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The threat to democracy

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With a marathon of thoughtless defections across political parties and a gale of impeachments haunting political bigwigs ahead of the 2019 general elections, it is becoming apparent that a dark cloud is hovering over Nigeria. For those discerning enough to hear the unspoken, or decode the signs of the times, it is also obvious that Nigeria sits on a clear and impending danger.

In the last few weeks, the level of animosity among politicians leading to widespread defections, mutual mudslinging and violent exchanges, has been having its toll on the state of the country. As if a malevolent spirit has begun to traverse the country’s political landscape, there are suddenly renewed killings by the combined forces of Boko Haram, murderous herdsmen and cattle rustlers. Increasing economic hardship from a lethargic leadership and political insensitivity, as well as a seeming cluelessness emanating from situations running at cross-purposes, also buffet the Nigerian people. That political leaders and the ruling elite would be aloof in the face of the unfolding drama threatening Nigeria’s democracy is horrifying for the hapless masses.

Nigerians should be reminded that the 18-year journey of its renascent democracy has been a tortuous one. The price for that noble journey was paid for at a huge cost of the honour, lives and toil of well-meaning Nigerians who fought selflessly and relentlessly to wrest power from military autocracy.

Sadly, it seems those sacrifices are being laid to waste because the present experience suggests that power has been handed over to another set of mindless autocrats. Nigeria’s political leaders who are undeserving beneficiaries of democracy have so far demonstrated that they lack democratic temperament and are impervious to democratic culture. In retrospect, it is as if Nigerians have been shortchanged in the past 18 years. At no other time has this been made evident than now.

The quality of leadership so far has, at best, been appalling. The glaring absence of a cutting-edge road-plan to deliver the country from looming economic perdition, the defiance of the will of the collective and utter disregard for the predicament of a people at the mercy of all manners of insecurities, the propensity to grab power for its sake, the deliberate wickedness in reducing governance to mainly party interests, and the display of violence and money as instruments of statecraft, are pointers to imminent danger. Besides, many political office holders who were known to have been elected as simple ordinary men and women, have, upon getting to the precincts of power, transformed themselves into self-acclaimed all important citizens with profligate lifestyles of flamboyance, haughtiness and disregard for their electors. What is worse is that questionable characters, who have brought moral opprobrium to their offices as public office holders are the ones setting the roadmap for 2019 and also godfathering cronies to cover up their mess. This is injurious to the political destiny of this country. It is unacceptable.

Apart from the periodic official reprimands that come from the country’s judicial council, all arms of government, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, all tiers of government are embroiled in this gravitation towards anarchy and selfishness, all of which put democracy in harm’s way.

The Platonic hang-over that portrays democracy as the worst of all lawful government, owing to its propensity to equalise people’s right to choose, is encouraging executive impunity and parliamentary rascality. And this seems a phenomenon sweeping the whole world.

Thus, even in established democratic governments and newer states, strong and popular men are emerging who think autocracy addresses problems quicker and easier. Is it a case that Nigeria is sheepishly drifting towards this wind of global change?

Given the contradictions playing out in the polity, Nigerians need to pose critical questions about the possibility of an alternative. Since the political space is occupied largely by persons of dubious character, is there an alternative to the current state of governance? Do Nigerians have the capacity to use the ballot box to bring credible people into government? Is there any indication that the sanctity of peoples’ votes would be respected? Are Nigerians even willing to make this happen? When the country’s political structure is considered, would it be true to say that it is inherently weak? And is the current lawlessness a manifestation of this inherent weakness?

Owing to the lack of concern for the people and even disdain for their wellbeing, it is obvious that the masses are mere cannon fodders for politicians’ self-aggrandizement. As politicians carry on with their calculation of perfidy, little or no consideration is given to the plight of the Nigerian. In the unfolding drama of intrigues and bickering, the people are mere spectators. Those who are owed salaries are still languishing in penury. Others who take laws into their hands are carrying on with shocking impunity. There are more bad roads defacing the landscape than before, less healthcare, more carnage and increasingly low premium on human life and dignity. Now, people seem better adjusted to a life of suffering and more readily receptive to a life of corruption. Succumbing to the neglect of the state, people have become their own municipal governments; they are alienated while they are being used. And this alienation of the people has informed the thinking that there are two Nigerians: that of politicians and that of the ordinary people. The people, whose participation is at the core of democracy, are far removed from its protection and benefits.

All these call to question the real character and nature of the Nigerian politician and starkly present Nigeria’s political leaders as the most devastating natural disaster of the country. This is a country abundant in natural and human resources; one that aggregates the best of professionals and hardworking people, and devoid of such natural disasters that ravage and decimate lives and properties in other climes, yet thrown into the dens of the most rapacious and warped-thinking ruling elite.

This country does not deserve the damage meted out by its rulers. Those who understand democracy by its Lincolnian definition as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, understand that political power is held in trust by leaders for the people. Whilst there are a few genuine politicians in the ocean of political jobbers and criminals, these few genuine politicians, endangered by the gangs of predators and scavengers of power, must speak out against the flight of reason and common sense. They need to be counted by exposing the inanities of political jobbers, and by taking sides with the people.

As this newspaper once stated on the search for the Nigerian leader, the problem of leadership does not rest with public office holders alone. The vast majority of the people who see themselves as followers also have a role to play. The surest way for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. And truly, Nigeria finds itself in this state of threatened democracy partly because those who call themselves the followers or the masses have elected to be cowed and repeatedly emasculated by self-seeking charlatans who have attained the pinnacle of political leadership by ignoble, dishonest and dishonourable means. The drama of buffoonery and charlatanism has reached its climax. This country must be brought back from the precipice.


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