Tuesday, September 19, 2017 8:51 am
By Destiny Oghayerio Enabulele
The year 2015 witnessed a major epochal event in the history of our nation, when Nigerians once more marked and in some cases celebrated the 16th anniversary of unbroken democratic rule in the Country. That year’s event as many have correctly observed was the first time in our chequered history that a ruling political party handed over to an acclaimed victorious candidate of an opposition party. The celebration was even more orchestrated considering the palpable fears and apprehensions that preceded the elections of March and April 2015. Obviously what Nigerians are enjoying today, and believe should be protected, that is democracy, has come by way of great struggles and sacrifices of our heroes past and some still living. Unfortunately part of the tragedy and irony of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria, is that those that are reaping the benefits of democracy in Nigeria today, are those that never struggled for it. The entire process has been hijacked by a few who don’t give a hoot about those that sacrificed for the entrenchment of democracy.
In a democratic dispensation, it is pertinent to point out some of the salient and common denominators of democracy and why it is a major attraction globally. Firstly, it is held that the people that govern under a democracy do so with the mandate or consent of the people, which they willingly give through elections. Secondly, it is a basic assumption that the people so entrusted to govern are of the people that, is to say, that some members of the community are entrusted with the responsibility of governing the people. Thirdly, it is expected that those who govern, do so for the people, that is protect the interest of the people. Thus, while a democracy allows the citizens to choose their leader, the citizens also expect the leaders (that in government) to defend and promote their interests.
The fact is that democracy is all about how people and resources are run or maintained within a given social, political or economic group, with a view to creating order and ultimately meeting the needs of those within the unit, and this is what governance is all about. As the Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary puts it, “governance is equal to government, while govern itself means among other things, the aim of keeping a straight course or smooth operation for the good of the individual and the whole”. These fundamental observations are sacrosanct, otherwise we might continue to celebrate a means or method rather than celebrate the attainment of our goal. As a result of the assumptions of democracy and the historical experience of governance the world over, there is now the dominant and extant thinking that democracy is the best form of governance and guarantee, a good political life for people. Have these assumptions come right in Nigeria?
We that are familiar with the history of Nigeria, even in it rudiments form, recognize the fact that the society of the Nigeria people have undergone a lot of transformation or change. This also affected the social values of our people. It is a truism that the only permanent change in life is change itself. Hence one cannot quarrel with the fact that Nigeria people have had to go through a lot changes, quarrel and worry however, is that the predominant changes have been more of a negative nature, especially as they affect the social order. Most of the cherished social were now jettisoned under the guise of civilization. The problem with the turn away from the cherished values of the traditional society is that the system, that is the modern Nigeria society, is under some form of siege.
The Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as guaranteed in chapter II of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) as it relates to the economic well being of the people, which states inter alia;
In section 16, the Constitution emphasize that the state (government) shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution: “control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every Citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity”.
In subsection 2 of section 16, it states that; “that state shall direct its policy towards ensuring;
(a) The promotion of a planned and balanced economic development
(b) That the material resources of a nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.
(c) That the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and
(d) That suitable and adequate shelter suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wages, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.
You can see from the aforementioned provisions of our Constitution which all government functionaries including the national, state and local governments have sworn to defend, protect and abide with that in a contractual arrangement, they are all supposed to work for the well-being of the people, is that what we have in Nigeria ? -obviously no! In most cases they are working for themselves and their families to the utter neglect of the people. What is most important is that unless societies have governments they would be living in what the 17th Century Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1678) identified as a “state of nature”. For him, without rules, people would live like predators, animals, stealing and killing for personal benefit (Mukherjee and Ramaswamy, 2004). As well put by the Americans in 1776 in their Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted among men to help them secure the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. They added that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the people. There is the element of the social contract whereby the people surrender some of their rights to those that govern them so that they pursue and protect the larger good.
Let me travel into history of recent past thus, the success story of Singapore thus, shows how a nation or state can move from hopelessness to an example of modernity. The instructive story of the foundation of the transformation of Singapore as stated by the leader that laid the foundation for the modern Singapore is summarized thus;
“A united and determined group of leaders, backed by a practical and hardworking people who trusted them, made it possible”.
I had to quote the aforesaid, for us to appreciate it that Nigeria can get it right with ethical orientation. What therefore most crucial in actualizing the goals of repositioning our society, including the economy is willing and effective leadership that harness the great potentials of the state, both human and materials, deploying same to meet the needs of the citizens. Matters of attitudinal change, ownership of government programmes and policy is not by executive fiat rather with equitable engagement of her Citizens.
Destiny Oghayerio Enabulele (B.A-ISD, MA-HISTORY), Lead Director, Cradle of Black Civilization Initiative, President, Conference of Non Governmental Organizations, Human Rights Activist. 08039289375. [email protected]