By Ajayi Amos Kenny
The model of democracy that is popular in this age of globalization is liberal democracy, democracy is a descriptive term that is synonymous with majority rule, it associated with democratic consolidation and good governance. However, in Nigeria, effort to attained the high level of democratic consolidation and good governance have been made but not yet to be crowned with much success.
The literal meaning of “democracy” comes from a combination of two Greek words, demos (people) and kratos (rule), and at its core, “Democracy is a form of government in which the people rule”. The term originated in Athens and was a part of the standard classification of regime forms that distinguished rule by one (monarchy), several (aristocracy), and the many (democracy). However, beyond the literal meaning of democracy, there has been considerable debate over the criteria that distinguish democracies from non democracies.
It can be argued that, democracy is a system of government where the opportunity to participate in an authoritative decision making is opened to all who are willing and interested to share. However, it is a system of government that recognized individual rights, a system of representation and electoral system based on the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value.
The Nigerian state assumed a new governance status in 1999 following the demise of authoritarian regime in the country. Military dictatorship was replaced by representative democracy with the hopes and aspirations of good governance much higher than what the seemingly collapsible democratic institutions could fulfil. The source and nature of transition in 1999 was later found to constitute threat to the foundation of democracy and obliterates the current efforts at consolidating democracy.
Since restoration of democratic rule in the country, change of government has been orderly while elections have been periodic. Between 1999 and 2015 four different civilian administrations have emerged and there have been four successive transitions from civilian government to another (Obasanjo Administration, 1999-2007, Yar’adua/Jonathan Administration, 2007-2011, Jonathan Administration, 2011-2015) and incoming administration Buhari Administration 2015. This also applicable to the legislature. Since 1999, the country has successfully passed through five legislative houses both at the centre and the component units. Elections in the Fourth Republic have been characterized by monumental irregularities and malpractices which magnitude increases with every election.
Despite the fact that Nigeria has experienced about sixteen years of uninterrupted democracy practice there are various challenges confronting democratic consolidation and good governance in the Nigeria.
Corruption constitutes one of the greatest challenges and threats to the democrat consolidation in Nigeria Fourth Republic. The incidence of corruption in the country reached a crescendo in 2004 when a German based non-governmental organization called Transparency International in its 2004 Corruption Perception Index(CPI), report projected Nigeria as the 2nd most corrupt country in the world(132nd out of 133 countries surveyed)
Since the emergency of the fourth republic, Election and democratic practice in Nigeria has been more of a force than a serious fact. Admittedly, Nigeria registered and voted at the elections that brought the ruling class into power, the candidate presented to them for selection were chosen not by them but by the political elites. Voting as observed became for Nigerians a matter of ritual performances than discharge of bounden duty.
It can be argued that elections and democratic practice in fourth republic characterized by electoral malpractices, political intolerance, economic mismanagement, using political office as gateway to personal enrichment, political thuggery, lack of intra party democracy, insecurity, manipulation of religion and ethnicity to achieve selfish political ambitions and other countless misdemeanors were order of the day
Poverty is another factor that constitutes grave challenges to democratic consolidation and good governance in the country. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources and yet its people are poor. The nation is rank among the world’s poorest country. According to United Nations Development Programme (2009), in Nigeria hunger exhibits its ugly face in most homes where the average citizen contends with a life of abject poverty. Thus, about 70% of Nigeria population are poor, the average Nigerian is alienated from himself as he lacks the wherewithal to afford the basic necessities of life such as education, medical facilities.
The consequence of this is that the poor masses are easily brainwashed and their right of choice terribly manipulated making an objective choice seldom to consideration. Besides, various forms of inducements and gratification which provide temporary relief from the scourge of poverty are given central attention in making democratic choices. However, many Nigerians see the election period as an opportunity to demand of the office seeker a slice of their wealth. Thus, their participation in the election process was only influenced by how much they could attract the contestants rather than by deliberate decision based on preventing issues and national interest
One of the daunting challenges confronting the present democratic dispensation is insecurity. Since the return of democracy, the country has experienced ethno-religious crises, sectarian mayhem, etc., questioning and shaking the survival of the country. Some of these crises include: Yoruba/Hausa-Fulani disturbance in Shagamu, Ogun State; Aguleri, Umuleri and Umuoba Anam of Anambra State; Ijaw/Itsekiri crisis over the location of Local Government headquarter; the Jukun, Chamba and Kuteb power struggle over who control Takum; incessant turbulence in Jos; the 2011 post-election violence in the northern part of the country as well as the constant sectarian crisis exemplified by the activities of the Boko Haram. The analysis of the above upheaval will reveal that our democracy is under siege prompting Dauda and Avidime (2007 to argue that the current security situation in the country is a major obstacle to the consolidation of democracy.
For Nigeria democracy to move toward democratic consolidation and good governance in fourth republic, we urge incoming administration to follow the following prospects
In another development, corruption is one of the basic challenges confronting democracy, Democratic consolidation and good governance in Nigeria’s fourth republic, however, we urge incoming president as he has pledged to tackle corruption and be the country anti corruption champion. For any nation to be consolidated, the level of corruption will be reduce to the minimal, some developing countries have succeed by reducing the corruption and their president serves as anti-corruption champion e.g Botswana in Africa and Singapore in Asia.
