Democracy is quite simply a system where the people elect their leaders at every level in free and fair elections. The most important and symbolic aspect of democracy is thus the ability to freely elect the leaders by the people which also represents the most significant difference between democracy and other forms of government. Without this essential ingredient, democracy ceases to exist.
Since the ancient Greeks pioneered the modern art of democracy, it has triumphed against other systems of government and become the global model. By its very nature in which leaders emerge and can be removed only through the vote of the people, democracy no doubt better guarantees the responsiveness of leaders to the needs of their people.
Nigeria pretends to be a democracy, but even by a layman’s definition of the basic ideals of democracy, it is obvious that the democratic process begun in 1999, after decades of military rule, is nothing but a scam. 11 years after, Nigerians of all stripes are reeling in disappointment as they live through a 419 democracy that has turned out to be the most visionless and corrupt in the nation’s chequered history. While the illegitimate so called leaders or rather “lootocrats” continue to bandy the false label of a democracy, in reality it has been more a clone of military regimes where the usurpers of power have used the apparatus of the state, complemented by godfathers and other enablers to deliberately and routinely rig elections and impose pre-selected candidates at every level of government.
The fraudulent system that pretends to be a democracy has in the last 11 years, unleashed an unconscionable and shameless bunch of unelected criminals at every level of governance. True to type, they have gone on to undertake the greatest looting spree in the nation’s history. 11 years after and with earnings of more than N34 trillion or $350 billion courtesy of an unprecedented oil boom, there is absolutely nothing to show for the record earnings. The most basic necessities of life such as roads, pipe borne water, electricity, functional hospitals etc are simply non-existent.
Prior to 1999, the military had ruled for decades and Nigerians had campaigned ceaselessly for a return to democracy, believing that democracy would provide lasting solutions to the problems of endemic corruption, chronic unemployment, poverty, absence of critical infrastructure such as roads, power and long festering ethnic and religious divisions. After a long arduous and exhausting struggle, the return of democracy in 1999 heralded much hope. That hope has since been killed by subsequent events as outlined below.
The Practice of Democracy In Breach:
The so called democracy has turned out to be a continuation of quasi military rule actualised through a system where candidates are selected and rigged into office without any regards for the voting public. The only difference between this bastardisation of democracy and military rule; is that this time the beneficiaries of the usurpation of power through the back door are in civilian garb.
The military had long been blamed for corruption, but since 1999, the scale and scope of looting by the civilian regimes at every level have broken new records. The present civilian administration has looted in just 10 years almost as much as was looted in previous decades of misrule. A recent report by economic confidential; see link: http://www.economicconfidential.com/x/index.php/facts-a-figures/378 indicated that due to the largest oil boom in the nation’s history, Nigeria has earned N34 trillion or $350 billion in just ten years. In spite of this colossal sum, there is absolutely nothing to show for it as Nigerians are in ever greater deprivation and poverty than at any other time in history. To make matter worse, the EFCC created to fight corruption has since turned out to be an instrument used to witch-hunt opponents or critics of the government while protecting the vast criminal enterprise of government looters-supporters.
Whatever the misgivings against military rule, it is now obvious that they fared well in keeping insecurity appreciably low when compared to the present civilian regime whose era has unleashed an unprecedented level of insecurity in the nation. The civilian administration has never considered it important to address chronic unemployment, poverty and other socio-economic issues. It is also indicted for the massive proliferation of arms, as arms that are imported and distributed to thugs by unscrupulous politicians for the purposes of election rigging are not retrieved after such elections.
The volatile mix of millions of unemployed youths and the easy availability of arms has led to an increase in insecurity. Unlike the military era when criminals were swiftly convicted in special tribunals and publicly executed as a deterrent to others, the present civilian administration has no deterrence against crime. Convictions and executions even for the most vicious criminals have been unheard of since 11 years of civil rule giving criminals a free run. The police under the watch of the present civilian administration are more expert in setting up extortionist check-points and killing innocent Nigerians for N20 than in catching criminals.
For many decades, cries of marginalisation, domination, injustice and ethnic cleansing have rent the air. Increasingly, there was a clamour for a sovereign national conference as a means of dialogue to resolve these issues and enthrone true federalism. The coming of the civilian administration in 1999 brought some hope which has since been dashed. Rather than abate, tribalism has increased. Power struggle among different ethnic groups has intensified and ethnic-religious violence has broken new records. Sharia riots alone killed more than 10,000 people and other ethno-religious conflicts since then have killed over 5000 people. There has been no sovereign national conference or genuine dialogue to address the many critical issues of nationhood. Nigeria’s steady drift to the precipice has accelerated since the advent of the present civilian administration.
Absence of Infrastructure:
Nigeria has made enough money since the advent of the present civilian administration courtesy of the sustained oil boom to build new roads-bridges across the nation and upgrade all existing federal roads, build new schools-hospitals and upgrade existing ones, build power stations and dams across the nation, build railway lines and terminals across the nation, build designated industrial parks across the nation to maximize capacity for small and medium scale businesses, build 6 new cities in the 6 zones as a strategy to decongest Lagos-Abuja and create new capacities, pay monthly social welfare allowances to all unemployed Nigerians and give free medical care and free education to the poor.
In a normal nation with responsive leaders, the availability of record resources should have provided the opportunity for significant investments in all the outlined areas. Investments in public works would have had the added benefit of creating millions of much needed jobs. Unfortunately Nigeria is an abnormal nation, more so under the present civilian administration. Thus in spite of record resources and opportunities there is a total absence of infrastructure, the money haven been conveniently stashed away in the foreign bank accounts of the criminals in power.
By whatever benchmark, it is obvious that the advent of civil rule in 1999 has offered Nigerians a raw deal of dashed hopes. Preceding military regimes have ironically turned out to be better than the present civil administration Nigerians had fought and died to install. The disappointment and loss of hope is reminiscent of the 1st republic when selfish politicians truncated the expectations and hope that came with independence when they engaged in intrigues, intimidation and rigging of the 1964 elections which eventually occasioned a bloody coup in January 1966.
What is obvious is that no lessons have been learnt by the nation’s political leaders. Just like the 1st republic, the storms are once again gathering, as the recklessness, insensitivity and failure of the present civil administration has increasingly led to open calls for a bloody revolution-military coup. If and when it does happen, there will be no pity and the present political actors will have no one but themselves to blame. History might yet repeat itself.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu