NIGERIA is in its longest stretch of civil rule. The 13 years of uninterrupted civilian administration has expanded the yearning for more democratic space in politics and in the handling of our individual and group affairs.
These agitations have taken wings of their own and in some cases have resulted in conflicts. The impression being created that Nigeria’s democracy has not grown in 13 years is not true. It is possible that our expectations have outgrown democracy.
Spectacular growth has been witnessed in the number of political parties, more than 56, which has ballooned from the three that contested the elections in 1999. What has not changed is the responsibility of the politicians and the political parties to the electorate.
There has also been little democracy in the conduct of public office holders. They consider the people irrelevant and carry on as if they are masters, instead of the servants that they presented themselves as during the campaigns.
Political parties, in their wisdom, have no manifestos, hardly hold rallies to sell themselves to the people and the resources of the individual politician and his ability to hound others out of the way have become stronger instruments for accessing power than ideas that are canvassed and accepted by the people.
Nigerians suffer from beliefs in some quarters that democracy cannot protect their interests. inadequate attention to individual liberties enhances such beliefs. Policies that cause job losses, less access to information, illegal arrests and detentions, and other injustices, collide with personal liberties.
How would Nigeria be different in 2015? Politicians stake their right to political positions with a conviction that renders the people irrelevant. One way they have demonstrated this is the absence of campaigns to make their programmes public. Another is increasing refusal to consider the public’s interests in policies.
Nigerians should stop complaining and hold politicians accountable. From legislators, at all levels to executives, politicians’ responsibility to the electorate, as enunciated in the Constitution, is a fair platform for the public to engage them. Desperation for power is a source of concern.
Impatience of politicians with constitutional processes remains alarming. They have no convictions about parties or their programmes. With months to the elections, some of them would be changing parties and the 56 choices.
The 2015 elections that are more than two years away should be different in defining growth of the democratic belief of Nigerians. Early efforts in strengthening the electoral procedures, the establishment of the centrality of ordinary Nigerians in the political process, would afford people opportunities for more active participation in politics without which there would be little difference in the realisation of our democratic expectations.