Thursday, October 4, 2018

Nigeria: Musings On Our Sham Democracy

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
After surviving the dark days of an autocratic military rule with its grisly infringement on the liberal ethos that conduces to good governance and development, we do not need a reminder of the need to be protective of the nation’s democracy. But the tragedy is in the amnesia that goads on to make our environment perpetually in hospitable to democracy.
In no other time in our national history is this mental affliction more horrid than the President Muhammadu Buhari’s era. Since he became the president, the democracy that paved the way for his emergence as president has been so travestised that it poses a huge danger to the continued existence of the nation. Since Buhari’s demystification after he became president, we thought that we could no longer be shocked by the depth of perfidy into which he and his All Progressives Congress (APC) would sink. But we were mistaken. For the recent political absurdities in Osun State have shown that we are vulnerable to further rude shock at the hands of Buhari and his APC.
How do we sustain democracy when anomalies that negate its development are encouraged by the president and his party? In Osun, the will of the people that defines democracy was vanquished. Under the auspices of its federal might, the APC deployed thuggery, rigging and vote-buying to secure electoral victory . While the whole world was outraged at the perversion of the electoral process, Buhari was lauding it. Of course, the argument is by no means being made that the other political parties in the gubernatorial contest were immune from these evils. But we are alarmed that the APC demonstrated that it was not ready to woo the people on the basis of its track record of development and be accepted by them. 
It is to deflect outrage at these egregious shenanigans in Osun that the APC and its supporters have spun the narrative that for the survival of the state, there was no way the people could allow Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be governor. He has been portrayed as too intellectually worsted to take the reins of leadership in Osun. After all, he had only a school certificate that is smudged by F9 in English. Worse, so the portrayal goes, he has not shown the promise of self-improvement since his preoccupation with dancing only underscores his divorce from the necessity of honing his mental abilities. Yet, we remember that Buhari is not different from Adeleke. When Buhari was asked to present his educational credentials that recommended him for the nation’s highest office, he elected to go the whole hog not to provide a direct and acceptable response.
Rather, he hired a plethora of SANs to stop inquiries into his lackluster intellectual pedigree. Perhaps, unlike Buhari, Adeleke would have been a better leader as long as he is amenable to the superior logic of those around him. It is because Buhari is bereft of such amenability that he keeps on pursuing his provincial agenda to the detriment of the wellbeing of the citizens. Or why does Buhari spurn all the good suggestions that he has been given to stop herdsmen’s terrorism and assuage the sense of alienation occasioned by his lopsided policies?
Buhari has hobbled the institutions that should provide the vitalising force for democracy .For instance, while so much money is voted for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), its performance at every electoral exercise is often than not less stellar . The suspicion is rife that INEC has lost its credibility to the whims and caprices of the ruling party. To the citizens who have been disappointed by INEC as it declares elections inconclusive so that it can do the bidding of the Buhari government, the loss of the independence of the electoral umpire is driven home by rechristening it as the APC-Dependent Electoral Commission (ADEC).
Despite the multiplicity of political parties, Nigeria is fast becoming a one-state party. Even the main opposition party has been so muzzled that it is dispossessed of the nous and courage to really give opposition to the APC. Defanged through the rash of allegations of financial improprieties by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the leaders of the opposition rather than challenge the ruling party cozy up to it. Thus, the hemorrhage of members from the PDP to the APC. Under the banner of its holy grail that only people from outside the APC fold are corrupt, the Buhari government has been harassing members of the opposition with charges of corruption. Now, while the detention cells of the EFCC and DSS are brimming with members of the opposition, the members of the ruling party are strutting about the nation as the exemplars of moral and financial rectitude.
In sustainable democracies all over the world, so much premium is placed on the rule of law. But not in Buhari’s democracy. What obtains is the rule of Buhari. This self-delusion of equating his own security to national security was thrown into sharp relief recently when he sought to put national security above the rule of law. Because he sees his whims as equating the rule of law, it serves national security as long as Shiites leader Ibrahim El-Zazaky and former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki are incarcerated despite court rulings granting them freedom.
With Buhari and APC’s idea of democracy, development would continue to elude our nation. We must be self-deluded if we think that these people who would emerge as our leaders can engender development. These are people who never prepare for leadership. They are just imposed. And because they are imposed, they can only be in office to execute the parochial interests of their benefactors. Again, how do we really expect development when these benefactors who could be former failed presidents and governors would only influence their minions to serve their personal interests? 
Because our democracy is so expensive, it is only those who have the money who corral it to serve their interests. And how did these people make the money? Is it not through corrupt sources? Even those who shamelessly declare to us that they enjoy the financial goodwill of their friends and associates , how did those benefactors get the money? For instance, how did the friends of Buhari get N45 million to give to him to again buy a form through which he expressed interest in the presidency? Buhari cannot fight corruption because his friends who provided the money would expect to be paid back through contracts and other means.
To be sure, even amid his laudation of the thesis of liberal democracy as marking the end of history, Francis Fukuyama leaves us with a caution against the upsets that may threaten this concept of political organisation. But in the case of Nigeria, the upsets are so huge that they may finally trounce democracy and pave the way to anarchy. For instance, for Buhari to be defeated in the next election, his challengers in other political parties need to deploy the weapons of rigging, vote-buying and thuggery that he would use. In the long run, after Buhari has left office, it would take years and real work for democracy to be rescued in the country.
If the possibility of securing true democracy that can guarantee an improved standard of living of the citizens is foreclosed under Buhari, he should at least allow restructuring that promises a measure of equity in his lopsided federation. There is the likelihood in a restructured federation that the evils of our sham democracy would be mitigated.

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