Democracy, federalism and the Nigerian lie
In these trying times, it is very necessary for all Nigerians to reflect on and interrogate the notions and practice of democracy, federalism, and what is essentially a fundamental act of deception in the Constitution of their Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Sadly all three arms of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – both at the state and national levels, have failed the Nigerian people in tragic proportions. The very basis of the people’s co-existence is severely threatened by the monsters of corruption, increased poverty, insecurity, lack of compassion for the poor and inefficient government.
As a people, Nigerians rose in the twilight months of the Goodluck Jonathan administration to say ‘no’ to a warped trajectory to nation building. Tragically, in a Sisyphean, almost surrealistic manner, the hopes that the electioneering exercise and the results of the 2015 elections raised, have been dashed.
Today, a cycle of misery is what the nation is caught in. The government is a thief. Government produces thieves and thieves thrive in the government or governments of Nigeria. There are few, if any, men of honour in the political space which has become the playground of rogues and the most despicable. The Presidency has graduated from just being slow and sometimes clueless to being inept, completely detached from everyday reality. The legislature has tragically cut for itself the image of a rampaging institution, steep in enriching its members with money from the treasury at the expense of suffering citizens. Leaders now do everything except represent the people who elected them, in truth and in deed.
Indeed, despite the improved work ethic in the current dispensation, the legislators, on account of their greed and scant appreciation of the privilege conferred on them to simply serve, have earned, like those in sessions before now, the description ‘legislooters.’
The citadel of justice has not been spared. The nation’s judiciary has stained its fingers with filthy lucre, reveling in bribe taking and selling judgment to the highest bidders. Some judges live like mafia dons in picturesque architectural masterpieces, advertise their sumptuous lifestyles and blatantly drive exotic cars that are proceeds of crime.
How did Nigeria slide into this valley of anomie? For, this beloved country had not always been like this. Democracy, ideally defined as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, has been re-defined by the ways of its practitioners in Nigeria. Nigeria’s democracy has been distorted to mean a government of the rulers for the benefit of the rulers and their cronies, and against the people. Essentially, respect for the sanctity of the vote has been jettisoned. Rigging and fraudulence in different forms have become institutionalised. Money politics have become the order of the day. The egalitarian principles of equality of all, access to the good things of life, and right to happiness for all have been seriously eroded. Democracy, bastardised as it is, has been deployed to create two distinct classes of people – those who have access to the common wealth and live in stinking, insulting opulence, and the people, the real owners of the wealth, who are left to feed from the crumbs from the table of the elite.
Nowhere is Nigeria’s democracy so reprehensibly distorted as in the party system. The political parties are not guided by any profound ideology or thought. There are declared commitments to education, wealth and job creation, industrialisation and economic frameworks but no will or desire to implement anything. It is all about power for its own sake!
Nigeria once had political parties that could be differentiated by their focal points of interest. Progressives and conservatives found their way into parties that met their philosophical thoughts. These days, like the proverbial rolling stone, politicians gather no moss; sheep and wolves co-habit as long as their individual interests are met and the nation can thereafter go to the dogs! In Nigeria’s lost days of glory, parties were funded by ordinary citizens with their token contributions because those citizens subscribed to the ideologies or ideas of those political parties. These days, a few powerful thieves loot the treasury and provide funds for the parties.
They then become the owners, the leaders or the godfathers at whose behest the nation exists, at whose say-so democracy thrives and at whose pleasure people hold offices.
Sadly, today, all the major political parties in Nigeria are tarred with the brush of moral philandering and empty posturing.Although the Nigerian state is a federation in notion, in practice, unitarianism, which the years of military misadventure in politics unfortunately bequeathed, is still entrenched. Thus, Nigeria is neither really a federal system nor a unitary one, thereby living a lie!
The command and control system, reminiscent of military rule, still determines the relationship between the Federal Government and the states. Nowhere in the world is this practised. Nigeria still endures the inefficiency of a centralised Police Command. The States are precluded from creating their own wealth and security systems as states do not have control over the natural resources in their territories. The Federal Government seizes 55% of the nation’s financial resources, fritters away the national patrimony on a wasteful and inefficient federal bureaucracy and intrudes into the geographical space of states in the guise of a questionable national unity. It appropriates to itself the sole power to do all things, including building schools and trunk A roads and generating power. Yet it neither generates nor distributes enough power to homes and industries.
Citizens have not been given enough support to fulfill their goals in life and the nation is held down by a false federal arrangement that encourages indolence and dependence on one resource.
Nigeria operates a Constitution that prescribes the number of local governments that each state should have. In spite of the obvious injustice that has dictated the number of such units in the different states. Yet, the prefects in the different states, because the falsehood suits their empire mentality, have continued as if all is well. When they kick, they do so only for their ego to be boosted and for their private narrow view to be seen as a worldview. Let it be said to the whole world: ALL IS NOT WELL with Nigeria as it is!
The net effect is that the Federal Government, as currently constituted, has become a liability, an albatross on the neck of Nigerians.Advertising this unashamedly is the fundamental lie which is thematic to the letter and spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 whose opening sentence says: ‘WE THE PEOPLE of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Having firmly and solemnly resolved…’
This is a lie!
At no time did Nigerians as a people agree on the terms of the 1999 Constitution. It is fraudulent. And that fraud must end now!Having been established on a fraudulent premise, its practitioners have lived the spirit of the pretensions, of course to their own advantage. When a nation deceives itself and lives in illusion, it is bound to crawl in the cesspit of moral turpitude.
The time has come for all Nigerians to cast a deep introspection into their national life and ethic with a view to charting a new course. The savage attack on the national patrimony by a few persons cannot build a healthy nation. There is a great dissonance between the established, time-tested paths to greatness and what Nigeria currently practices. One of the consequences is that education has been distorted. The nation’s cultural values have been thrown to the dogs. The youth wake up every morning with no meaning to life. Millions have even been denied the beauty and vibrancy of youth. Millions too have been denied the opportunity to improve themselves. No nation that wants to really realise its full potentials deliberately or by default ties up the hands of its youthful population as Nigeria does today.
Of course, Nigeria needs men of character, men of honour in the mould of the founding fathers of the nation. Nigeria needs incorruptible judges, judicial icons as the nation once had in the courts. Nigeria needs politicians who are ready to say ‘enough is enough’ and are ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the nation and humanity.
The way to go is do away with the lie of a political structure currently being run. The current configuration holds down the country. Nigerians must restructure the country, both politically and economically. The economic gains of a restructured Nigeria will be beneficial to all. It will ensure maximum use of the resources by the constituent parts of the Federation. It will encourage competition and broaden the space for mass participation. It will lead to better management of the resources. It will reduce corruption in all spheres of life including the sacred Temples of Justice.
Nigerians need to create a Nigeria where individuals can find fulfillment in life even as they tread the narrow path of honesty, hard work and sincerity. They need to create a nation where justice reigns and no man is oppressed, where merit can elevate to the top and the content of a man’s or woman’s character is enough passport to enjoying the benefits of a prosperous federal society. This is our chance. Nigerians must save Nigeria. Now!