The recently concluded State and Local Government Congresses of some of the registered political parties in the country still point to the fact that a lot of challenges still bound in our quest for democratization. In the first place, I am yet to see structures and ideologies of true political entities in most of the registered political parties in our dear country Nigeria. What is visible however, is an assemblage of self-serving, self-thinking individuals and groups whose main interest of venturing into politics is to corruptly enrich themselves using politics as a smoke screen.
The congresses/conventions held were just a mere dress rehearsal for a more embarrassing situation in the nearest future. During the course of the congresses and conventions, the principle of a true and enduring democracy were thrown into the trash can as delegates were doctored on how to play along with the dictates and the drum beats of political juggernauts and god fathers within the party. This resulted in pre-determined results as well as singing in discordant tunes as a result of the obviously flawed procedure; a situation that reminds us of the position of Late Comrade Eskor Toyo in the year 2000 on the travails of Nigerian democracy in which he posited as follows: “The country (Nigeria) goes in search of government by elected representatives, but the election process itself is a gutter gushing with corruption. All institutions erected to police and sanitize civil society fester in corruption. There is little patriotism, no edifying ideology, no clear vision of an ideal and inspiring leadership, no noble conscience among the contending factions of bourgeoisie grabbers of money and power. The country is enmeshed in selfishness, greed, banality and anarchic propensity”.
Nigeria with an unofficial estimated population of nearly 200 Million people deserves a better deal in the hands of politicians and political office seekers. We deserve good governance; we deserve a paradigm shift from the government of the people for a few privileged to that of the people, by the people and for the people as posited by Abraham Lincoln. We deserve a pro-poor government which according to a school of thought should be able to promote sustainable human development in ways that reduce disparities in income, welfare, education and opportunity amongst its citizens while keeping the best interests of future generations in mind. We deserve a democracy that is accountable to the people at all times, a democracy which promotes equal rights and justice, a democracy devoid of corruption, fraud and embezzlement. We deserve a democracy with a human face and a listening ear. Nigerians deserve political parties that are credible, ideological and focused. We also desire politicians that have respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.
We desire credible individuals who are ready to uphold the provisions of the Nigerian constitution because as Friedman W. (1964) puts it; “the constitution embody the morality of any society and therefore are common frameworks of beliefs for organizing everyday life. They therefore set out the conditions for the existence of all other laws which should be the barometer of all moral and social thinking and actions”.
The continued institutionalization of corruption at all tiers of governance had led to wide scale outcry against political office holders, while the attempt at curtailing corrupt practices by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had turned into a witch hunting exercises as those perceived to be against any government in power becomes the prime suspects and targets for arrest. Nigeria has gradually degenerated into an absolutist state where those who make the laws become above such laws. Democratic institutions are being debased while politicians’ criss-cross between political parties without the slightest shame. Political violence and kidnappings for ransom are regular occurrences, while a general state of insecurity pervades. Political parties become as Voltaire puts it; “a cabal divided by interests but united by crime and corruption”. Please note however, that this scenario is not limited to Nigeria alone, but it has been a prominent feature of Africa’s political playing field since the early 1980s and it is still prevailing.
There is already a growing fear and anxiety that the forth coming elections (2019) may be marred by irregularities and possibly some level of violence which may result in a breakdown of law and order, hence, we may have to be very careful with the way and manner we go about the electioneering process. The backlash from various intra and inter party crises had made it imperative to caution that installing the wrong mix of democratic principles could be a recipe for turmoil and could be disastrous for any political party especially that which is at the helms of affairs. According to Prezworski (1991);“political parties who make important miscalculations would find themselves eliminated from office”. There is of course the power of incumbency, but that should not be over emphasized since power ultimately lies in the hands of the people. The truth still remains that the principles of a true and enduring democracy allows for a leveled playing field for all participants.
In conclusion, the 2019 general elections is around the corner and it is a duty of all Nigerians to ensure that the elections are credible, free and fair in all its ramifications. Free and fair elections gives power back to the people(electorates) and uplift them from their former position of irrelevance or at best, “standing reserves” used for instrumental value (Heidegger, 1977).
Nigerians should stand up and ensure that only the most credible and not just the best candidates are voted into power because as Mandela (1995) puts it; “the rest of the world expects a standard behavior from Nigeria in matters relating to democracy and civilized governance”. The challenges of the forth coming election no doubt look enormous, but they are surmountable. It will take the collective efforts of Nigerians however, to put the electioneering train back on the right track and ensure that we follow the dynamics of modern day politics in order to make our democracy work for the benefit of all.
– Moses Majiyebo Matswamgbe is a legislative aide in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa-Ikeja, Lagos.