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Democratic betrayals the challenge of Nigeria’s statehood – By: . . & More Trending News Today

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Wealth Dickson Ominabo

 Recently Nigerian leaders and other democratic actors in the country  have been in a binge of festivity ; celebrating democracy in the country .

From May 29 when many governors took time out to give account of their years of stewardship to Sunday June 12 when the federal government rolled out the drums to celebrate the new Democracy Day  in Nigeria, our nation’s public sphere has been obsessed with commentaries about the valiancy of democracy and the sacrifices of the different actors in time past and present. 

23 years ago, democracy was a thing hoped for; a prayer point to many, who believed that democracy was the promise land- a system of many possibilities, an oasis where the basic rights of citizens will flourish and dreams and aspirations will be realised. 

23 years later, democracy is losing its meaning, its value and essence in the lives of the citizens. Beyond the refrain of democracy being the government of the people by the people and for the people, the real meaning of democracy is lost in the multiple conflicts and social contradictions in the nation. 

Almost all the intrinsic promises of democracies have either been betrayed by different actors and the values of a democratic reign have been discarded. The promises of liberty, justice and peace have been betrayed. 

The virtues that define a democratic state are eroding – freedom of expression is daily curtailed; freedom of thought, conscience and religion are being challenged by non-state actors, while the civic space is shrinking  on a daily basis even as the state is busy in pursuit to capture institutions to their advantage. 

The ballot is losing its potency  at every electioneering cycle; votes are traded to the highest bidder, our democracy is commercialized, legitimacy is manipulated, accountability and good governance are  trivialized while social justice is ostracized.

Today, the  sovereignty of the Nigerian state is contested with non-state actors – those without the mandate to govern- now superintend over a  large expanse  of the Nigerian territories,  imprisoning citizens and executing punishment, and judgement on innocent citizens in different guise through different terror tactics and strategies. 

They kidnap, kill, rape and impose levies on citizens  in different parts of the country. They move daily from state to state like roaring lion devouring the destinies of many and taking other to slavery and servitude. Government to which the people willed their sovereignty through the ballot decides to share its legitimacy with these non-state actors through indiscretion, inaction and dereliction of responsibilities. 

In Nigeria, democracy has not been able to address the challenges of the  citizens. Civilian rule in all these years has failed to guarantee the two basic democratic rights – freedom from fears and wants. Nigeria  is at a crossroad; it is captured by human miseries, and characterized by sallow marks such as hunger, poverty, conflicts and underdevelopment. 

Nigeria   is a fallow ground for extremists – who cling to different frustration to undermine the state, thereby exposing the country to wanton fragilities.  

One cannot but situate the crisis of Nigerian statehood to the challenge of leadership amplified by sustained culture of democratic betrayals by government. The Nigerian Guardian in a recent editorial aptly captures, the crisis of the Nigerian state when it wrote that :

“The deluge of socio-economic and political upheavals in the Nigerian polity currently portrays a very bad omen for peace, progress and continuity of the country. For an entity with so much potential, the wasting of assets, both human and material, in the past few years has been monumental even to the uncaring. In totality, the ruling political elite at all levels of government have ran the country almost aground such that hope for a redeem is dim; and, unless some drastic action is initiated, not only will it be difficult for the country to survive eventually, her downfall can be slow, steady and painful. The handwriting is on the wall, and the dastardly results are playing out. Surely, the state of the Nigerian nation calls for a change of direction to avert a looming doom.”

The paper drawing the attention of all stakeholders to the near collapse of the Nigerian state, warned of the danger of the  sustenance  of the present governance culture of democratic betrayal, abscondment and dereliction of responsibilities by leaders .

As Larry Jay Diamond, aptly  observed in his article: “Three Paradoxes of Democracy,”  founding  and preserving  democracy  are two different things. For democracy to endure, he argues that  it  must be deemed legitimate by the people and  “..this legitimacy requires a profound moral commitment and emotional allegiance, but these develop only over time, and partly as a result of effective performance.” Democracy he asserts  will not be valued by the people “unless it deals effectively with social and economic problems and achieves a modicum of order and justice.”

Here lies the challenge of Nigeria’s democracy and the recession of the country into a failed state.  The point must be stressed that the fault does not lie in democracy as a form of government but on the actors – democrats who are too shy to live and act according to the dictates of democracy.

To improve Nigeria’s democracy and make it work for the common good of all citizens, leaders and all democratic actors must incentivize social and economic rights of citizens. This is the most sustainable way to reinforce  the waning legitimacy of the Nigerian State.  

Legitimacy is not an end in itself- it doesn’t start and end with electoral mandate.  Legitimacy is enhanced through shoring up of public trust; trust is reinforced  through fulfillment of democratic promises and commitment to  the social contract between the government and the citizens.

Ominabo is the Communications officer at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation

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