Democracy Comes To Nigeria

Democracy Comes To Nigeria

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 2:31 pm

By Osuolale Alalade

The struggle of the Goodluck Jonathan administration to entrench itself in power or engineer the takeover of an interim administration has a historical context. Notwithstanding the many paradoxes thrown up by the sad state of affairs, the dilemma that Nigerians face represent an encouraging turn of democratic advancement of the country. In 1993, the Nigeria Army, as the guarantor of northern hegemonic pretension with a very deceptive “maradona” General Ibrahim Babaginda at the helm of affairs, nullified what remain the fairest and most transparent democratic elections in the country. By this treasonable act, the northern dominated military brought the country close to the very edge of the precipice. Accordingly, 12 June, the anniversary of those elections, in the minds of the true progressive nationalists, has since remained the watershed for democratic entry into the Nigerian political firmament.

The final outcome of June 12 saga was the emergence of a most brutal northern hegemonic military oppression that sought to finally pacify the Yoruba of the West and extinguish its legendary robust democratic credentials. The dark goggled maximum ruler, Sani Abacha, failed woefully as he was fought to a standstill, with the arsenal of the unassailable and conscientious moral violence, until his handlers did the needful. Every president since then has been a product of political shenanigans masked in an “arrangeedemocracy.”

Under this hollowed out phenomenon of political contestation, General Olusegun Obasanjo was schemed into office by the post Abacha vanguard of the northern hegemony. He was understood to be a willing vassal of the North and thus preferred. The empty tank democracy that brought him into office had its unique underpinnings that seemingly became entrenched as the normative anchor for the elite circle of political opportunists and poll rogues and poll robbers that held Nigerian in a stranglehold. General Obasanjo, a self-perceived wisest man on the surface of the planet, heading the political class, has since imagined that as a product of this brand of democracy, authentic democracy itself was a convenient abstraction to be exploited to advance parochial and his personal objectives. That had been the logic of Nigeria’s democracy since June 12. On this basis, under the peculiar tenets of this obnoxious democracy, Obasanjo arranged for the consummation of an Umar Yar’adua and GoodluckEbele Jonathan presidency. This ticket was ushered into office on the platform of a most formidable coalition of the most despicable political marauders any country could be saddled with.

At all levels true democratic contestation across the country was derailed. Politics under this travesty revolved around the activities of ubiquitous political godfathers. They had emerged at the various sub-national levels as part of the culture of counterfeit democracy now personified in Obasanjo at the national level. The god father was the political dynamic. Intra-party primaries were just to go through the motions of the anointing the god son into the gubernatorial, senatorial or House race. The choice of the people did not matter and the elections were expected to be rigged. Brigandage was the norm. The democratic space was cluttered with unrepentant and famous rogues, recycled treasury looters, brigands, opportunists of various hues and outright social renegades.

This was odious democracy that operated on its own peculiar Nigerian axioms. These foundations deviated from the conventional principles and tenets associated with real democracy. The outcome was predictable. Obasanjo’s brand of democracy was not designed to deliver the dividends of democratic openings. Its internal procedures were a modified or civilianized version of a command hierarchy. Every one called him not Mr. President but “Baba”, reminiscent of the era of omniscient Mobutu Sese Seko Zaire. It was scandal filled and led to the complete disaffect from the population who had no voice. Jonathan was a product of this sham political business deal and operated under its principles.In these elections, he has sought to perpetuate this sham political legacy.

There was no primary in his party for a candidate to be nominated to contest for re-election. Jonathan had coopted every criminal he thought would be useful to elongate his regime. The Abacha family was not only rehabilitated, it was caressed and transformed into a potent political force in Kano with his scion potentially transformed into a governor. Major Hamzat Al- Mustapha is feted in government houses. Ex convict DiepreyeAlamieyeseigha has presidential pardon and adorned as a hero in Bayelsa State. No value was sacrosanct any more. The only value that mattered was the electability of Jonathan. So under Jonathan with a broken national moral compass, Justice Salami gate, Stella Oduagate, Deziani gate, Femi FaniKayode gate, Oristsajofor gate, NNPC gate, Central Bank gate all came in quick succession. All these were against the background of a raging mindlessly violent Boko Haram insurgency.

The lame response of the military to the Boko Haram insurgency is consistent with the final general collapse of the structures and institutions of democratic governance of the Nigerian state. The Nigerian education system went kaput. Medical tourism continued with this Nigerian president. Infrastructure broke down. Power supply became elusive. Every Nigerian household is an entity that must provide its own clinic, water, power and arrange for the education of the children. As for the military, the new set of unfortunate generals has been denied the opportunities of stealing directly from state coffers as governors and military administrators.

So they feed fat on the budget for the welfare of their men, for arms and ammunition, training and everything else. But his is not unprecedented like Tafa Balogun of the Nigeria Police Force, the generals appropriated the budget of their institutions for personal use and sent the soldiers literally barehanded to confront a determined and well heeled insurgency. The consequences have been catastrophic. Our daughters were abducted and are being used as human arsenals of war. The lucky returnees would never be the same girls that were taken away. The consequences include the phenomenon of Sambisa forest. We see the implications in a humbled Nigeria running from pillar to post haranguing America about not doing enough to fight Boko Haram, crawling to the United Nations, prostrating before the African Union that has created the Multinational Joint Task Force for the Lake Chad Basin plus One (MJFF) to deploy in Nigeria-a euphemistic acronym that seeks to soften the blow of the humiliating descent of Nigeria. The consequences of arrangee democracy ushered in by the north to protect its god given right to lead Nigeria from behind had altered the underlying principles of the governance of the Nigerian state. But while they were at it, Nigerian society was being transformed in spite of the state.

