do not belong. What with the coffle of the PDP telling Jonathan to his face that he should not dream of contesting the 2011 presidential election! The hoary witches and wizards of the coven of the PDP have spoken!
This nonsense has lasted for far too long. If there were to be a proper national election in Nigeria I daresay that the PDP can only place a poor third as happened in Anambra State. It is only the secret society code that the goons of the PDP are using to hoodwink Nigerians with their idle talk of “the largest party in Africa”. With the current situation of two half-presidents superintending over the affairs of the hapless nation, the time is nigh to strike at the very portals of their secrecy and open up the Nigerian society for good. The initiative of marching on Aso Rock as enunciated by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) is a great first step. Let’s all join the crusade.
The presence of a distinct civilian police force, militia, or other paramilitary group everywhere may mitigate to an extent that it could intimidate this democracy. Opponents of gun-controlled regime have cited the need for a balance of power in order to enforce the civilian control of the military. Politicians who personally lack military training and experience but who seek to engage the nation in military action may risk resistance of being labeled “chicken-hawks” by those who disagree with their political goals. The consolidation of democracy is not simply a problem of more or lesser military prerogatives; the high level of military prerogatives there is a moral quest to reduce such privileges.
For all these, members of the professional ex-military chiefs, their serving colleagues and their non-uniformed supporters were participating in Nigeria’s nascent democracy. They stage bureaucratic bargaining process of the state’s policy-making apparatus; engaging in regulatory support and at the same time, attempt to restrict the policy options of elected officials when it comes to military matters. Since Nigeria’s 1999 recovery from authoritarian rule, members of the police and military were not constitutionally prohibited from voting. Other significant law did not bar organizations advocating the overthrow of the government from participating in the political process .These measures, however, were implemented too late to prevent the military’s multiple incursions into Nigerian politics.
History shows that the main reasons why democratic systems of government are overthrown are military: conquest or military coup. Strong defense is required to prevent or deter conquest, but a strong military can increase the threat of military coup, so a delicate balancing act is required. Consequently alliances with other democratic countries seem to play a crucial role as well as internal constitutional checks on the military. This paper analyses the evolution and maintenance of democracy from the perspective of the impact of military considerations. Insurgency arguably has been the greatest threat to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. The activities of the JTF and the Niger Delta militants produced domestic anarchy, which directly challenged the government’s legitimacy. This in turn led to the national state of emergency and the draconian governmental countermeasures cited earlier in the human rights portion of this work.
Opponents of the movement for democracy in Nigeria have sought to undermine it by on the one hand casting aspersions on the competence of the people to judge what was best for the nation and on the other condemning the basic tenets of democracy as un-Nigerian. There is nothing new in Third World governments seeking to justify and perpetuate authoritarian rule by denouncing liberal democratic principles as alien. By implication they claim for themselves the official and sole right to decide what does or does not conform to indigenous cultural norms. Such conventional propaganda aimed at consolidating the powers of the establishment has been studied, analyzed and disproved by political scientists, jurists and sociologists.
But in Nigeria, distanced by several decades of isolationism from political and intellectual developments in the outside world, the people have had to draw on their own resources to explode the twin myths of their unfitness for political responsibility and the unsuitability of democracy for their society. As soon as the movement for democracy spread out across Nigeria, there was a surge of intense interest in the meaning of the word ‘democracy’, in its history and its practical implications.
More than a quarter-century of narrow authoritarianism under which they had been fed pabulum of shallow, negative dogma had not blunted the perceptiveness or political alertness of the Nigerian. On the contrary, perhaps not all that surprisingly, their appetite for discussion and debate, for uncensored information and objective analysis, seemed to have been sharpened. Not only was there an eagerness to study and to absorb standard theories on modern politics and political institutions, there was also widespread and intelligent speculation on the nature of democracy as a social system of which they had had little experience but which appealed to their common-sense notions of what was due to a civilized society.
There was a spontaneous interpretative response to such basic ideas as representative government, human rights and the rule of law. The privileges and freedoms which would be guaranteed by democratic institutions were contemplated with understandable enthusiasm. But the duties of those who would bear responsibility for the maintenance of a stable democracy also provoked much thoughtful consideration.
It is natural that a people who have suffered much from the consequences of bad government should be preoccupied with theories of good government. But the conscious effort to make traditional knowledge relevant to contemporary needs was not confined to any particular circle – it went right through Nigerian society from urban intellectuals and small shopkeepers to doughty village grandmothers. Why has Nigerian with its abundant natural and human resources failed to live up to its early promise as one of the most energetic and fastest-developing nations in Africa? International scholars have provided detailed answers supported by careful analyses of historical, cultural, political and economic factors. The Nigerian people, who have had no access to sophisticated academic material, got to the heart of the matter by turning to the words Zik spoke on the four causes of decline.
In the process, the interim government could be able to concentrate on reviving the economy as well as restoring fundamental rights and liberties of the Nigerian people including the restoration of democracy through general elections. To that end, the international community must continue to apply both economic and diplomatic pressure on Nigeria’s military junta. This is to ensure that the junta does not end up doing what juntas are wont to do: make grand promises about restoring democracy without the slightest intention of relinquishing power to the democratically elected representatives of the people.
