Tuesday Platform

June 16, 2009

Microanalysis of Nigerian democracy: Anniversary imprecations

By John Moyibi Amoda
THE reflections marking 10 years of democracy in Nigerian are by definition the microanalysis of Nigerian democracy.

They address the epochal event in the corporate history of societies in Nigeria, namely the events of despotic rule the spoil of conquest.

First was the despotic rule of British colonial government and administration, followed by the despotic rule of the Nigerian military governments and administration.

Independence from the British Empire on October 1, 1960 ushered in the First Republic of civilian rule.

From 1966 to the present, civilian rule has suffered rude and crude interregna of Nigerian Military Government.  Until 1999 political administration of Nigerian society could be said to be the interruption of long spells of despotic rule by short periods of civilian rule.

The reflections in the mass media on 10 years of civilian rule are informed by apprehensions about the present.  These apprehensions can be phrased as questions.

Are we in a transition between a system of military administrations interrupted by civilian rule and a system of stabilised civilian rule?

Are we in a transition between military and civilian rule made possible by the democratic and constitutional restructure of the Nigerian political system with a purpose of entrenching civilian rule and deligitimising military rule?

Are we in a transition between military and civilian rule effected through the constitutionalist reform of the Armed and Security Forces in Nigeria?  These three questions address the present as a transition.

Transitions by definition are periods of change in which a present system is being replaced by another in a moment of time in which both systems co-exist, one in ascendance, the other in decline, yet in the moment of time fraught with the possibility that which is in ascendance can give way to that which appears to be in decline.

And this is the point: that transitions present two possible readings of facts – the first reading being the description of change of systems; the second reading being the confusing of contestations on change of systems with the facts of change of systems.  Which is the case with Nigeria?

We must therefore first address the fact that Nigeria presently exist in a period and context of transition.

It exist in a context of the transition of the decolonisation of the British Empire, and it exist as Nigeria in the period of transition between the system of military rule and the system of civilian rule.

Periods of existence are determined by context of existence.  Contexts must first change before present periods are replaced by emerging periods.

The Nigerian military order could become so quickly the predominant agency power after the emergence of Nigeria as an independent country because Nigeria existed within the context of transition of change in the British Colonial Empire.

The empire was an institutionalization of state, polity and economy on the basis of conquest.  The provinces of the empire constituted by the metropolitan citizenry and the subjects in the colonies were institutionalised as sectors of the empire.

The colonial security forces were not destroyed by the departing British colonial administrators.

The management and control of these forces were officially transferred through a process of tutelage to Nigerian officers trained by the British government in their military academics exemplified by Sandhurst.

Reform of the British Empire contained within it the possibility of its escalation into a revolutionary change of the British Empire.

To avert this possibility the British post-colonial party and government have managed the change of empire so as to avert the development of reform into revolution.

Thus, the sectoral structure of the British Empire has been maintained while the relations between the imperial citizenry and subjects have been reformed.  The structure of the British Imperial Society was its economy sectorally organised.

The British State secured the British Imperial society while the British colonial government provided internal security for the sectors of the Imperial Economy.  Nigeria was a sector of the British imperial society secured by the British colonial government.

The Armed and Security forces in Nigeria were agencies of the colonial government.  Independence from British colonial rule did not entail a revolutionary restructure of the British imperial society – it involved only the reform of its administration.

The juridical expression of independence was the change of the administrators of the British imperial economy was the sectoral structure of the society was not affected.

Thus as long as independent Nigeria was sustained as a sector of the British imperial economy, even nationalist expectations of the Nigerian independent administrative class could be contained within the context of reform politics and as intra-Nigerian pressure group politics.

As the cocoa farmer went about producing cocoa; as the growers of oil palm went about producing their palm oil and palm kernel; as the grower of cotton and groundnuts followed their colonial calling to produce for export, these activities maintained without coercion the British imperial economy under the Nigerian administrators of the institutions of British colonial government and authority.

The colonial economic activities maintained the imperial structure of the colony through the caste of economic roles.

The colonial social structure consisted of (1) producers for export (2) the producers for the sustainance of producers for exports (3) the vast majority of the rural subsistence producers and their complementary artisans.

Over a colonial society thus structured reigned the Nigerian independence administrative class consisting of (a) the post-colonial government (b) the Nigerianised colonial armed and security services (c) the Nigerianised colonial administration.

The above is the structure, the frame that was dressed up as a new nation of international status separate and equal to that of Great Britain.

The reconstitution of the British Empire into Great Britain and colonies granted their independence constituted this transition between orders – that is the changing of the Order of British Empire into the Order of the Commonwealth.

The political history of British post-colonial countries began with this structural identity, the strategic difference between these post-colonial countries is to be found in the nature of their independence politics and their independence politicians.

They all  began their post-colonial existence within the context of transitions between orders.  For India the transition has been shortened – for sNigeria we are still in this transition.

Continues next week