Nigeria Needs a Democratic Government

Nigeria Needs a Democratic Government


by Prof. Bedford Nwabueze Umez 

Introduction

"People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pegged the cost of its forms at N22 million for presidential and N11 million for gubernatorial aspirants, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) charged N27.5 million and N10 million for presidential and gubernatorial aspirants, respectively. For the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), the forms sold for N25 million for presidential and N5 million for gubernatorial aspirants." - Business Day, Nov. 6, 2014.

“It is therefore safe to say that in Nigeria democracy is for sale.” - Benjamin Aduba, Nov. 16, 2014

Though Nigerians condemn high cost of party nomination forms as reported in some Nigerian newspapers, we must know WHY the forms are too expensive. Here are some obvious reasons:

First, most Nigerian leaders do not want those they consider "outsiders" – i.e., the people with progressive ideas and conscience - to be a part of Nigerian government. To guarantee that such people will not have a chance to bring meaningful progress and development to Nigeria, they turned Nigerian politics into a ruthless business of “cash and carry” – laced with godfatherism.

Second, most Nigerian leaders have looted our oil money in abundance. As such, it does not matter to them how much party nomination forms cost. You see, hard-earned money is spent prudently; easy-earned money (as in sharing of Nigerian oil revenue) is often spent with reckless abandon.

Third, Nigerian leaders know that most “educated” Nigerians are either cowards or sycophants (who constantly beg leaders for little crumbs falling from their tables). They know that cowards and sycophants will NEVER challenge their leadership - no matter how corrupt or debased. Because of that, they can set the fee for party nomination form to any amount they want (just as our legislators set their own salary higher than any legislator’s in any part of the globe), and no question asked.

Fellow Nigerians, I often wonder why some of us still consider what is going on in Nigeria "democracy." I guess some think that once leaders dress in civilian or traditional outfit, instead of khaki, people are living in a democracy. Nothing is further from the truth.

A government is not democratic when most of the leaders are absolutely free to do whatever they want with their nation’s resources and the lives of their people. Any objective thinker with some modicum of conscience, who understands the true meaning of democracy, and knows how most Nigerian leaders misuse Nigerian resources and abuse the people of Nigeria, cannot, in any way, shape or form, consider Nigeria a democratic country. Below is the proof.

The Proof

To prove that Nigeria is not a democratic country, let us examine Nigeria in the context of core democratic principles.

In a democracy, people choose their leaders and have the fundamental right to criticize and replace them if they do not perform well – hence, a government of the people, by the people and for the people [or government of us, by us, and for us.]  It is clear beyond ALL doubts that Nigeria does not hold free and fair elections. Nigerian people do not choose their leaders, and a lot of Nigerians are too afraid to criticize corrupt leaders. Nigeria has ruthless and merciless selection method. Quite often, incumbent Governor or President selects who should replace him, as well as who should be the State Representatives, Local Government Chairs, for instance. On the day of election, ballots are counted in favor of those selected by the incumbent President or incumbent Governor. It is all politics of godfatherism and “cash and carry” – nothing more, nothing less. Is that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people? NO – it is not!

In a democracy, the people are sovereign, and power belongs to the people. As such, elected leaders must listen to the people and be responsive to the people's needs. Do most of the so-called winners in Nigerian “elections” try to listen and take care of the people? They do not! Their ruthless style of leadership is to rob, without mercy, their OWN people of their oil revenue only to pile up the loot in foreign banks. Is that what one should call democracy – a government of us, by us, and for us? Is robbery - starvation and deprivation - of Nigerian people by most of their leaders, the meaning of democracy? NO – it is not!

Do we have true separation of powers and checks and balances in Nigeria to prevent tyranny, abuse of power and corruption? No – we do not! Where, in any democratic country have we read or heard of "Immunity Clause" - stating that incumbent Governors and President of such a country will never be tried in a court of law while in office no matter the atrocity they may commit? But there is "Immunity Clause" in Nigerian constitution [see, 308 of the 1999 Constitution, Subsection (3).] If Nigerian courts cannot try Chief Executives while in office, wherein lies Judicial check on the Executive? Clearly, democracy did NOT cross the minds of those Nigerian leaders and elite who inserted such monstrosity in our constitution (adopted in 1999). Given the fact that incumbent President or Governor selects most of the National or the State Representatives, wherein lies Legislative check on the Executive? In other words, it is obvious that legislators who are handpicked by the incumbent chief executive will not consider an impeachment of the chief executive no matter how corrupt. Is this separation of powers and checks and balances? No – it is not! Is this democracy – the government of the people, by the people, and for the people? NO – it is not!

