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Wanted: An autocratic brand of governance

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Democracy is not meant for Nigeria. At least not the brand of democracy we are currently practicing. We should stop deceiving ourselves. The return to democracy in 1999 is one of the most stupid things we have done, because we did not amend the constitution to design a suitable form of government before that return. This brand of democracy is not designed for us. Indeed, democracy is not suitable for us. Only an autocratic for of governance can move us forward and bring the rapid development we so desperately need. Each time I say this, people try to shut me up. They wonder why I should even consider such a retrogressive practice. They believe with religious zeal that autocratic rule is primitive, backward and oppressive. They think democracy means freedom and liberty. It is the most ideal form of government in the world. They say one man cannot claim to have all knowledge and wisdom to decide for 180 million people. They also say the military is even more corrupt than the civilians. Some even promote the bizarre argument that the worst civilian government is better than the best military government. I disagree. This ‘me too’ brand of democracy isn’t getting us anywhere.

We have been hoodwinked and brainwashed into believing this hype about American democracy. They have deceived us into taking it as the Holy Grail. I believe that by now, our eyes should be open and we should see the scandalous deceit in it all. Because of this democracy, we have lost everything that makes for glorious nationhood. We have lost our national brand identity. We have lost our oneness and unity. We have lost our social values. We have lost our common humanity. We have also lost ground as many nations who gained independence about the same time as us, have left us behind. Why? Because we believed all the hype about democracy and hounded our military rulers out of office.

Let me begin with our brand identity. Because you cannot become anybody if you don’t know who you are, or where you are coming from. The army knows all about identity. Under their watch, our national identity was accorded due respect and safeguarded. National Brand identity elements such as the flag and coat of arms were respected. But today, our national flag is so denigrated it is accorded less respect than the old pieces of newspaper used to wrap akara at bus stops. It is only within military barracks that the strict tradition of lowering the flag at 6pm is still being observed. Under military rule there was unity. An Igbo man was made governor of Kano State and it was not a problem. A Kaduna man was made governor of Lagos State and it was not an issue. We didn’t see tribe and religion in the primitive and retrogressive manner that is now the order of the day. During the late 60s and early 70s, national buildings were designed with our brand identity in sharp focus and had elements of our cultural identity infused in them. All of that have since been eroded and replaced with bland structures of marble and glass. Let me give just one example. When the National Arts Theatre was built, we didn’t have protests and loud complaints about its raison d’etre. More than forty years later, it has remained one of the most iconic structures in this country. The artistic embellishments on that building remain a national treasure. How many such structures have we built under democratic rule? When Obasanjo wanted to build an ordinary stadium in Abuja the protests were deafening! People said it was not a priority. That is democracy for you. Everybody has an opinion about what is more important and what we should be spending money on. We have lost all sense of who we are as a people. We have been doing ‘follow follow’ without opening our eyes, ears and minds.

As I write this piece, I am trying to book a trip to Asaba. I was shocked to be informed that there are no flights to Asaba on my preferred date. This is the capital city of Delta State, one of Nigeria’s major oil producing states. Under a normal situation, this region should be one of the busiest economic hubs in West Africa with flights landing and taking off by the minute. This is just one of the shameful and unacceptable realities of our nation today, under our brand of democracy where development has remained a fleeting illusion. For any Third World country to elevate itself and transform to a First World status, it must rely on a form of governance most suited for its people and which project the national identity. I am not aware of any such transformation having taken place under a democratic system such as we are trying to practice in this country. We would be much better off, under an autocratic system.

Under this brand of democracy, the people become their own greatest enemy and the system is rigged to protect only the interest of a powerful minority. A man can steal billions of naira from the national treasury and engage a multitude of Senior Advocates to defend him, while also buying the Judge. The case may drag on for years and eventually he goes free to enjoy his loot. This is why no big fish has been caught in the anti-corruption net. Even in the United States, a powerful minority under the aegis of the NRA is holding an entire nation hostage at gunpoint to protect selfish interest. And it is still possible to lose the popular vote and win the election!

The idea that democracy protects the interest of the majority is a hoax and in fact the biggest scam of the 20th Century. We often compare ourselves with modern nations like the UAE, Singapore and Malaysia, but how many of them have achieved development practicing democracy? Meanwhile, China is about to pass a law that removes the limit of two terms for their leader. The White House and a lot of what makes America great were built with slave labour. That same White House was presented to us as the symbol of democracy and we bought it.

The way forward for us as a nation is to retrace our steps and reaffirm our identity. We must open our eyes and minds and design a form of governance that works for us as a people. We cannot naively agree that what works for other countries will certainly work for us. It is obvious that the freedom being offered under the democratic system does more harm than good. That is why we have militancy and terrorism waxing stronger. These agents, rather than being eliminated are getting amnesty and red carpet reception at the Presidential Villa for talks and negotiation. President Jonathan even admitted that some members of his kitchen cabinet were sponsors of Boko Haram! All in the name of democracy and the right to self-determination! The inherent flaw in the democratic system is that while the majority may have their say, the powerful and selfish minority will always have their way.

• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.


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