A NIGERIAN RECIPE FOR DEMOCRACY

Friday, April 27, 2007

Here is a recipe for democracy, Nigerian style. Please, note some of the ingredients ...

  1. Court cases (add as many as you wish to suite personal taste)
  2. 3 tablespoons of impromptu public holidays
  3. A fuel tanker to blow up INEC headquarters
  4. Loads of pre- and post election violence
  5. Ballots printed outside the country
  6. Stolen ballots
All jokes aside, the Nigerian elections were a serious matter and present important issues that need to be addressed. The election process was marred by the ingredients listed above and many more that I did not include. As a result, election observers in Nigeria and around the world have called the elections flawed and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the nation's largest election observer, has called for the election results to be nullified and recommended new polls. Various opposition parties have also called for a repeat of the polls and some have even called for protests and riots. In fact, a poll on The Guardian's website shows that 74% of responders do not believe that the April 14 and 21 polls in Nigeria was sufficiently credible to produce legitimate new office holders, reflecting the sense of apathy among many Nigerians.

Despite the negative characterization of the polls, Obasanjo and other public officials have been quick to acknowledge that the election process was far from perfect but not problematic enough to warrant a re-do.

Additionally, Obasanjo has told various media outlets that Nigeria should not be held to the standards of other democracies because it is a developing nation. I personally disagree with this position. Despite our problems, ordinary Nigerians have historically exemplified excellence through hardwork and perseverance. I find it mind boggling that these very characteristics were blatantly lacking in the run up to the election. That is why ballots were still on their way to the country from South Africa 24 hours before the presidential elections. Or why voters showed up at polling stations and met disorganization, if anything at all.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines democracy as follows,
a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Most people would agree that this is an apt, though idyllic, description of the term. I wonder, however, how many Nigerians would agree that this description applies to Nigeria. Something tells me, that in light of our recent experience with elections, not too many will see similarities between the definition and the Nigerian election process.

Anyway, if the election process is illustrative of country's democracy, what do the recent elections say about the state of politics in our nation? Is Obasanjo correct in stating that Nigeria should be held to a different standard? If, so, why? Considering the definition above, is 'democracy' possible in Nigeria and are there any suggestions on how to get closer to the democratic ideal? Or, should we simply accept the Nigerian recipe for democracy?

I know that this post presents many questions, but this issue of Nigerian democracy is not easily delineated into a few neat, well-crafted questions. Therefore, I implore you to consider these questions and share your opinions.

14 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Nilla said...

Offtopic,
Is this part of the NDS or your going to put up something else for that?


RE: your post.

"what do the recent elections say about the state of politics in our nation?"

We are yet to find a right system of governance for us.


"Is Obasanjo correct in stating that Nigeria should be held to a different standard?"

I think so.


"If, so, why?"

It is Nigeria your talking about. Not many things work normally. Not that that is supposed to be an excuse.


"Considering the definition above, is 'democracy' possible in Nigeria and are there any suggestions on how to get closer to the democratic ideal? Or, should we simply accept the Nigerian recipe for democracy?"

Democracy is possible in Nigeria. But we aren't going to see it as it's practiced in democratic countries....at least not soon, unless the new government coming in try to make it work for the next elections.

Pseudo-Independence said...

"...is 'democracy' possible in Nigeria..."

i dont think there is anything inherently wrong with the practice of democracry in ng, considering it is rooted in our past.

in fact African societies traditionally included many indigenous aspects of democracy (collective decision making)....unfortunately the advent of colonialism and the destructive force of the military has changed all theses.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Nilla: Yes, this is my entry for NDS. Suffering from lack of adequate sleep, so i might not have indicated so.

@ Nilla & PI: I agree that democracy is possible. Thank you PI for noting that traditionally, we have exercised democracy. I simply believe that Nigeria has to create its own formof democracy. I am just not sure what it will look like. Thanks for your comments.

Nilla said...

@ Solomonsydelle
Ok, I'll link it now.

