Baloney and Hopeless Nigeria’s Democratic System — By Philip Odoemena

By Ikenga Chronicles September 5, 2016
  • What a fractured democracy, what a shame, what a nation.

It wasn’t too long ago, approximately 17 years ago when Nigeria changed from military rule to a democratic system of government. Prior to 1999, Nigeria had tried democratic rule but was interrupted by the military. As much as it is difficult to completely avoid referencing the good years of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and President Nnamdi Azikiwe, who will forget the difficult times experienced by President Shehu Shagari and his Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme. The difficult times notwithstanding, up on till now, Nigeria and Nigerians have not, in the entire history of the world’s most populous black nation, been through the sort of grave agony presently befalling on the majority of the Nation’s grassroots.

Democracy is supposed to be a system of rule by laws, not by individuals fancy to rule at will. In democracy, the rule of law protects the right of citizens, and maintains order, and even limits the power of government. Democracy also grantees equality for all citizens and no one is to be discriminated on the bases of their tribes, or ethnicity. Democracy is supposed to bring freedom, and enabling environment where all citizens live and enjoy peace of mind. Unfortunately, in the past few dispensations, more so, in the present dispensation, freedom has eluded the grassroots, hunger has become the order of the day, inflation and recession has battered whatever little fortune the grassroots had. Majority of the people are suffering. Price of goods and services are beyond reach for the middle and lower classes of the country. Do you call what is happening in Nigeria democracy?

If you call Nigeria’s present system of government democratic rule, I call it packaged democracy. Packaged democracy in the sense that the breath of those who are in power or their representatives commands wealth and their power measures freedom among themselves. A packaged democracy where the powerful are better off in everything and the grassroots are worst off in everything. A packaged democracy where the powerful and wealthy politicians are free from the deadly effects of hunger. Countries that exercise true democracy believes that, under it, the weakest, the poor, and the grassroots should have the same opportunity as the strongest, the rich and the elites of the society. Is this what is practiced in Nigeria? Heck no!

Since the return of democracy or should I say the return of pseudo-democracy in Nigeria, the country has been experiencing deteriorating living standards and poor economic growth. The conditions have become more severe in the past two years due to the poor performance of the nation’s economy considering that the government does not care about the downward trend in economic performance. In recent times, the development has exacerbated very severely due to unbelievable negative fluctuation of Naira causing severe/high unemployment, income inequality and extended poverty among the grassroots.
I was in the country recently and spent almost two months visiting various areas of the nation, I witnessed firsthand what people are going through. Imagine the eerie sight of witnessing someone that you know dying of hunger because the government has no clue on what to do to uplift the poor. Seventeen years in to the version of Nigeria’s so-called democracy, the main thing that our leaders, especially, in recent times, have mastered is a short-term personal interests rather than long-term national interest.

How could one say that Nigeria is in democratic rule when its politicians, its elites, its legal system, are severely corrupt. Under this condition how can one believe and hope for progress? Really, very little hope for progress is anticipated in a society where democracy has gone awry, political corruption out of control, ex-military generals determined to rule, and civilian politicians armed with retribution on their minds. No wonder, the quality of life for all, but the wealthy, and the politicians go from intolerable to inferior quality, yet, people believe that bona fide democracy exits in Nigeria.

Except in Nigeria, democracy is a government in which the citizen’s power is the pivotal dominant variable in the election of its leaders. It is also a system in which the elected (government) is suppose to protect and safeguard the interest of all citizens whether in the majority or minority political divides. It is not suppose to be a system in which the government is to suppress the interest of the minority or a particular group within the system. Really, from all indications, there is no true democracy in Nigeria; instead, the drive for political power in Nigeria has given way to less ambitious focus on the economy and the underprivileged. There is lack of government’s concern about the apportionment or the sharing of the wealth of the country. There is lack of attention to the social and economic conditions of certain geographical zones, and to a greater extent to the people of South South and the South East.

In recent times, ethno-religious conflicts endemic to the cities of the North erupted again and again, yet the government seemed indifferent to unity issues, instead, the wealthy, the politicians, and the government is consistently busy exploring the politics of wealth driven by self-interest. What a fractured democracy, what a shame, what a nation.

How long will this situation linger on in Nigeria? What will the country do t bring about appropriate reform in that system? These are million dollar questions that only Nigeria can answer.

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