A Historical and Qualitative Perspective Nigeria’s armed forces have undermined the democratic processes by either leading or directly supporting every Nigerian coup d’état except one-the coup of 1995, in which civilians overthrew a military dictatorship . Surprisingly, it is not democratic elections, but the coup d’état that has proven to be the most prevalent means of Nigerian transfer of government
For instance, during the 1999 military to civilian rule elections, some Nigerian police officers with their Army counterparts seized polling stations, threw out candidates’ polling agents and stamped the ballots themselves. Critics also pointed to a lack of impartiality shown by the INEC and a failure to curb the widespread misuse of state funds by pro-military parties. There was limited time allotted for electioneering, and election rallies by anti-militarized parties were frequently banned or disrupted. The state owned media blatantly promoted the views of the military government view, and some opposition party activists were even gunned down.
Complaints made to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were ignored. At several polling stations in Port Harcourt and Lagos supporters of the military-backed candidates took control of proceedings, threatened the local observers with violence and prevented their entry into polling booths, as they tampered with the ballots. Ballots were stolen, fake ID cards were in circulation, and many postal ballots were found in unauthorized hands.
At some polling stations in Wuse inside Abuja (FCT), indelible ink was missing, allowing some voters to cast more than one vote. At other locations, polling stations were changed at the last minute, or valid electoral lists were missing thus preventing legitimate voters from casting their votes. Many voters complained that their names had been omitted from the electoral lists even though they had voted in the previous elections and had not changed residence. Others complained that when they arrived at polling stations they were told that their votes had already been cast. In Abeokuta and Minna no responsible authority knew where a particular polling station was.
The reforms now being championed by the Obasanjo Presidency touch the military services as vitally as they affect civil society. Among the civil populace the reforms are meant to benefit those who prefer to work for a living and not live on government patronage. By the same token, the new order is also designed to favour soldiers who would rather face their profession and define their career path in terms of excellent military service rather than political adventurism.
The present dispensation affords us an opportunity to reflect on issues that are germane to the institutional coherence and operational readiness of the nation’s fighting forces. As Nigeria continues to undergo challenging transitions in various facets of life, key national institutions are required to build up their internal structures, capacities and processes towards defending the young democracy with courage and patriotism. The Nigerian military remains a vital national institution in this regard. It must be helped to restore those core values of cohesion, hierarchy, discipline, esprit de corps and respect for constitutional order that are the hub of professionalism. An investment in military professionalism is an investment in democracy. Under rogue military regimes, Nigeria literally missed out on opportunities for the professional development of its armed forces. It is time once again to build up our military into a formidable fighting force.
The death squads, linked to state structures either through active participation or tolerance, reached such a level of control that they went beyond the level of an isolated or marginal phenomenon to become an instrument of terror, which systematically practiced the physical elimination of political opponents. Many of the civilian and military authorities in power during the 1990s participated in, promoted and tolerated these groups’ activities. In spite of the fact that these still latent clandestine structures have not recently made their presence known, they could be reactivated at any time that those in high levels of power were to apprise that a “dirty war” could be resumed in Nigeria. Since these death squads constituted the element that destroyed any remaining vestige of a state of law during the armed conflict, Nigerian government should not only assume an alert and resolved attitude to prevent their resurgence, but also solicit international aid for their total and absolute eradication.
In this process, two factors have become clear: first, some political parties accept and defend the ideal of a “protected democracy,” in which the armed forces have a significant role in the political system. Second, a characteristic of civil-military relations in the Nigerian democracy has been the generation of informal mechanisms to resolve central issues related to the military autonomy. The second way to analyze preferences is to focus on the level of elite unity about the role of the armed forces. Unified elite that rejects military intervention in politics may inhibit military intervention in politics, while a fragmented elite may permit the creation of anti-democratic coalitions between the armed forces and some sectors of civil society.
The Nigerian political transition began in 1998 when the principal parties opposing the dictatorship (Christian democrats, Activists, Radicals, and sundry agreed to participate in a constitutionally mandated plebiscite in which people had to decide whether Abacha’s government should continue for another eight years. Since that time, the political discourse of the transition has been dominated by some political “principles” that all actors have accepted, including the military actors. These principles are basic ideas that served as guidelines during the period of transition and later, during the establishment of democracy.
Respect of the institutional framework. Although opposition parties rejected the Constitution that was imposed in 1993 by the military dictatorship, they accepted the framework it established. Therefore, the new democratic government had to apply norms that it had rejected in its program. For instance, IBB’s government did not agree to the constitutional provision that permitted the commander-in-chief of the armed forces to remain in charge for eight additional years, but democratic authorities had to accept this constraint because it was part of the Constitution they swore to respect in 1993.Political leaders knew that citizens wanted a peaceful transition. Stability was (and still is) a central goal in the first and second democratic governments. As we will see later, the principle of stability often has been more important than other objectives such as justice, accountability, or responsibility.
In conclusion Nigerian commanders in the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in Liberia and Sudan have been linked to corruption. Their activities have ranged from black marketeering and running prostitution rings to actively abate it. Continuation of these practices within the ECOMOG peacekeeping mission worries this government, who fear that such behaviour could jeopardize the success of such mission in future. Clearly, the battle for democracy in Nigeria has not been won. It will take all the resourcefulness of the Nigerian people to overcome the crafty machinations of Nigerian’s military and sections of the clerical elite who have thrown their weight behind insurgency. For real democracy to take hold in Nigeria not only will the people of Nigeria have to fight the internal enemies of democracy, they will also have to overcome the crushing power of the military godfathers, who cynically subvert or stymie moves towards genuine democracy in Nigeria.
REFERENCE: L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
Writes from Oyigbo; Rivers State
Nigeria’s democracy still fragile, US insists
By Agency reporter, Published: Wednesday, 7 Apr 2010.
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