Do we have Rule of Law in Nigeria? Do laws and procedures apply fairly and equally to all Nigerians? The simple answer is NO – they do not! In Nigeria, all citizens are not equal under the law. There is “immunity clause” (as noted above) that puts the President and the Governors head and shoulder above any civil or criminal law. Often, Nigerian leaders and elites charged with corruption and embezzlement of the public funds enter into dubious plea bargains that result on a slap on the wrist. How can a slap on the wrist of a hard-nosed corrupt individual constitute a punishment worthy of any deterrence?  It is a fact that the rich and the famous Nigerians are basically above laws in Nigeria. Nigerian police officers usually do not stop the rich and famous when they mount the so-called road blocks? Nigerian masses are the ones that are being stopped all the time - searched, bullied, harassed and often forced to tip police before they are allowed to continue their journey. Is this rule of law? Is this democracy – the government of the people, by the people, and for the people? NO – it is not!

Do we have fundamental, substantive human rights in Nigeria? No – we do not! Of course, the apologists and defenders of the debased, corrupt status quo are quick to tell us that Nigeria has freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, movement, etc. On paper, that is true – those rights are basically mentioned in Nigerian constitution, but what about substantive rights - such as the rights of the people to a good government, adequate healthcare, good education, good roads, clean air, clean water, ample security, etc. In a democracy, these substantive rights are sacrosanct; in Nigeria, such rights do not exist. Most Nigerian leaders have totally abandoned substantive rights of Nigerians with reckless abandon. They have totally abandoned education in Nigeria only to send their own children abroad to study with embezzled Nigerian oil money. They have totally abandoned healthcare delivery in Nigeria, only to fly to foreign countries with looted Nigerian oil revenue for medical checkup and treatment. The list of such unconscionable, immoral abandonments is painfully very long.  Is this democracy – the government of us, by us people, and for us? NO – it is not!

Conclusion

The central theme of this essay is that Nigeria does not have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Nigerian government represents, in the main, the privileged few rather than the needy many – hence, a government of the few, by the few and for the few. As such, those who own the country – i.e., the people of Nigeria – do not benefit from the oil revenue bestowed upon Nigeria by the prodigal nature.

Democracy does not and cannot exist in any country when God’s own children, as Nigerian people, are robbed, starved and abused by most of their leaders. In fact, Nigerian government has been, for the most part, a “College of Mis-Education” – teaching Nigerian youths the worst kind of leadership and how to be mean and wicked to their fellow citizens. Put differently, as the cow is eating, the calf is watching carefully, and with time, the calf will start eating just the same way as the mother-cow. Vicious politics of godfatherismbreeds vicious society; ruthless “cash and carry” politics breeds massive, chronic and brutal corruption. Perpetuation of vicious style of leadership is not the way to govern a nation democratically; it is a slow slide to complete destruction and annihilation of a nation.

We must establish democracy in Nigeria NOW in order to save the people of Nigeria. We must stop being cowards and sycophants and become the change we need – constantly bearing in mind that no one will be good if goodness is not in demand. We must demand change because the moment people stop demanding change in their government, the moment their government slides into merciless dictatorship and naked tyranny - and no one is safe under a dictatorial tyrant.

I value democracy but regret it does not exist in my country - Nigeria.

 

 

*Note: Dr. Umez is a Professor of Government, Lee College, Baytown, Texas, and the founder of Liberating the African mind, LAM, and Nigerian Leadership Council, NLC. His latest books include, Nigeria: Real Problems, Real Solutions, "Educated" to Feel Inferior, The Tragedy of a Value System in Nigeria: Theories and Solutions, and Your Excellency. These books can be assessed from his web site, www.umez.com or www.lee.edu/faculty-pages/bumez. His contacts are as follows: Email: umez@nigerianleadershipcouncil.org or umez@umez.com; Phone: 832-731-7061 or 281-425-6368.