By Tony Momoh
I am not the coiner of the word ignorancy.Â Bishop David Oyedepo is. Yes, I have come across the word ignorance, and have met hundreds and thousands who show how ignorant they are on issues of import.Â Democracy is one issue of import and millions of us in this country are ignorant of it.Â
So, when I saw that word, ignorancy, as a description of the stage we are at in our practice of democracy, I pounced on it as the other side, the very, very dirty side of the practice. On May 29, we were 11 years old in the return of democracy at the level of political governance.
And in one sentence in this column, in rounding off what I was saying about our wanting to establish political parties by legislative fiat, I wished us journey mercies in walking the Democracy Highway. But how well have we practised democracy?Â Or, having given the democracy dog a bad name, how have we hanged it in the last 11 years?
The how is what drew me to David Oyedepoâ€™s description of what we have done with the system of government we call democracy.Â Let me clear the air.Â Â We have known David Oyedepo more as the General Overseer of Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, aka Winners Chapel than that he is now known as Presiding Bishop of David Oyedepo Ministries International.
I have never met him in person but I have read some of his books.Â I have also never been to his church which I am told is a structure to behold.Â But I have written to him, as I have to at least 30 other top religious leaders in Nigeria drawing their attention to the promise Nigeria is in world affairs.
I have said Nigeria does not only have a future, but also that it has a mission, and that we should be part of helping to unfold that mission.Â My zeroing in on religious leaders has been deliberate because they are closer to sensing the gathering storm that is forcefully reordering world events, imposing solutions by undermining the answers we have confidently and stubbornly depended on for years.Â Unfolding the mission needs and demands a lot of work.Â There is no divine ordinance that can work here on earth outside the laws that operate on earth.
Oh yes, I wished us journey mercies on the Democracy Train RideÂ when we marked 11 years on May 29, but I will be deceiving myself to accept that we haveÂ been practising democracy the way those who introduced it to us are practising it.
If you find support in what you have been saying for years, wonâ€™t you be happy, excited?Â That is why I am happy with David Oyedepo because of what he said about this democracy thing when he was interviewed by Tell Magazine in their issue of May 24.
Hear him and tell me if you can fault his argument:Â â€œDemocracy cannot thrive on ignorance. Democracy is an ideological system.Â So where there are no ideologies, you cannot have a successful democracy.Â I am sorry, what we have here is not democracy.
This is ignorancy that thrives purely on ignorance.â€Â Â Â Â Last week, I raised the point whether we have imbibed the values that go with democracy in the light of the fact that we have been through many years of military rule since they intervened in our civil rule arrangement in 1966.Â I said the birth of political parties through military fiat cannot be democratic if they emerged by legislative fiat.
And some who reacted to the piece seem to be insistent that we can and should give birth to two parties by legislative fiat.Â And they quoted America and its two main parties.Â True, there are two main political parties in the United States, the Democratic Party (born 1828) and the Republican Party (1854). But there are minor parties like Constitution Party (1992), Green Party (1996), and Libertarian Party (1971).
There are also micro parties that are active. I counted 22, listed by Wikipedia, from the Prohibition Party (1869), Communist Party of the United States of America (1919), Socialist Workers Party (1938), through the Peace and Freedom Party (1967), the American Party (1968), Reform Party of the USA (1995) to the America First Party (2002),Â United States Marijuana Party (2002),Â Workers Party (2003), Unity Party of America (2004), Boston Tea Party (2006), Independence Party of America (2007), Modern Whig Party (2008) and Objectivist Party (2008).
I counted 32 inactive parties, from the Socialist Labour Party of America (1876) and the World Socialist Party of the United States (1916), through the Workers World Party (1959) and the Freedom Socialist Party (1966) to the American Conservative Party (2008) and the American Populist Party (2009).
There are regional parties, and I counted 10 unaffiliated with national parties. Because parties are born and they die, I saw a list of 65 parties, from Federalist Party (1789 â€“ 1820), Democratic-Republican Party (1792 â€“ 1824) through the Peoples Party (1971 â€“ 1976), Looking Back Party (1984 â€“ 1996) and Grassroots Party (1986 â€“ 2004), to the Veterans Party (2003 â€“ 2008) and Christian Freedom Party (2004).
Because there is this freedom to do what you like as long as you do not extend your blows to the nose of a bystander, parties have been formed for reasons that border on the frivolous.Â I counted 19 such parties in the United Kingdom and five in the United States. In the United States, you have the Guns and Dope Party, the Surprise Party, and the Straight Talking American Government Party (STAG).Â In the United Kingdom, there are the Fancy Dress Party, the Dog Lovers Party and the Miss Great Britain Party founded in 2008 and whose candidates are mostly women who have entered the Miss Great Britain beauty contest.
I repeat, if it is democracy we want, let us start to practise it. In other climes, it is a service. For 11 years, we have not served.Â We have been ruthlessly colluding to share a national cake we refuse to be part of baking, organising ourselves into groups to do so, and mindlessly ignoring the welfare and security of the citizens which is the reason for the presence of governments in society.
In regard to political parties, I say, let the two parties we want evolve. With time, they will, they must.Â You canâ€™t decree them into existence.Â If you do, that would not be democracy.Â Oyedepo says it is ignorancy. I agree.