Democracy Cannot Coexist With Weak Systems

By Ikenga Chronicles October 5, 2018

Democracy Cannot Coexist With Weak Systems

–Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba,

Democracy is anchored on strong balancing systems such as independent electoral platform, free and fair judiciary, independent civil services, equal and co-partners in legislature, Presidency, and judiciary, among others. If the structure is sound and strong, democracy can withstand a weak arm be it the presidency, the legislature or the civil service. The anchors stabilize and balance democracy. But when most of the anchors are weak or non-existent, democracy will crumble.

Nigeria is an example.

The heartbeat of democracy is periodic elections, during which the people elect their leaders, thus establishing who the boss is. The free and fair elections must be conducted by a strong independent electoral commission. In Nigeria, this commission is neither strong nor independent. Its will is most often thwarted by much stronger political parties, hence the voice of the citizens which is the bulwark of democracy is stilled.

It is inevitable that there will be differences of opinion in human interactions that sometimes may be contradictory. Democracy resolves these contrasting views and opinions and fights via interventions by an impartial judiciary that enforces the laws of each nation without fear or favor. Nigeria’s judicial system is corrupt, owned and operated by the executive branch, and has no soul. Its decisions are erratic and follows no precedents. Many disputes are not brought before the courts because justice is not assured. Part of the injustice could arise by indefinite delays which is the same thing as justice denied.

Democracy can still survive if you have honest citizen politicians. “Honest” here means politicians who are loyal to well defined national interests. These national interests thus become the Light House that guides national discussion and force disputants to find a common cause. But in Nigeria there are no national interests that are well defined. The result is that there are no bases for reconciliation of differences or incentive to work across the aisle. No compromises.

The lack of national interests is being exposed in the most recent efforts by parties to go through the primary election process. The two dominant parties APC and PDP are afraid to conduct open primaries where there are strong challengers because they fear that the losing candidate would defect to the other party and if he/she is an incumbent,would align to defeat the agenda of his/her former party. How long the parties can delay conducting primaries is anybody’s guess and whether INEC could force them to conduct primaries is another guess work. In this scheme of things all incumbents might even be returned to offices without elections, contrary to constitutional provisions.

The need for a strong independent judiciary which does not exist cannot be over emphasized.

Quo vadis Nigerian democracy? The short answer is nowhere. Not soon.

Strong institutions are sine qua non for democracy. For Nigerian democracy to start moving,building strong institutions need to be the starting point. Rebuilding INEC would seem like the most important first step. Free and fair elections would bring back the citizenry into the process. The voice of the people is the voice of God and when you take off the voice of the people from the table you take off the voice of God–a bad omen.


  • Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts