By Adisa Adeleye
ANOTHER ‘Democracy Day’ (29th May) has passed innocuously with the usual songs of dividends of democracy from the mouths of many Nigerians (especially supporters of the ruling party, PDP). The opposition, as usual, has continued to remind Nigerians of the woes of missed opportunities under the present Federal Government.
It may be wrong to refuse to acknowledge that Nigeria has achieved a lot since 1999. It may also be true that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who became the President in 1999 was supported by the military to operate the 1999 Constitution (prepared by the military). The ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party, is widely believed to have been influenced and supported by the former military political elite during its formative period.
Some analysts believe that even if there is a bit of doubt about the extent of past military influence on the subsequent growth of PDP, some actions and re-actions of many leaders of that great party suggest adherence and imitation of old military tactics. Within the Peoples Democratic Party, evidence of lack of democratic principles abounds.
Of recent, the election of the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum (NGF) provides a classical example of attempt to subvert a cardinal principal of democracy – accept result of a fair election. It looks as if the loser is trying to make himself a ‘Sarkin Tulasi’ – a king by force or subterfuge. Those who are termed ‘agents of doom’ by their proclamation that Nigeria might break in 2015 might have their last laugh if things remain unchanged.
The current observable impression in political circle is that it is near impossible to defeat a sitting government in any election based mainly on performance. Elections in the country appear to be based on many extraneous factors of which performance on the job may, or may not be, an important factor. It means that any drives towards peace and political stability must include sound electoral reforms which would not only ensure that votes cast are genuine but also, count. It may be necessary to revisit the report on Uwais Electoral Reform Committee for a re-appraisal. It is recognized that since 1999 various futile attempts have been made by the past presidents to tackle electoral problems. The noble effort of President Jonathan in making elections free, fair and acceptable, would be desirable.
The idea of a stable political stability as a necessary condition for peace and prosperity has been recommended for many developing countries. The economic transformation of countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and China had been based on political stability over a long period under visionary leaders. As against outright dictatorship, it is possible to achieve a fairly stable polity, under ‘a democratic single-party, formed by voluntary merger of all other parties, and behaving like an ideal coalition’. Although such innovation seems enlightened, the plural nature of our society appears a formidable challenge.
At the moment, the tragedy of the Nigerian political scene is the attempted merger of some opposition parties (APC) to chase the ruling party (PDP) out of power. This avowed aim, in democratic sense, makes good sense if it could be achieved without bloodshed. It is surprising that the ruling party is not known to be making overtures to opposition parties to form a workable coalition based on fair and just principle.
It seems that workable arrangement between the government and the opposition parties is what is absolutely needed to tackle the problems of insurgency and other security related matters. It is, however, unfortunate that the ruling party, under its nebulous policy of ‘winners – take – all’, could not see the difference between principle of sensible politics and that of party – politics opportunism.
The advocates of sensible politics believe, and justifiably so, that in a plural society like Nigeria, where forces of ethnicity and religion are potent, there is no constitutional magic to force people to work together rather than fight, except by dialogue and subtle means. The alternative to dialogue is force or ‘I don’t care attitude’ which is a manifestation of poor governance.
Many political watchers, while welcoming the idea of a strong opposition to oust a non-performing regime, believe and sincerely too, that the present mood of uncertainties calls for coalition of all forces towards the formation of a single platform to combat the evils of corruption and other social evils. There is that credibility gap between the rulers and the ruled, and the gap continues to widen. To many observers, there is little joy in the sense that a new and a moderate progressive regime is in a place to tackle adequately the problems of a plural society. What has been witnessed so far is shameful exhibition of mediocrity, howbeit, by some seemingly conscientious officials.
It is assumed that if genuine efforts are made to ensure political stability over a long period, economic stability (under common sense economics) would prevail. If President Jonathan could muster a genuine coalition of parties, either by a merger or by willing co-operation of parties, his economic transformation of the country towards peace and prosperity would become a reality.
However, any policy towards prosperity will have to tackle seriously the nasty problem of large-scale unemployment. The idea of turning out elegant figures with increase in foreign exchange reserves and growth in national income without appreciable effect on hunger and poverty. There should be no need for conflicts between the progressive (pro- poor) fiscal stand and reactionary monetary position. Both fiscal and monetary policies should be pro-growth, pro-employment and pro-poor in all aspects.
It should be recognized that high output and capacity utilization are an inducement to investment. High employment is extremely necessary for economic growth and investment nurtures growth.