Febuharing and Atikulating the Issues: Naija Democrazy run Amok 2.0
***This is an update of the previously posted paper of the same title.
Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies
Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies
Leonard & Claire Tow Professor, 2015/2016
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Which kind election be dis?....
Na dem-o-cr-azy be the deal
Na dem-o-cr-azy be the deal
Who don teach us ee dem-o-cr-azy?
…. Oyinbo teach-ee us
…. Oyinbo for Europe-oh
Oyinbo teach us many many things-ee
Many of dem things I don sing about-ee
Me I no gin copy Oyinbo style
Let us think say, Oyinbo know pass me
When Shagari finish him elections
Wey dem no tell am, say him make mistake-ee
Say this yo, no be democracy
Oyinbo dem no tell army self
Na for England-ee, I me no fit take over
I come think about this demo-crazy
I have a dream of a nation where no man is oppressed. An egalitarian society. That is what we are working towards. We desire a nation, a true federal state where all the nationalities will have equal access to political power. Where justice, equity and the rule of law operate. We want to leave a good legacy for our children like you said, I am old. There is nothing again I am looking for. But our children and children's children must not be slaves in their father's land.
(Senator Abraham Adesanya 1999)
The quote above is from my 1999 paper, (Okome, State and Civil Society in Nigeria in the Era of the Structural Adjustment Program, 1986-93, 1999), which makes it clear that Nigeria’s current political problems have deep roots.
I begin by emphasizing that democracy is not a spectator sport. Contesting for office and voting are essential elements, but they are only parts of the necessary processes for a well-functioning democracy. Given historical experience and huge chasms between electoral campaign promises and post-electoral performance, one should not expect too much from elections regardless of who wins. What Nigeria needs is the deepening of democracy. The country’s masses, particularly the marginalized women and youth, need more development, more equality, less injustice, social emancipation, economic redistribution, support for human security, and meaningful participation in politics in their own interest. Elections will not directly address any of these imperatives.
What are the implications of the postponement of the 2019 elections for democracy in the context of state-society relations in Nigeria? In reflecting on this question, it’s remarkable how the long shadow of the past dogs the present. Despite having approximately 70 Presidential candidates, Nigerians must make a choice between two people: the current incumbent, APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari and PDP’s Atiku Abubakar. That the race is a two-man affair is testament to the weakness of the Nigerian middle/upper class. This strata was decimated by the effects of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), but is recovering. Many are also to be found among the remittances-sending diaspora that is not allowed to exercise franchise, although they are responsible for massive financial transfers and investment in Nigeria.
One can also distinguish between the older middle class that experienced the devastating effects of what some call the locust years of SAP, and the newly emerging middle class that is alienated from politics, or whose entry into politics the ‘independent’ candidates captured. The middle class is also the base for civil society activism, but it is yet to act in an organized way, as a class in its own interest. The dominance of President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar can be attributed to the tendency for post-authoritarian politics to manifest elements of authoritarianism even after the end of authoritarian rule. Bangura (1991) called this situation authoritarian democracy
and Fareed Zakaria’s more popular phrase, illiberal
democracy also captures the same tendencies.
The military accumulated and monopolized political power during the long years of dictatorship (1966-1999), that give them significant wherewithal (economic power and social status, parlayed into securing political power), to continue dominance in these early years of democratization. Olusegun Obasanjo, and now, Muhammadu Buhari merely changed their uniforms and became civilian rulers. Both have authoritarian tendencies. Ibrahim Babangida, Abdusalami Abubakar and many other generals also exercise significant power in Nigerian politics as power brokers and godfathers. The top military brass also accumulated significant wealth, and have wealthy, influential cohorts on whom they can depend for support. Atiku Abubakar was a Customs officer, another alleged source of considerable wealth accumulation in Nigeria’s economy. Money plays a huge role in Nigerian politics, making it difficult for the middle class to generate enough to mobilize campaigns that successfully challenge the uber wealthy. In addition, the middle class is yet to find a way to assert itself through candidates that speak directly to their interests and are driven by their agenda. It is also impossible not to remark on the passivity of this middle class, its self-absorption, retreat into individualism and consumerism, instead of working hard to envision and actualize more progressive politics that presents an alternative to the status quo.
