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Four yrs after Beko: Time for popular action for true democracy

By  Abdulwahab  Abdulah

They gathered in their hundreds, with different ‘T’ shirts and Fez caps to match, bearing different inscriptions in the name of the late activist, Dr. Bekololari Ransome-Kuti.

People who were present at the different fora were not out to mourn, but to celebrate the time and struggles of a man, referred as the ‘pillar of the struggle’, Beko. Different events were organised simultaneously to show to the world that though, Beko was no more, but the values he stood for, his determination for a better and egalitarian Nigeria are not forgotten. At the public lecture organised by the Beko Memorial anniversary organising committee, with the theme ; “Democracy in Nigeria: Releasing Peoples’ Power”, the Guest Lecturer, Professor Adele Jinadu and the paper discussants, including Comrade Abiodun Aremu, joint Secretary of Labour and civil society coalition, said except Nigerians demonstrate their genuine readiness to attain democracy, it will never come.

Professor Jinadu in his paper said Dr Beko while alive had the niche for “modern radical and progressive black and African intellectuals, who merged the theory with the practice of liberation politics.”  He said Beko’s life was dedicated to serving and realizing the public welfare through a process of non-violent means.

Speaking on the topic of the day, Adele noted that “Nigeria’s democratic politics since independence has not been firmly grounded in the republican spirit of virtu or principe, and on the normative or moral anchors of liberal democratic theory.”

According to him, the consequences of this was so serious on the nation that it had seriously affected the development of the nation. “This deficit has had serious consequences for the country’s development, as is all too obvious, and as is so tellingly illustrated by the crisis of economic management and bad political governance that continues to defile Nigeria’s practice of liberal democracy and federalism.

“The roots of the crisis lie fundamentally in the way state power, with its induced psychological or behavioural correlates, has been historically so organised as to not only vitiate democratic politics but also distort the anchoring principles of federalism in the form of the constitutional deconcentration or diffusion of political power in polycentric manner.”

He identified some factors as structural problems besetting the country, which  are structural violence, militarized physical violence by agencies of the state to cover legitimate and agitation by victims of structural violence, the prevalence of endemic and preventable diseases with high level of illiteracy among others.

To solve these problems, Prof. Jinadu suggested that there is a pressing need to reform the country’s legal system in ways. The reform according to him must be extended to the political parties. He said there must be urgent reconstitution of the local government “as a constitutionally entrenched third-tier of government in its own right.”

Also he said “there is need to strengthen such horizontal institutions of accountability and transparency in the country’s public political life as the Code of Conduct Bureau, INEC, the CBN , Human Rights Commission, the ICPC, EFCC, etc.  Above all he suggested that Nigerians must be ready to be involved in shaping the country. “There are no short cuts on the way to democratic consolidation. It involves struggle, which is also to say that it involves making sacrifices..Nothing would please Beko Ransome-Kuti better than the continuation in this manner of the struggle to which he so passionately devoted his life and career.

“In the final analysis, this is the exciting and enduring, if  excruciating challenge of his legacy for the pro-democracy movement in the country: to become a leading force for sustaining, advancing and consolidating a people-centered democratic politics in the country.”

He said to achieve our desires, Nigerians must be “given uncompromising expression to vote, to become politically active in the broadest senses of the term through public engagement on public issues, raising alarm about present and clear dangers to democratic politics and federalism in the country, defiantly speaking the truth to power, where and when necessary, as the ultimate expression of voice.”

Other prominent Nigerians including former Lagos state Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Ekiti state A C Gubernatorial candidate in 2007 elections, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, Dr. Joe Okey-Odumakin and others also spoke with one voice that the time is ripe to kick start the process that will lead to an enduring electoral reform in the country.

According to them, the country will not achieve any tangible and envisaged democratic norms unless; Nigerians demonstrate their readiness to participate in all processes that would lead to modern democracy. To this end, they called for the immediate approval and transmuting into law of the Justice Mohammadu Uwais-led electoral reform panel by the National Assembly as a first step to democratic and national reforms.

According to them, the real democracy envisaged and fought for by the late Dr. Beko Kuti may be a long dream unless, people of impeccable character occupy the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The participants who spoke one after the other said Beko Ransome-Kuti died fighting for the liberation of common man and for Nigeria to raise its head among the committee of nations.


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