Naija Vixen said...

lol @ the ingredients for the recipe...but very true!the major gripe i possibly hav with OBJ is him saying that he's leaving Niger-Delta better than wen he came in....lyk dude...SERIOUSLY!!! you know it's a bad thing wen pple are grudgingly admitting that military rule is better than the "democratic" one we have...great post SolomonSydelle!!!

Dee said...

The recipe is so so true.

It is really a shame that Obj wld think that Nigeria as a developing country has an excuse on International standards pertaining to democracy. Firstly, Nigeria forgets its place on the International platforms and standards. We are quick to boast on how populous and great Nigeria is compared with its other African counterparts but we fail to take responsibility when it comes to showing this “level of greatness” when we are called out.
And we were called out during these elections.
Granted, we can't define democracy under one universal umbrella, its definition varies as we move from country to country...but this is no excuse for Nigeria's President on international media to give as reasons why the elections were badly carried out. It’s a blatant show of the state of Nigerian politics. Would he say that the election ballot boxes shown being stolen openly on BBC is a show of free and fair election? What would he say to that? (I still cover my head in shame when I think about that)

Secondly, why should Nigeria be held to a different standard? Nigeria as a country wants to be recognized as the great power of Africa...but for them to be they simply have to understand that they would be held accountable on International platforms...even if they don't want to. Regardless of whatever they think democracy should look or sound like.
So they can whine and cry that they define democracy in a different way but the world is watching, taking notes and probably laughing at their blatant hypocrisies!

Donzman said...

I'm beginning to see less and less of anything resembling progress being made in Nigeria. The country is getting worse by the day based on every measurable parameter.

The only hope I see for Nigeria and maybe Subsaharan Africa as a whole is a massive uprising by the people to take their own destiny into their own hands. Some people are scared to sacrifice their life for whatever they think they believe in, others are too hungry to fight even if they wanted to. Our leaders are eating into our flesh, most of them have their kids out of the country, what good can come out of Nigeria with its dormant civil society that can easily be manipulated?...Nothing!

I look at developed countries and see a developed civil society that is everready to oppose the Government and whatever is deemed the status quo. In this manner, they keep transforming and reaching for higher things. The Nigerian civil society is highly subdued and mostly nonchalant for whatever reason.

There are issues that can be addressed with dialogue and evolution of times. There are others in which the people have to obtain the changes they desire by nothing other than FORCE. The way I see Nigeria, it is nothing but FORCE that will change things. The leaders have no atom of sympathy towards the plight of the people,they do not seem to think Nigeria or Nigerians mean anything. They have no urge to develop the nation and even with the PhDs., most of them act like they've had no education. Just senseless people in general from whom nothing good can come out of, a massive revolutionary change,only that can change Nigeria.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Ms. Vixen: Thanks for te comment! You are right, there is a sense among some people that military rule was better than or current 'democracy'. I do think that is a sentiment common to many transitioning democracies and not unique to Nigeria. We do, however, need to keep that sentiment in mind and be aware that it is normal but not allow it to disintegrate into anything other than sentiment, i.e. a military coup or other act that will forstall the development of democracy in Nigeria. The hope is that we will create our own unique democratic style eventually - one that will be thoroughly Nigerian and serve all Nigerians thoroughly. Thanks again for the comment!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Dee: "We are quick to boast on how populous and great Nigeria is compared with its other African counterparts but we fail to take responsibility when it comes to showing this “level of greatness” when we are called out."
My sentiments exactly.

I agree that Nigeria should not get a pass because it is a developing nation but must note Nilla's comment that things just don't work normally in Nigeria. But, even she noted that it is not an excuse.

We all know that Naija 'get as e be' and we should have prepared ourseves through proper and adequate organization for as many potential mishaps as possible.

ijebuman said...

Is Obasanjo correct in stating that Nigeria should be held to a different standard?
NO!!!!
This is the excuse of the incompetent, if you agree with Obj's statement then how low should we set the standards. Sooner or later there would be no standards at all, cause it'll be so low we'll be walking over it.
I still don't understand what Obj meant in his statement last week about 'understanding some of our limitations as a complex developing nation'
is Ghana not a developing country, even tiny Benin republic next door had multi party elections last year which was widely praised by all and described as free and fair.