The middle class lacks organic links to the masses. It fails to contribute to envisioning and producing a Nigeria that responds to the hopes and aspirations of the masses. It does not sufficiently act as “agents of a moral and intellectual reform developed from a class perspective.” Is the intellectual stratum of the Nigerian middle class “acting in favor or against the powers of capital?” Is it connecting the mass of population to the leadership of the state through a web of social relationships?”
(Herrera-Zgaib, 2009). Is it engaged in public
persuasion to produce more rational, more humane, more relevant alternatives to
the status quo? Is it able to convince the Nigerian public that these are the appropriate
solutions to the political, economic and social predicaments they face? Is it
involved in facilitating the complex manoeuvring and dynamic positioning of the
masses, vis a vis the powerful gladiators of Nigerian politics? (Williams, 1988).
Nigerian intellectuals suffered great repression and suppression during the military era, a situation that destroyed the universities and weakened their status as sites for knowledge production. It produced intellectuals who collaborated with, and propagandized, for the military regimes, and was highly rewarded for its devotion. The valorization of wealth, regardless of the source, disdain for the poor, empty religiosity, and the reinforcement of anti-intellectualism also grow apace. There is pervasive religiosity
(Holdcroft, 2006), with prosperity
gospel, (which within Pentecostalism, is the most rapidly growing variant of
Christianity), fusing casting its support for neoliberal resource accumulation (Gregory, 2014), and support for patriarchy (Sullivan & Delaney, 2017). Members are also
exhorted to support the top decision makers, and to respect and pray for
constituted authority. Liberation theology is yet to take hold in Nigeria. Since
the middle class is either unwilling or unable to take on the challenge of
inspiring and leading socioeconomic and political transformation, the nature of
the choice entails going with the lesser of two "evils," despite his
military antecedents, I believe that President Muhammadu Buhari is the better
Nigeria is 20 years into its current foray into democratization. What has changed? To properly assess this, one must consider issues of governance including legitimacy, lack of transparency, abuse of office, corruption & kleptocracy, malfeasance, policy implementation, and lack of efficiency in the delivery of services. Nigeria is also bedevilled by lack of physical infrastructure, lack of social welfare infrastructure, intractable and growing inequality, ethno-religious conflict, growing insecurity and lack of human security. The hot button issue of the moment is the postponed elections. The national electoral machinery looks disorganized and incompetent
(Onyeji, 2019). The INEC Chair,
Professor Yakubu Mahmood, who had up until the postponement, assured that the
elections were on track to be held as scheduled, made a 360 turnaround on the
eve of the February 16 elections and announced that there were logistical and
other problems that compelled postponement (CNBC.com, 2019). There are reports
of PVCs, ballots, and completed collation sheets found that cause heightened
anxieties that the elections will be rigged. This contributes to growing fears
that the elections will not be free and fair. There are agitated calls to arms
that reveal persistent deep religious, ethnic, and other cleavages in Nigerian
politics. Amidst this cacophony, I will consider how Febuharing and Atikulating
the issues contribute to Naija Democrazy run amok.
I will now address three urgent aspects of the challenges of democracy in Nigeria: Febuharing the Issues; Atikulating the Issues; Naija Democrazy run amok, and wrap up by suggesting what is to be done.
The two-horse race is a major political issue. While Nigeria has a very young population, two men in their 70s are the strongest candidates in the Presidential contest. It would have been ideal for the country to have equally strong young candidates who were well-prepared to challenge the gerontocrats. There also are no strong women candidates to challenge the male preserve that Nigerian Presidency has become. Not having women and youth in leadership means there are few to no new ideas introduced into the political system. The dynamic ideas and innovations that women and youth could have offered to transform social, political and economic policy are prevented from seeing the light of day. It is also inequitable and undemocratic to shut out majority of Nigerians from leadership.