Having a president who is the head of government as the anti-corruption champion is important because, as the saying goes, the fish rots from the head. Effective from May 29, 2015, all Nigerians, non-nationals who live in Nigeria, and all those within and outside Nigeria who do business with the country, will have to begin to adjust to the reality that Nigeria has a president who will strictly enforce the commitment he has made to his country men and women: “corruption will not be tolerated by this administration”.
Strikingly, Buhari’s commitment is no more than announcing his determination to uphold Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution amended. “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”. If his predecessors had taken their oath to uphold the Constitution seriously with particular reference to the provision on anti-corruption, Buhari’s commitment would not appear as a radical new development.
The war on corruption must be pursued with vigour. Put differently, it must be pushed beyond political propaganda, intimidation and witch-hunting of political opponents. Government must muster the political will to punish any corrupt public officer irrespective of his or her status in the society. In addition, legislation should be enacted by the National Assembly making capital punishment a penalty for corruption related offences.
Democracy does not thrive on an empty stomach and democracy cannot be consolidated when majority of the people live in abject poverty. To be more pro active, governments at all levels need to be serious or pay more attention to problem of poverty. The socio-cultural factor such as family system that appears to be reinforcing poverty has to be addressed. Governments at all levels must pursue vigorously programmes that can alleviate poverty. Such programmes must address the roots cause of poverty. Besides, our educational sector should be overhauled. The curriculum should be such that addresses the present reality.
In reality, Nigerians need political education in order to improve in their electoral system and democratic practice in fourth republic, the people should learn to abhor tribalism, factionalism, election malpractice in order not to mortgage the rights and future. Here a political scientists have the role to play in conjunction with National Orientation Agency (NOA), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Security Agents and Religions Organization, however, they have a responsibility to cultivate the political awareness at the grassroots through the well planned programme of political education. By embarking on political Evangelism, it will make people to be well political active and oriented during the election period.
Political scientists should be more pro-active in providing a search light for dialogue about what must be done to elevate the level of political consciousness and activism of the Nigeria masses. They cannot remain quiescent in the extremely desperate state of democratization in which politicians are most likely to engage in undemocratic practices when there is low risk to be prosecuted punished or to lose their seat in parliament as a consequence of voters dissent with a politician’s conduct.
National Orientation Agency (NOA) has a lot to do, well co-ordinated strategies for the awareness of the people rights effectively utilized to promote democracy in Nigeria. However, since the present political scenario in Nigeria is such that political parties because of their lack of focus on the masses has not been able to effectively perform the functions of political socialization, interest articulation, interest aggregation and political communication.
To be more pro-active political parties have a lot to do in Nigeria’s democratic settings, By this, political parties will publicize and promote their programmes, they should provide voters with substantial information about current political issues, citizen democratic right, contribute to voter’s education and human development. Religion leaders should play a prominent role during election, by this religions organization need to engage in orientating their worshippers i.e. election is not do or die affairs, because some political violence in Nigeria was rooted from religion perspective and ideology.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the body saddled with the responsibility of supervising the entire electoral process. Obviously, the formation of this body was also faulty, mainly because its members were chosen not necessarily on merit but, most probably, based on political connections or expediencies. Appointment of the chairman Independent National Electoral Commission must based on merit and such person must have foundation and in-dept knowledge in Political Science and Law. Because, INEC in Nigeria was expected to achieve this feat but has failed woefully due to the non-autonomous nature of the commission.
The Independent National Electoral Commission and security agents were to be non partisan and also expected to be impartial in their operations due to their major roles in election and democratic practice in Nigeria. INEC is expected to discharged their duties. Electoral Commission should be restructure in a way that they will have absolute autonomous and separate from the control of Organs of government, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, so that they will be able to discharged their duty such as, registration of voters, provision of electoral materials, conducting of free, fair and credible election and announcing the election result without external affairs.
The establishment of an Electoral Crime Commission in conjunction with Judicial Body that will serve as a watchdog of the electoral commission, the political parties and contesting candidates in ensuring that political campaigns and elections are conducted according to the rules of the game. The Electoral Crime Commission should also be charged with the powers to prosecute those caught in the act of electoral violence, thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes and other electoral ills in the Court of law.
Judiciary cannot be left out in election and democratic practice in Nigeria, Nigeria judicial system should also be strengthened and reorganized in a way that the judiciary will have autonomous to discharged their duty, judicial system should non partisan, this will give the opposition the opportunity of wining the election and it will serve as last hope for opposition parties and the politicians.
In order to advance and enduring democracy and democratic practice in Nigeria, Nigerian should follow the general pattern found in advanced democratic states and properly blended with indigenous peculiarities. This way an enviable political culture sustained by rule of law.
Ajayi, Amos Kenny,
Department of Political Science,
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 08060936374, 08078896889
Courtesy Nigerian voice