Tuesday Platform

June 23, 2009

Microanalysis of Nigerian democracy: Anniversary imprecations (2)

By John Moyibi Amoda
THE transition consists in the attitude of the Nigerian political class to the political and administrative institutions of the British colonial government and economy.

The Nigerian post-colonial leadership have been content with adapting the British colonial institutions and economy in service of a post-colonial Nigeria.  Adaptation methods presuppose reform not transformation.

It is this commitment to adaptation rather than transformation that has resulted in the maintenance of the roles and functions of institutions of colonial government and security in post-colonial Nigeria.

Concretely this has meant that the post-colonial army, police and civil service have continued to perform their institutional roles defined and developed for the sustenance of the colony.

The post-colonial government has the same internal security needs as the preceeding colonial government for the colonial structure of society in Nigeria remains the same in the post-colonial period.

Since the colonial structure of society is assumed as the context of politics and governance, the colonial economic order is also assumed.

In the colony the colonial government was the agent of the British government which was the agent of the British imperial state.  In independence Nigeria the post-colonial political class is structurally dependent on the Nigerianised institutions of security and administration.

It did not take long for the ambitious among the ranks of the armed and security services to come to the conclusion, namely, that if their loyalty to the political class is necessary to sustain the government of that class, then they could rule in the place of “elected” politicians.

The history of government in Nigeria has occurred within a dilemma, a dilemma which remains a challenge to the Armed and Security Forces.  Their dilemma consists in the fact that they are the sustainers of “elected” civilians whose definition of the people is the members of their parties, who are unable to secure their elected leadership in power.

If the electoral parties are unable to secure their elected leaders in power or to restore them in office, why does the military not continue in office?  Why do the military share office-holding with civilians?

The capacity of the military to topple civilian elected government at will and to rule for long periods of time even with the support of the same civilian electoral leadership should determine tenure and stability of military governments.  The conditions that favour military rule also favour exclusivity of military rule.

Sharing office-holding with civilians, no matter for what duration, is the conundrum Nigerian politics present to the critical publics in Nigeria.  This is so because the history of post-colonial politics in Nigeria favours the exclusivity of military rule not an alternation between the military and Nigeria’s electoral political parties.

When the above is the case, the problematique of constitutional government in Nigeria is civilian electoral government, not unconstitutional military rule.  The puzzle for the rank and file of the military as well as the generality of the Nigerian populace is why military governments voluntarily withdraw from office only to return at will to office.

Thus, for the Nigerian mass, both military and non-military, democracy is not contemplated and no group has made the mobilisation of the people for democracy its goal.

Given such a situation, should elected civilian governments and the media be indulging in microanalysis of democracy and democratic rule annually?  Does this celebration of tenure of civilian rule not represent in fact the substitution of wishfulness for constitutional rule for deliberate and pro-active mobilisation of the people for democracy?

The question of the prospects of democratic constitutionalist government and governance in Nigeria are immediately determined by the contestation between military-rule political parties and civilian rule electoral parties within the context of the post-colonial transition.

Any interest for democratic constitutionalist order of politics in Nigeria must as a matter of strategic concern address the structure of the Nigerian society that economically marginalises the rural and the urban poor.

The structure of the Nigerian society and the prospects of its restructuring are internationally determined.

The international dimension of the structure of Nigerian society must be addressed because Nigeria as it is presently organised is the result of reformist decolonisation of the British Empire.

This statement of the political enterprise reflects the balance of power between the pro-reform interest groups and the anti-reform interest groups in the context of demand for change in and of the British Empire.

We may appreciate the issue of contexts better when we remember that the agitations for equality amongst citizens of the United States became a matter of state policy in 1857.

The election of President Barack Hussein Obama in 2008 only marks the ascendancy of the anti-racialist reformist bloc of the American establishment.

It is in the same manner as we demarcate the period of reform in the USA by the election of Obama contextualised by the 1857 Dred Scott Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in similar manner we should demarcate the context of reform by the decision of the colonial government to plan for responsible government in the colonies.  Independence of the colonies was and is a phase in the reform of the British colonial state.

To only address issues of politics internal to Nigeria and not to view Nigeria perspectively is to focus attention on the feet with no commensurate attention to the path taken in Nigeria’s political journey.

This focus on the internal to the exclusion of the international has now been problematised as realism in contrast to the “escapism” of concern with the past.

The “either-or” problematisation of change of order is ideological and is functional for conflict management.  The internal is contextualised by the international and the international is also contextualised by the internal.

The past provides a perspective for the analysis of the present just as the present provides a point of viewing the entire course of past, present and future flow of events.  The pervasiveness of the either-or fracture of the course of change denies the statecraft analysts perspectives necessary for preparing plans for change of order politics.

Counting the existence of civilian rule in terms of years of the absence of the military from government is not a practical exercise when we do not know why.  Why is the military still in the barracks?  Are they now permanently in the barracks?

Are we dealing with taming rather than change of nature?  In spite of change in the policy of the African Union with respect to military rule, governments are still being toppled by coups.

The coups in Gambia, in Liberia and most recently in Guinea are coups by the other ranks.

These coups show the dissemination of capabilities for staging coups throughout the rank and file of the Armed and Security Forces.  The complexity of managing the affairs of state did not deter the disk jockey of Madagascar or the captain of logistics of Guinea.

In such perilous circumstances, interest in democracy and democratic government must go beyond the “Empire Day” celebration of “Democracy Day”.