Political parties are important institutions for a well-functioning democratic system. They should mobilize and bring people who share common interests together, select the best candidates to run for office, strive to gain control of the government through well-organized campaigns that ask the electoral to vote for their candidates. They also should monitor the opposition, have platforms that identify, and agglomerate issues based on the party’s ideology and interests. However, Nigerian political parties are expedient gatherings of people whose bandwagoning, cross-carpet strategies show that the only logic is that of capturing state power. Electoral campaigns are marked by violence, straightforward material inducements that ask the electorate to exchange votes for money, food, and other commodities. This transactional tendency is so strong that it has been dubbed “stomach infrastructure.” The parties also lack internal democracy, and primaries are often rigged. The two biggest parties—APC and PDP are indistinguishable. Each has corrupt, expedient, unethical politicians. President Buhari, who has the good reputation of not being corrupt had to depend on many such people for support. Atiku, who is alleged to be corrupt is also surrounded by rich, powerful and corrupt politicians. The challenge that President Buhari has had during his first term is to kill corruption before it kills Nigeria. He has begun the war but is yet to win because vested interests will not give up without a fight. Given his pronouncements, I doubt that Atiku has any such intention and it would be a mistake to give him the reins of power.
The election machinery should function efficiently and in a manner that inspires trust in the freedom and fairness of the process. However, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) postponed the 2019 elections five hours before the polls were scheduled to open. Since this is the third consecutive time elections would be postponed (2011, 2015, and now 2019), the electoral machinery appears to be inefficient and disorganized. The electorate is disillusioned, disappointed and frustrated with rumours of rigging, sabotage, logistical nightmares, the massive waste of time, energy, and tremendous loss to the economy that postponements cause. They find the explanations by INEC illogical and unconscionable. This is bound to affect the level of confidence that the elections are free and fair, and highly damaging to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.
Nigeria continues its democratization with a rather unstable state-society relationship. There are fundamental questions regarding the type of state that will best serve a country whose goal is economic and political development. Unfortunately, the state once again, is stuck deep in the morass of economic and political crisis.
Febuharing the Issues
President Buhari came in with a change agenda. Many Nigerians were excited and encouraged, believing that they were on the threshold of extraordinary social, economic, and political transformation that would propel the country into development and more accountable, legitimate, government. Many are very disappointed that the myriad problems that the Buhari administration promised to conquer have become even more intractable. Among these are problems of personal and human security, lack of welfare infrastructure, lack of social services, particularly for Nigeria’s poor masses, the increase of material poverty, and lack of government interest in communicating regularly with the citizens on the state of the body politic and what was being done to address these and other serious problems. It did not help that President Muhammadu Buhari spent so much time abroad undergoing treatment. It also does not help that some of his pronouncements make Nigerians remember his War Against Indiscipline (WAI) policies, with their dictatorial overtones.
With 16.7 percent women Ministers (6 out of 36), President Buhari’s administration appointed significantly less than the 35 percent representation demanded by Nigerian women’s rights activists, promised by Buhari during the 2015 election campaigns, and recommended by the 2006 National Gender Policy
(Ajayi, 2019). This was very
disappointing for women activists. The President’s rhetoric is also very male
dominant. If given another opportunity to lead Nigeria, the President must
adhere by the recommendation of the National Gender Policy and catch up with
other African states like the Congo, Zambia (Inter Parliamentary Union, 2017), and most recently,
Ethiopia, whose cabinet is 50% female (Schemm, 2018 ).
There is restiveness in the Southeast from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and contrary to the administration’s pronouncement that Boko Haram was technically defeated, it remains a menace. It is also disheartening that the government seems to care more about answering questions posed by external actors. It explains its position to foreign actors than to ordinary Nigerians, to whom it must be accountable, according to the constitution that it swore to uphold.
