Here is a recipe for democracy, Nigerian style. Please, note some of the ingredients ...
- Court cases (add as many as you wish to suite personal taste)
- 3 tablespoons of impromptu public holidays
- A fuel tanker to blow up INEC headquarters
- Loads of pre- and post election violence
- Ballots printed outside the country
- Stolen ballots
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.