What has changed in today’s Nigeria is the cumulative impact of the incremental sensitization of the pro- democracy movements such as Save Nigeria group, the Bring back our girls campaign, and the efforts the many well-meaning civil society and their unending mobilization initiatives throughout the country. An important first factor is the national character of these social movements. By this character they have helped to undermine the solidity of the hitherto entrenched parochial worldview of all Nigerian constituencies and stakeholders. Although, Nigeria has yet to witness the massive pro-democracy mobilization associated with spontaneous public upheavals of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, a critical mass of people across the country that are acutely politically and socially aware in civil society has emerged.

What the rise in social consciousness has meant in the emerged crisis is to narrow or constrain the choices that the Jonathan administration, a current expression of Nigeria’s arrangee democracy, has in wriggling out of a very bad situation. In the past, the General MuhammaduBuhari/ TundeIdiagbon administration came to the rescue to relieve a confused Shehu Shagari administration of its burden and to ensure that the interest of the North was supreme. This same mindset later directed the Ibrahim Babaginda truncation of the MKO Abiola mandate that never saw the light of day. The Abacha regime drew its legitimacy from the silence, connivance and unhidden satisfaction of the northern elite to the horror of its oppression of the South, and in particular the Yoruba of the west.

The second important context is that a highly diminished and demoralised Nigerian Armed Forces is fighting two major wars. The first is the war against Boko Haram that has not gone too well. A second is an internal struggle to restore a modicum of respectability and legitimacy within the institution itself and in the perception of a large majority of discerning civilian population. Without this own sense of legitimacy, its internal cohesion is febrile, such that any attempt on its part to seize political power would doom it into self-destruct. A mere attempt of this throwback to past military adventurism in politics would import grave consequences for the longevity of the Nigerian state.

The rise of a pro-democracy movement with a largely national outlook and the unenviable state of the military have meant that the current crisis cannot be resolved by President Jonathan through the rumored interim arrangement to be led by its sympathizers-either military or civilian. An interim arrangement, as we saw with the marginal Shonekan interim post Babaginda administration is very vulnerable to any ambitious adventurer in the military.

There is no guarantee that such an accursed intervention, if it survives public agitation, would not probe all or the most damaging of the sins and “gates” earlier identified. Some have speculated that it is the fear of these potential probes that is responsible for the palpable anxiety of Jonathan and the Femi Fani Kayodes to derail any possibility of General Buhari’s succession to power.

It is thus the rise of this new national democraticn ferment that ultimately has made the holding of elections inevitable for the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. Without the options of a contrived interim intervention to stave off a dreaded judgment day, the Jonathan administration and their wayfarers are left with no other choice than to exploit the last bastions and frontiers of irrationality in Nigeria-religious sentiments. Sadly for the country, most of those who seem to favor the continuity of the Jonathan presidency are captains and purveyors of the primacy of the almost impregnable fortress of pervasive religious madness in the country. They thrive in a self-induced paranoi of Islamic religious hegemony.

The compulsion to protect Christianity in their mind should trump the national struggle to demand accountability and good governance. It is almost as if the horrendous lessons of Boko Haram and the Islamic State in the Levant and Orient (ISIL) are lost on everyone. But here too, the Jonathan administration is losing. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is divided along the lines of those who recognise that the handling of the affairs of the country has been appalling and also determined not to be victims of the parochial manipulation of the democratic challenge by the Jonathan presidency that is polarizing Nigerian society.

Media reports now indicate that the division in the Pentecostal fold has assumed a new dimension as the diverse responses to the evolution of the political process in the country has instigated religious leaders to publicly condemn each other. Some have castigated those who are perceived to have turned themselves into political errandboys overnight. Among the castigators is Primate Elijah Ayodele, the founder and spiritual leader of Inri Evangelical Spiritual Church who has wondered that the the level of religious contempt by notable religious leaders was unprecedented. Condemning their lack of courage to confront the political class of their mistakes, Primate Ayodele believes that the men of God were disgracing God by relating with the people in power.

Obasanjo god-fathered and cuddled this now serpentine Jonathan administration, advanced the unwholesome principles of presidential sit tightism in a constitutional dispensation in Nigeria that he sought to destroy, he massacred whole communities of Odi and Zaki Biam as a democratically elected president, before then under him as a military despot, he caused to be killed hundreds of Nigerian students on Black Friday in 1978. Also, under his tragic watch the assassination of a sitting Attorney General as with many other political actors took place. These murder are unresolved.

Most of his policies failed, including the ill-fated national identification project. The power project remains in darkness. The western world may be fooled in urging him to continue to pretend that he is relevant to Africa’s future. Nigerians may be sycophants, but they are not fooled. This naturally leads to a word on Gbagbo. Obasanjo cannot hold the candle beside this great African nationalist, to whom those who are truly educated on the events in Cote d’Ivoire pay their respects every day. It is a shame that a Nigerian ruler is so ignorant of the undercurrents in his own backyard. It is known that Gbagbo rebuffed this national embarrassment of a general. Late Arthur Mills realized Obasanjo was taking Africa on a shameful ride to a historic cul de sac and backtracked. It took the likes of Thabo Mbekis and the Musevenis, Nascimento’s of Angola and more importantly men of good conscience in France to try to salvage the tatters created by simplistic appreciation of Obasanjo interventions in a very complex situation in Cote d’Icvoire. The hapless and clueless president Jonathan inherited Obasanjo’s mess. There are books out there to remind Obasanjo of what truly transpired in Cote d’Ivoire.

In summation, and away from this necessary digression, the Jonathan debacle is a good omen of the future possibilities in a terribly abused land. Finally, what we witness today is the whirlwind of a democracy coming to Nigeria. Despite the paradox of being forced to look up to a former military dictator to unravel an odious system of renegades who have bastardized our democracy,it is the hope that this train would arrive safely at its destination.

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.