The intensification of herdsmen-farmer clashes that predate the genesis of the Buhari administration
(Obioha, 2008) is another serious
problem. Although this is a problem found all over the continent, and it is
attributed to factors including drastic limitations to pastoralists’ access to
resources (Tonah, 2002; Moritz, 2010), there is widespread
perception in Nigeria that this is a problem unique to the country. Nigerians
in affected communities also see President Buhari as unfairly favouring the
herdsmen, who are perceived to be his Fulani kinsmen in Nigeria’s hyper-ethnicized
politics. The rising numbers of deaths, sophistication of weaponry allegedly
used by the “herdsmen,” brutality, and inflamed rhetoric have combined with
perceived government inability to proffer viable solutions (Kazeem, 2018).
There is also strong perception that President Buhari, like President Olusegun Obasanjo before him, is using the anti-corruption agencies to persecute his political enemies and many of his supporters who are corrupt are left off the hook. As a matter of fact, Atiku Abubakar claimed that Obasanjo used EFCC against him because they were feuding
With estimates of over 50 percent, Youth unemployment and underemployment are way too high
(Adejokun, 2018). This has
contributed to increased despair, disillusionment, crime, social strife, and
heightened desire to embrace international migration as a solution. Time and
again, gruesome deaths, robbery, and harsh assaults and other abuses in the
Sahara desert, Libya, and in the Mediterranean remind us about the torment
experienced by those caught up in this turmoil.
Clearly, the administration has not consistently and effectively explained what it is doing to address these and many other problems to Nigerians in a manner that captures the people’s imagination.
Nigeria has a mono-export economy, and the misfortune of the Buhari administration is that the international oil market had tanked just before it took over. Without the earnings from petroleum exports, Nigeria is unable to fund many budgetary initiatives. The economy shrank considerably and given this dependence, only a dramatic upswing in the oil market would provide Nigeria with the funds needed to pay for much of what it needs. Understandably, people who suffer the brunt of this shrinkage are angry, disillusioned and impatient with what they see as flimsy government excuses for its ineptitude.
As a result, many Nigerians would not mind having corruption as long as the economy is flush, and they are able to live relatively better than they are today. Although this is short-sighted and ill-advised, it’s the situation.
Atikulating the Issues
Atiku Abubakar, President Buhari’s main challenger for the Presidency, is a businessman who was VP under President Olusegun Obasanjo, and previous contestant for the Presidency. In pursuit of this agenda, he’s switched parties quite a few times, a strategy that’s pervasive in Nigerian politics. I remain astounded at Nigerians’ tendency to forget history. Atiku is accused of grand kleptocracy and malfeasance, most volubly by the man for whom he served as VP, President Obasanjo. There are transcripts of US congressional hearings with documentation of massive transfers of funds into the US by him and one of his four wives. He is accused of money laundering. The transcripts should be online for anyone to read
Subcommittee on Investigations United States Senate, 2010). But just to present
some of the documentation verbatim, here below is an excerpt:
Abubakar Case History
From 2000 to 2008, Jennifer Douglas, a U.S. citizen and the fourth wife of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and former candidate for President of Nigeria, helped her husband bring over $40 million in suspect funds into the United States through wire transfers sent by offshore corporations to U.S. bank accounts. In a 2008 civil complaint, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Ms. Douglas received over $2 million in bribe payments in 2001 and 2002, from Siemens AG, a major German corporation. While Ms. Douglas denies wrongdoing, Siemens has already pled guilty to U.S. criminal charges and settled civil charges related to bribery and told the Subcommittee that it sent the payments to one of her U.S. accounts. In 2007, Mr. Abubakar was the subject of corruption allegations in Nigeria related to the Petroleum Technology Development Fund
Subcommittee on Investigations United States Senate, 2010).
President Olusegun Obasanjo on Atiku in his book:
What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time, a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts, his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest (Volume 2, Pages 31- 32).
