IT had become evident during the tenure of Professor Maurice Iwu as Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission that the responsibility for midwifing democracy in Nigeria had been vested in the office of the Chairman of the Commission.
President Jonathan had bought into the understanding of how democracy could be established sustainably in Nigeria- hence his high profiling of what was involved in the choice of a successor to Professor Maurice Iwu. Professor Jega as the Chairman was chosen to ensure a safe delivery of democracy in Nigeria. This was expected of him nationally and internationally.
Johny Carson of the US State Department was thus quoted in Thisday of February 25, 2010: “Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, had performed poorly over the past decade and has not served the interest of Nigeria well… I stressed that Nigeria’s next Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for April 2011 must be credible. They must be free, fair and transparent and they must be a significant improvement over the country’s 2007 presidential elections which were deeply embarrassing and deeply flawed”.
The ‘April 2011’ elections have been executed by Jega’s INEC and the evaluation of the performance of INEC has been widely commended both at home and abroad. Why is then an election judged to be free, fair, transparent and a vastly significant improvement over the 2007 presidential elections concluded with post-elections mass violence whose costs are yet to be fully accounted for? Surely the question of the prospects of democracy in Nigeria cannot be sufficiently answered by the performance of INEC, alone; INEC’s role may be significant in securing democracy in Nigeria; whether such role is necessary or sufficient entails a complex appreciation of politics in Nigeria and of Nigerian politics in particular. This series on the prospects of democracy in Nigeria is a contribution to this strategic analysis.
The Nigerian Political Science Association has set the ball rolling by convening a round table on Political Parties and the Future of Democracy in Nigeria. This roundtable itself needs to be contextualized in Nigeria’s history of military rule.
The conveners of the roundtable implicitly assume the establishment in Nigeria of democracy however defined, hence the concern with its sustainability and institutionalization. Is such assumption realistic? Given the fact that democracy is defined as multi-party electoral civilian governance in Nigeria’s post-colonial order and that this democracy has been sustained through three elections, a record in itself, can it therefore be asserted that democracy as the system of elected office holders is now firmly rooted?
The answer cannot be that the order of electoral governance is now institutionalized because it has not been aborted by military rule. Political parties in Nigeria are the civilian structure for electoral governance and the first act of the military in government is the abolition of the constitution, the political parties and the sack of the legislatures at the three levels of government.
That this democracy has not yet been truncated by coups does not imply that the subordination of the military to the political parties has been achieved and constitutionalised. Thus, one perspective for appreciating the future of party electoral governance in Nigeria is addressing the political parties efforts to effect the subordination of the military and security forces to their command and control.
Thus phrased, inquiries into the future of political parties and democracy in Nigeria are operationally inquiry into aspects of the investments of political parties in state formation politics. Is there any party, therefore, in the pantheon of Nigerian political parties that has as its fundamental democracy-statecraft the subordination of the military to its command and control?
On July 31, 2010, Vanguard on Saturday carried on its front page the statement of a General of the Nigerian Army that puts our comments in the Nigerian context of the contestation for power between the Nigerian military and Nigeria’s private sector political parties. His statement was an explanation of “why we haven’t aborted this democracy”.