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The Nigerian variant: What manner of democracy?

By Morenike Taire

After dousing the fire it had come under for threatening to disenfranchise any one not registered for the 2019 general elections at this time by extending the registration period by two weeks, Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, announced that it had registered another 23 political parties, bringing the total figure to 91.

We are still a growing democracy, and so extremism of any sort ought not to be seen strictly as extremism but rather as experimentation. For a nation as diverse and as complex as Nigeria is, extremism can sometimes be the order of the day in order to create impetus for growth and development.

Naturally, though, it would depend on the reason why we have 91 political parties. Is it because of representation and affirmative action? Are there ideological interests being represented by the new political parties that could not be identified in the pre-existing ones? Do we have parties focused on the environment, socialism; even religion?

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If the only impetus driving people to form and register political parties is the desire to expand the political space to improve opportunities for elective and selective positions, a situation has been created that is more complicated and undesirable than the one we have started with.

The number of registered political parties is just one of the factors challenging our claim to running a democratic system of government.

We are running a democracy that is centered not around the people and their well being, but around individuals and cult personalities- Saraki, Oshiomole, Dogara, Osinbajo, Kwakwanso, Okorocha, Tambuwal,    Akpabio, and dozens of others. Their every innuendo grabs the headlines and become the subject of fierce social media engagements until another one comes along. The recent horse trading between the parties has generated an inordinate amount of interest, as though it were not the same ruling class.

One international superstar in the non-profit arena who has also had public sector gigs even declared he was joining the presidential race, even though he had not finalized on which party to join.

The polity has become like the village wrestling arena, where the sportsmen take turns to aspire to touch one another’s backs to the ground, while spectators gather around to cheer or jeer. Gamesmanship has developed wings and flown out of the window while base instincts have been put on full display and enthroned.

The rule of law, the most important tenet upon which any healthy democracy must be built, has the least consideration in the scheme of things. The institutions which are to uphold the rule of law are at the edge of collapse, flogged into stupor by the twin lashes of poverty and greed. The judiciary is encumbered, because the bodies that are supposed to enforce its pronouncements are incapacitated by corruption and inadequate funding.

Our most common- and most feasible- excuse is that our democracy is still very young, and it is a foreign form of government. Every democracy in the world derives its principles from the original democracy of the United States, which has gone to great lengths to help stabilize nations which have shown commitment to this system. Translating the American democracy- which by the way is itself still evolving- into the homegrown one is like translating runway outfits into high street, for those who are familiar with the fashion industry. We could have had fun with all the experimenting and the creativity, except that our adaptation of democracy is morphing into something that bears little resemblance to democracy as it is currently known.

Indeed scholars have concluded that Nigeria does not currently practice democracy and probably has never done so. Rather, a mutant of an Oligarchy, Kakistocracy and Kleptocracy has evolved. Lately, there has been evidence that our system of government also exhibits strong elements of Patriarchy, evidenced by the top heavy representation of generations in our various levels of government. A name is yet to be coined for what this mutant really is.

One of our popular new generation pastors recently prophesied that a time will come in the history of Nigeria when all 109 senators would be former governors, a situation he regards as “scary”.What this pastor did not realize is that he did not need to be a soothsayer to see this coming.

While the electorates bicker, our system of governance is being finetuned such that the same sets of people by whatever garbs as well as their families will continue to recycle themselves in power in perpetuity. The civil ruling classes have completely bought over and subdued all the traditional ruling classes, subjecting them into purely ceremonial roles while controlling all the resources.

While the Jonathan National Conference of 2014? Addressed a vast range of important issues, it did not address in an exhaustive manner, our system of governance. If the Oligarchy, Kleptocracy    and Kakistocracy are left to continue unchecked, there is no saying for how long the long-suffering core of our nationhood will continue to hold.

Actually, there is nothing that says we cannot by ourselves evolve a system for governing our own affairs. The question to always be asked is, has it worked for our own interests?


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.