It is disingenuous for President Obasanjo to do a 360-degree turn around and claim that since Atiku has apologized to him, he is to be trusted. Apologies to President Obasanjo and assurances made to him do not absolve Atiku Abubakar of these damning charges. Moreover, given the seriousness of the allegations made against him and his own responses in the interview by Kadaria Ahmed, that suggests that he does not think conflicts of interest are important (Heartbeat 360 Media, 2019), I do not think anybody should give him the opportunity to take charge of Nigeria’s economy because his record leads one to believe that he would just do more of the same: crony capitalism, where corruption, graft, kleptocracy and impunity will prevail. Like him, in the same interview, Atiku’s VP running mate, Peter Obi also does not find conflict of interest and crony capitalism, and the ongoing global crisis of neoliberal capitalism important or relevant to their plans for Nigeria. They just want to do business and politics as usual. What do the masses of impoverished Nigerians stand to gain from this? What is at stake for the teeming population of unemployed and underemployed youth? What do all the apologists and champions of these two stand to gain? Is their plan for Nigeria the best we can do after these many years of independence and democratization?
For some, Atiku seems to be preferable to Buhari due to Buhari’s failure to address the concerns of Nigerians who are suffering the economic pains resulting from the decline in international petroleum prices, and other issues identified above. Nigerians feeling the pain blame it on Buhari. The Buhari administration has been inept in coming up with clear, digestible, convincing explanations that capture the imagination of Nigerians. It has had the last four years to do so. Having a convincing narrative of what’s going on and why is part of what good governance is about.
The elections have been delayed. Nigerians have a chance to think clearly and refuse to be Atikulated by an Atikulooter.
Naija Democrazy run amok
Here’s a long quote from an old paper of mine, which I still find relevant.
Slightly less than four [now six] decades ago, Nigeria became independent from colonial rule…However, the Nigerian state maintains its essential character as a colonial imposition. It is bifurcated, Janus-faced, over-centralized. The indirect rule system that was introduced during colonialism persists, since there are a few citizens, composed overwhelmingly of male members of the state created bourgeoisie, a few token women, and many subjects, composed of the poor, and the overwhelming majority of women. The decentralization that has taken place thus far is a decentralization of despotism.
In 1999 when Nigeria’s fourth republic began, the specter of SAP from the mid-1980s was still very much alive in the Nigerian imagination. SAP had adverse, detrimental effects on Nigeria’s socioeconomic, and political relations. There were
(Okome M. O., 1998). The depth of the
crisis was so profound that the SAP years were described as the lost decades,
when the African continent suffered drastic reversals in both socioeconomic
well-being and state power (Mkandawire, 2002). The SAP
conditionalities imposed harsh economic stabilization regimes that forced
Nigeria to embrace devaluation, subsidy elimination, mass retrenchment,
prioritization of debt payment over concern for citizens’ welfare needs, privatization,
and embrace of neoliberal free trade. Deindustrialization, decrepitude of
higher educational institutions. The economic decline was deep, and I’ve often
wondered whether Nigerians want to be SAPped again. SAP rent/tore the Nigerian social
fabric. Looking at Nigeria today, the World Bank said that despite the deep
decline in its GDP in 2016, “Nigeria’s economy has performed much better in
recent years than it did during previous boom-bust oil-price cycles, such as in
the late 1970s or mid-1980s.” The Bank attributes Nigeria’s problems to
overdependence on earnings from international oil sales, consequent volatile
growth and welfare costs on the population (The World Bank, 2018).
Many Nigerians are unwilling to experience the depth of economic pain that was imposed during the SAP years. This explains the willingness to trust that someone presented as a successful businessman just has to wave a magic wand and presto! The economy is transformed. Is a personal business the same as a national economy? Paul Krugman’s “A Country is not a Company,” published in Harvard Business Review, explains why. In the first place, business executives do not understand “the relationship between exports and job creation, and, second, the relationship between foreign investment and trade balances. Both issues involve international trade, partly because it is the area I know best but also because it is an area in which businesspeople seem particularly inclined to make false analogies between countries and corporations.” More importantly, business moguls are not good at providing general theories that are useful for economic policymaking. Further, they, like many laypersons, do not grasp the complexity of national economies
Is SAP not part of a neoliberal economic strategy? Part of the policy package is opening-up the national economy to foreign competition and making the environment business-friendly. This benefits multinationals more than young and struggling home industry. It benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Economic growth might result, but it will be accompanied by increased inequality in a country that already has a huge mass of impoverished and immiserated citizens. There have been strong criticisms of this model of economic planning after the 2008 global economic meltdown (See liberal economists like Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and even the IMF’s Christine Lagarde; as well as Thomas Piketty and Robert Reich); but it does not seem as though Atiku and his running mate are aware of this crisis of capitalism and calls by for reform to decrease inequality and curtail crony capitalism.
This paper began with Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s “Teacher, Don’t Teach me Nonsense,” and an excerpt from an interview of Senator Abraham Adesanya. Fela’s song critiqued Nigeria’s corrupt, illiberal politics, where elections were rigged, mismanagement, abuse of power, impunity, mismanagement, kleptocracy and austerity were prevalent. The Nigerian political elite lacked organic connection to the people, they appeared to be puppets to imperialists who had left but were still in control. Democracy was subverted into Democrazy. Senator Adesanya was asked by a journalist: “What is your vision of Nigeria in the next millennium?” The senator's reply that he dreams of a Nigeria where no one is oppressed, a country that is egalitarian, where all peoples can freely exercise the right to self-determination, where there is fairness, impartiality and the rule of law, where the legacy that the present generations leave for future Nigerians is that of freedom and equality in all respects.
The claims that are being made by more progressive elements in the organized civil society in Nigeria are essentially reflected in Fela’s critique and Senator Adesanya’s statement. However, civil society must be strengthened vis a vis the state. The demand that people participate in the making of decisions that will impact not only on them, on their well-being, and also negatively impact on their material interests, is not a frivolous demand. It is a claim by people against the state that questions what the appropriate role of the state ought to be in the realization of equitable economic and political development. It is a claim that remains relevant today.
Nigeria is still in the throes of the crisis that was set in motion as a result of the decision to experiment with policies like SAP that were devised for other economies in other lands. Having a strong civil society is a necessary bulwark against the misuse of state power. In this respect, both state and civil society in Nigeria are works in progress.
What is to be Done?
In the past, I pointed out that citizens of Nigeria have been denied the dividends of democracy
(Okome, 2006). Nigerians are
understandably dismayed and disillusioned. Some have even despaired. In such
circumstances, ‘politics as usual’ cannot suffice. Nigerians believed President
Buhari when he said he was bringing change into the political system. Many
Nigerians are not feeling the change because the reactionary forces are still
very influential, poverty seems to be intractable, and economic inequality has
Many issues that most Nigerians are just noticing have been part of our historical experience. However, people tend to notice problems and see them more clearly in bad times. In good times, problematic issues are swept under the rug, and euphoria obscures many challenges. Do we want to continue democrazy? Do we want meaningful change? The choice is in our hands. Free and fair elections give ordinary Nigerians the opportunity to consider their own interests instead of being hoodwinked by people who would get into power and Atikuloot our patrimony.
Instead, we must continue with democracy but just focusing on contestation for political office and voting are insufficient. Citizens must demand accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and other laudable democratic principles. These demands must be made publicly by broad coalitions that transcend the religious, class, ethnic, and gender divides that militate against united and effective agitation for change.