Baba Iyabo should stop making pathetic excuses, he failed and INEC failed and if we lived in a more decent society heads should roll for the whole fiasco.

This 'make we manage am approach' to every national issue will only end up destroying the country. Obj said 'we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bath water', ijebuman suggests putting the baby up for adoption (if we can't get rid of it abi?)

mypenmypaper said...

hhmm,

About the fuel tanker that was to blow up INEC headquarters, the thing baffles me coz I didnt see a picture of the truck in the dailies, and honestly how did it happen. If it happened in the midnight, we have to ask the INEC and the Nigerian police what their security personnel were doing at that time. Or maybe it dropped from heaven, well, we definitely understand the method.

Murders before elections, One-man team political parties, shoddy preparations, army intimadating voters, police running away from touts, no votes in some locations, and still we have a wide-margin of winning party. Like a friend told me, the election was film-trick, the boys in charge knew what they were doing.

Nigerian democracy? no its Demon Crazy...thats the word. I should say Donzman and I are in the same line of thought. See, we dont need talkers anymore, we need action men.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Donzman: I have spent considerable time considering your comment and only now feel that I can adequately respond.

Thank you (yourself and our fellow commenters) in advance for sharing your thoughts. It is the continued discussion between concerned Nigerians that i bleieve will help spur change in Nigeria.

I cannot say that I am in accord with your statement that our civil society is "dormant". Ours is a different animal. Think of Yoruba and Edo women who show protest through their nakedness. That being said, I must agree with you that Nigeria lacks a well developed, collective sense of civil disobedience. It is not that we do not know what it means to protest, I just do not believe that we have developed a sophisticated sense of how to effectively use civil disobedience to our (i.e., the masses) advantage.

Your comment about the need for force as a means of change is well taken. In "Grief", I discussed a need for Nigerians, specifically poor Nigerians, to "rise up and demand the respect they deserve - ... require that the politicians actually serve Nigerians".

I must however qualify that statement and my opinion by noting that I believe in civil, non-violent disobedience. Nigeria is particularly volatile, anything could spark incredible damage, discord and death. I do not believe that Nigeria needs bloodshed and hope that as a people we can find a way to show FORCE without our nation falling apart. Now, many will beg to differ as to the need for non-violent force. That is fine but I must remind all of us that the people who tend to be the victims of violence tend to be women and children - the defenseless ones. I'm not sure I want to be the benefit of violent change that happened as the result of innocent blood.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Ijebuman: "if we lived in a more decent society heads should roll for the whole fiasco."

I agree wholeheartedly. The lack of accountability in Nigeria means that 'leaders' who have failed us will not be held to account for their actions or inactions. Unfortunately.

"This 'make we manage am approach' to every national issue will only end up destroying the country."

Absolutely! Nigeria - the nation of incompetence should be our tagline. I wish I could make up stickers to put on cars. I would give them away for free! But on a serious note, a country with 140 million people must get its act together or else, when the effects of our population finally catch up with us, we go hear 'wuin' (not sure how to spell that word).

"Obj said 'we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bath water', ijebuman suggests putting the baby up for adoption (if we can't get rid of it abi?)"

Lol!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ MPMP: "film trick" elections. lol! I like that one, may I use it sometime?

As I mentioned to Donzman, force is just fine, as long as it is measured, in my opinion. Is that realistic, however? Well, who knows.

There are definitely 'action men' and women out there who have a great vision for our country and know how to implement it. I will name Donald Duke for example. I do not know the man personally, but every time I read about him (usually on Naija Vixen's lovely blog), he is busy doing something new and positive for the people of Calabar State. Last time it was Tinapa, today it is the monorail project - first of its kind in Africa. People like that must be supported. I hear Pat Utomi is also a man of vision. There are so many Nigerians out there who want change. It will only be a matter of time before we make it happen. Be it through force, as Donzman recommened, or some other means.

Thanks for your comment!

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