DEMOCRACY ensures peaceful transfer of power because it recognises the people as the ultimate repository of power. And as such, power is derived solely from the will of the people. Democracy does not guarantee the election of good leaders. However, it empowers the people to peacefully remove bad and/or discredited leaders.
The election that brought Goodluck Jonathan to power was fair and free. Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for him. However, he has proven to be the worst president that this country has ever had. Nigerians are exasperated by his failure to fulfill any of his campaign promises. And they are frustrated by his insensitive and inhumane economic policies. Therefore, it is most likely that in 2015 they will endeavour to remove him, peacefully, through the ballot box, from the presidency.
But what of if the constitutional right of the people to democratically change an underperforming president is subverted by entrenched interests and forces of greed and insensitivity in 2015? It might lead to violence in this our volatile and already violence-rife country. After all “those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable”.
The Jonathan administration exhibits disquieting dictatorial tendencies. It has virtually no respect for the right of the people to peaceful protest. In its self-righteousness, it feigns immaculate blamelessness. Consequently, it takes no responsibility for its repeated political blunders. Instead, it blames everybody and everything for its continued bungling of national governance. It is paranoid and defensive; thus, it is rattled by every criticism. It overreacts to every critical comment, be it pedestrian or lofty, pertinent or irrelevant, wrong or right.
These dictatorial tendencies and self-righteousness were irrefutably evident in the administration’s handling of the Nigerians’ disapproval of the removal of the fuel subsidy. The Minister of Labor, Emeka Wogu, refused to understand that to increase the price of petrol in a swoop by more than 100percent was a tactless and heartless move that was to deeply infuriate the Nigerian masses. He chose not to realise that with such unspeakable provocation, no matter how passive and docile Nigerians are, they must raise a voice in protest. With his half closed eyes and his look of a street brawler or a night club bouncer, he had the temerity to blame the protest on some opposition figures that were inciting the people against the government.
The presidential spokesman, Ruben Abati, speaking for a petulant and arrogant presidency, and of course, with a streak of his own false feeling of importance, dismissed a resolution of the House of Representatives as just an opinion. Does not the resolution of the House have constitutional and legal validity? Was it not supercilious and overbearing to dismiss the resolution of the legislature as just their “opinion”? Finally, in a move that repudiated every tenet of democracy and was disconcertingly reminiscent of military highhandedness, the President rolled out tanks and deployed soldiers in the streets of Nigerian cities to intimidate Nigerians into not expressing their democratic right to peaceful demonstration against detestable government policies.
In his campaign, President Jonathan promised to curb corruption, improve healthcare delivery, boost electricity supply, etc. Thus far, he has not made good on any of these promises. His purported war on corruption is a charade; andNigeriaremains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. His government’s recent refusal to prosecute an egregious case of corruption – the N1.7 trillion oil subsidy scam – further reinforced an unvarnished fact: His administration lacks both the moral authority and political will to rein-in corruption inNigeria. The health care delivery system remains in a disgraceful state. It must be the worst in the world because it accounts for the highest rate of maternal and infant mortality in the world.
The supply of electricity is now worse than it has been in a very long time. The economic consequences of inadequate provision of electricity are staggering. It is forcing many industries to fold up and tens of thousands to lose their jobs because privately generated power is very expensive and renders many business ventures unprofitable. It increases the cost of production across the board by 30 to 40 percent, and these increased costs are invariably passed on to the consumer. His anti-people economic policies foster deepening poverty and economic misery amongst the generality of Nigerians. In addition, his government has demonstrated increasing inability to protect Nigerians from criminal predators and terrorists. Many Nigerians believe that the country is dangerously hurtling towards a precipice.
If Nigerians are to grade his presidency, it will score something scraping to a zero. Therefore, it is almost certain that Nigerians will elect a new president in 2015. With their votes, they will protest against Jonathan’s continued stay as the President. In such a case, decorum dictates that the President drinks of the politician’s hemlock – rejection by the electorate – and calmly accepts the people’s electoral verdict.
But if his government’s responses to an earlier protest are indicative of its attitude towards protests in general, then Nigerians have reasons to be apprehensive of the presidential election of 2015 when it is obvious that the people will again protest against his government (this time with their votes). Will his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in desperation to remain in power in defiance of the will of the people, rig the election?
It is reasonable to expect that if this happens, there will be trouble – violence – inescapably attended by bloodshed. Was that not all Mohammadu Buharia said in his own words? And what is wrong with such a direct, unequivocal and honest statement? Absolutely, nothing!
Mr. TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos.