Nigerian democractic ethos
By Theo Adebowale
Friday 22 February 2019, a presenter on a local radio station opened his programme by calling attention of listeners to the fact that general elections would hold the following day, Saturday . He screamed; God, elections begin tomorrow. Let there be no war, no bloodshed, no arson. He meant business. He interceded passionately and admonished his listeners to engage in fervent, effectual prayer to avert war. The incident has since kept me worrying about the Nigerian moral ideas and attitudes to politics and democracy. On the air waves, discussants and participants are so passionate, and several times unreasonable. One participant on African Independent Television representing professional friends of a candidate, came up with his contribution this way.
“I met President Muhammadu Buhari a few years back. We discussed and I requested for his GSM number promising to send him text messages instead of bothering him with calls. Buhari told me he does not know how to use SMS facilities… this President is very desperate.” There was another person in the discussion panel that claimed to be close to PMB. He claimed to have with him evidence that the claim was false. Certain supporters of political parties and candidates can do anything but the reasonable, to defend and market candidates. The rumour mill is full of fake news, slanderous claims and even violence to compel others to adopt their own candidates.
Ethnic based organisations do not only market one of their own for political office. They pushed until Federal character was adopted in the statutes. They have successfully integrated the zoning system into conventions of political parties and the constitution. A good thing to ensure representativeness in public space but in so far as it does not diminish merit. Soccer teams are said to be more concerned about accommodating regional, ethnic, and even religious diversities than how to constitute a winning team. When the Nigerian is making a point for his preference, you would wonder how absurd and ridiculous he could be, it does not matter whether he is an attorney, a professor or a cleric. One was trying to sell a Presidential candidate by asserting that: it is better to vote a man that would steal national resources than giving your ballot to a man that would kill you. Fortunately for him, there was no one on ground to let him know that the thief cometh but to steal, to kill and to destroy. In an attempt to discredit the incumbent President, the dummy was sold that he was Fulani, sympathetic to his kins the criminal herdsmen on rampage. The leading contender emerged to be another Fulani moslem, the dummy could no longer fly. Then the prophets and the seers came to the fore. They forgot that it is when it came from the LORD, that a prophesy comes to pass since He is not a man that would repent or the son of man that He would lie!
The political class is another thing entirely. While politicians elsewhere are busy brainstorming to improve on performance, update their party constitutions and platforms, the Nigerian politicians particularly of the former ‘largest party in Africa’ is strategizing to compromise or discredit the Electoral Commission, its officials and the governmental process. Some politicians are busy day and night to increase proceeds of corruption and perfect the process of fraud. It will interest you to know that more than one year before the general elections, the spate of kidnapping, assassination and herdsmen vandalism was very high, the crescendo of crime and sabotage was deafening. After the Presidential elections, is the diminuendo! Elsewhere, scientists, professionals and researchers are required to enrich the political manifesto and package candidates, in our own dear country, marabouts, ritualists and hooligans are the major ‘experts’ behind campaign and electioneering. Party chieftains target the machinery of government to undermine and sabotage. The temple of justice must be desecrated, they prefer a white washed sepulcher. In the face of global recession, their sinister mission is easily accomplished. Even a progressive politician is seemingly adopting the strategies of the ‘unfaithful servant’ by providing a safe haven for saboteurs of public agencies. Looters are known to be generous to any turn coat that would provide them shelter on the evil day when the times suggest that a day of reckoning may dawn at any time.
Some historians are quick to point it to us that Rome was not built in a day. They remind us that the American democracy has taken centuries to come this far, and it is by no means perfect. We want to counsel those who rationalize underdevelopment this way to drop all the gadgets of civilization. They should drop all the social amenities and products of technology so that we return to the simple life the Americans, Europeans and Asians have passed through in order to make ‘gradual’ development. In other words, if we easily enjoy the products of science, technology and modern economy, we must rise and comply with the ethos of democratic politics. If South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and other smaller African countries are blending with democratic norms and their politicians are employing the spirit of sportsmanship in elections, miscreants who are having field day in our polity, must be relegated. Those who believe in vote buying, ballot box snatching, assassination and arson as strategies for electoral victory must be retrenched forthwith. They are the same characters who empty our natural treasury, reduce citizens to hewers of wood and fetchers of water, the same brotherhood that undermines the economy so that we may depend solely on their ‘goodwill and philanthropy’ in order to feed. They believe the elections must be messy so they can manipulate the system to fulfill their selfish ambition.
There are millions of Nigerian men and women that believe in Nigeria, that can make it work, that have what it takes. Such people must be given recognition. Recognition comes when we begin to remove the criminals in power and put them where they belong, in jail, and rehabilitation centres. That would serve as a deterrent to their co travelers and apprentices. The unwieldy population of political parties must be pruned since it is now clear that some of them are dens of criminals. Let us make out two political parties with clear cut ideologies where members would have to be socialized, disciplined and mentored. Political parties that are a snare to democracy are dysfunctional and can only facilitate underdevelopment. Nigerian people as electorate and citizens must begin to cultivate the moral ideas and attitudes that facilitate development, promote a sane community and deliver the good life. In it, there would be opportunities for self fulfillment and only philosophers would seek to be king.