Wednesday 23rd August, 2017
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Militicians on the prowl in a democracy

Militicians on the prowl in a democracy

Recent developments in the polity represent a frighten­ing attestation that Nigerian politicians are yet to recon­cile themselves to the sterling princi­ples of democratic governance almost eighteen years into civil rule. Indeed, at all times, the freedom of Nigerians to express themselves and assert their preferences in the polity should com­mand the unreserved respect of the government of the day. But when the government begins to erect brick walls before an aggrieved population, de­ploying the machinery of state to muz­zle dissenting voices, it must be clear to it that it is only putting forward an appointment with the inevitable. Giv­en the fact that the country is almost stagnant economically, and that biting hardship in the land has assumed such a choking proportion, the people at the receiving end should be allowed to express themselves. Little wonder then that Nigerians of decent disposition are rudely jolted by our politicians’ most revolting attitude to the practice of politics in the country.
It is true that the nation transited to civil rule after a prolonged disruption during which the military held sway. Sadly, we cannot in all honesty say that transition to genuine democratic practice has taken place. This perhaps is not surprising, as the decades of mil­itary imposition stalled the evolution of a democratic culture. Like any other form of societal activity, inducing the acceptance of norms, attitudes and be­haviour compatible with the function­ing of a democratic culture is bound to take time. But almost 18 years is quite a long time for even a pupil to gradu­ate from primary school to the uni­versity. Those whose formative years took place under military dictator­ship might perhaps be forgiven for not knowing how a democratic environ­ment is supposed to play out. Unfor­tunately, natural wastage, the infirmi­ties of old age and loss of interest and relevance have prevented those who could be described as “trainers” from providing the sort of guidance and ad­visory role which they could normally have been expected to play.
The absence of this critical fac­tor means that the apprentice gains his freedom without completing the rigours of full training. In the absence of properly constituted political par­ties, which inculcate in their members a clear philosophical-cum-ideological orientation as well as a sense of loy­alty to a strong organizational struc­ture anchored on disciplined esprit de corps, the woes currently bedev­iling the political system are almost inevitable. The parties were hurriedly cobbled together to meet deadlines set by the military transition. Because of the essentially loose electoral alliances, strange bedfellows were expected to cohabit presumably in some peace. The forced cohabitation has clearly not been harmonious. The absence of a strong middle class and corresponding social safety nets to cushion the uncer­tainties of the economy has meant that joining a political formation is akin to another form of economic activity.
Not surprisingly, it becomes a turf war over territorial control or in the worst kind of circumstances, a matter of life and death. That the political pro­cess is just another form of economic activity is a reflection of the constric­tions in the productive/income gener­ating sphere. Those who have been at the helm at all levels – Federal, State and Local Government – since the re­turn to civil rule have not helped mat­ters. Indeed, most of them have been irresponsible by recklessly flaunting the appurtenances of power, privileges and perks, which were unknown or forbidden in our previous democratic experiments. Some of the emolu­ments attached to political office and the bounties to be gained by access to the corridors of power are clearly un­known and will not be tolerated in any genuine democratic arrangement. Po­litical office in Nigeria has become un­naturally attractive as an investment, hence the desperation of politicians.
The decline in standards in our po­litical terrain can only be arrested by going back to the basics. We have to build proper political parties anchored on structure and discipline, funded by the generality of its membership and bound together by a coherent philo­sophical or ideological thrust. There is nothing new about this as we have had proper political parties in the past. Secondly, a national agreement on democratic principles needs to be fashioned by all key stakeholders, set­ting out in clear, unambiguous terms, the way and manner in which the democratic process is to be operated. There is no longstanding democracy in which such an agreement, some­times unwritten, does not guide the democratic system. Democracy is not all about election, and winning elec­tion is not an end in itself but a means to an end.
The avalanche of persecution and attacks on two PDP governors, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti and Nyesom Wike of Rivers states who have found the cour­age to stand up for their party must be halted if this democracy must be al­lowed to grow. Wike has consistently raised the alarm that the Federal Gov­ernment is plotting to charge him with treason and that his security personnel have been withdrawn by the central government. These weighty allega­tions are yet to be refuted by the fed­eral authorities. Even when Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi , the minister of transportation had issues as governor of Rivers State, with former President Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past administration did not subject him to this form of horrible treatment. A shocked world is watching Nigeria exhibiting the unmistakable symp­toms of a police state. The government should jettison its present vainglorious chest-beating and rouse itself to the rude reality that the people are grossly disenchanted with it. Even other op­position parties who have refused to speak up are all in the same game that has confined Nigeria within the underdevelopment bracket almost 18 years into a democratic dispensation. This is giving democracy a bad name!

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