We need stronger institutions: laws, systems, and procedures that will strengthen and safeguard our young democracy. Our legislature is more interested in its perks and trappings of office than in doing its constitutionally mandated work in a way that contributes to strengthening Nigerian democracy. We also need strong middle class support for, and deployment of liberation theology. This means the freedom from social, political, and economic persecution, and marginalization in expectation of fundamental deliverance from structural violence and tyranny
(Welcome to the Many Forms of
Liberation Theology, n.d.). and Freirean
pedagogy of the oppressed (1972), which
says: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate
integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and
bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by
which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover
how to participate in the transformation of their world” (Freire, 1972). As Horton, Freire,
Bell and Gaventa said: “The more people participate in the process of their own
education, and the more people participate in defining what kind of production
to produce, and for what and why, the more people participate in the
development of their selves. The more people become themselves, the better the
democracy” (Horton, Bell, & Gaventa,
All Nigerians have to rise collectively to the challenge of becoming ourselves
so that we further develop our democracy and move away from the zone on
The postponement of elections and the lack of convincing explanations for why four years have been insufficient to prepare for these current elections means that INEC must be seriously overhauled. The executive and bureaucratic institutions, the legal and judicial systems, the governance of the police, ombudsman, human rights institutions all need serious work.
Our system needs to operate the checks and balancing that ensure the functioning of governance in a manner that prevents abuse of power and impunity. We need press freedom. There is too much evidence that the press is captured, often by the highest bidders. The role of the press as watchdogs who keep people informed is key to enabling meaningful participation. The meaning of democracy is that power should belong to the people. Nigerians should rise to the challenge of making democracy work to our advantage.
As far back as 2012 I had cautioned, that:
Demands for the dividends of democracy do not emerge in a vacuum. For this reason, people feel duped when there are no dividends to be found. The politicians that won the last elections themselves set up the baseline expectations that while the Nigerian economy was in the doldrums when they took over, they would make quantifiable and progressive changes in the economic situation in Nigeria. While it is to be expected that politicians would want to sweep the pronouncements that made the expectations rational under the rug, people who believed them were quite unwilling to be duped. Therefore, through the press, they demand some reckoning. This is one reason why one of the chieftains of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) was questioned by a journalist in the following vein in September 2000:When the new administration took over power in 1999, the rate of interest for prime borrowers was between 12 and 15 per cent, it is now 30 and 35 per cent; the growth rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 2.4 per cent, it is now negative; the naira then could be exchanged at the rate of N88 to 1 US Dollar, it is now N134 to 1 USD; inflation rate stood at 13 per cent then, it is now 26 per cent; unemployment rate then was...."
Of course, the journalist was cut off by the uncomfortable politician…
It is heart-breaking that what obtained in 2001 remains the same in 2019. The Naira has declined further. Poverty has increased exponentially. A few are wealthy and comfortable and majority are in dire straits. Even more Nigerians see migration as their only option, and they are taking desperate measures. Given these circumstances, there is even more at stake for people who want Nigerian democracy to thrive. Giving the reins of power to those who believe in self-enrichment at the expense of the masses is not the answer. But both the APC and PDP have their share of such individuals due to the head-spinning carpet-crossing that is a routine part of Nigeria’s politics.
Having been excluded, women and other marginalized minorities must work through organized, focused, coalitions that are trans-class, trans-region, trans-religion, trans-ethnicity, to put more women into formal and informal positions of power in Nigeria’s political system. Nigerian women and youth must organize, plan, and in every possible way, prepare to enter Nigerian politics as leaders in their own interest. The extent to which they can do so would be the extent to which the country’s democracy deepens and meets the needs of majority of its people.
Nigerians should refuse to be persuaded to give up on the general interest of the nation to serve the sectional agenda of power-hungry elites that have not inspired confidence in the past.
I believe that between the two candidates in this two-person race, Buhari is the better option for Nigeria.
*** I would like to express my great appreciation to Modupe Oluremi Kuteyi, Don Robotham, Aisha Muhammed Oyebode and Cyril Obi for their sound critiques, suggestions and questions. They helped me tremendously. Consequently, this iteration of the paper is much better. However, the opinions and conclusions expressed are all mine.
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