Democracy was defined by former American President Abraham Lincoln as ‘Government by the people, to the people and for the people’. But in our own case, Democracy and in other climes, it can also be described as ’government by the people, hijacked for few and to favor a few’.
When there was a misunderstanding in 2015, the federal government rolled out armored personnel carriers and hundreds of soldiers and mobile police men to quash a protest by Muslim Brothers (Shiites) and the incarceration and extra-judicial killings of their leaders and members, most Nigerians shrugged their shoulders, arguing that the sect members were too fanatical and combative.
That was, the perception of the majority without digging deep down the remote cause (s) of the protest which is similar to that of Boko Haram insurgency that has so far defied applicable solutions for return to normalcy. Since 2015, hundreds of Muslim brothers have been killed, maimed and tortured by overzealous security agents under official directives.
Activists in the Niger Delta with genuine reason for better conditions of living were not spared the wrath of security agents on directive. When the Revolution Now led by Omoyele Sowere, publisher of Sahara Reporters online medium and Sahara television took the streets to protest against what they described as the misrule of Nigeria and rising insecurity, the government instinctively deployed soldiers and mobile police men to put it a stop, regardless of constitutional provisions guaranteeing the protesters fundamental rights.
And when presidential spokesmen, both of them senior journalists, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu consistently defended tyranny, cynically and sarcastically derided protests and the anguished cries of the oppressed, it is impossible for patriots not to recall, no matter how faintly, the horrors of tyrannical governments. It reminds me of our trying days in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). We were chased like bush rats in our country for standing by the truth by agents of state. We were tagged as ‘terrorists’ on rampage.
Bombs were planted by state agents to blackmail NADECO. We stood our ground and God saved Nigeria from the hands of those tormentors. Today, those that stood our ways and waged wars against return to democracy are shamelessly twisting facts for political gain from the ignorant. Those domiciled in villages were misinformed of the primary objective of our struggle. Nadeco was seen by the powers of that time as Al-Shabbah of Somalia or the Temil Tigers of Sri Lanka without justification. Hypocritical northern leaders rated Nadeco as a pure Yoruba affair despite the involvement of some of their best in the struggle. The rest is history.
Many Nigerians are genuinely worried about the fate of the present practicing democracy in their country. Their worries are not assuaged by the seeming legitimization of kitchen cabinets acting more like a camorra than philosophers, and their more denigrated cousin, the cabal. Theoretically, a kitchen cabinet should exert healthy influence on a leader and expand his vista. But that presupposes that the leader is clear about what he wants, which direction he wants to go, and possess enough depth to weigh his ideas and gauge their impact on those he governs.
To present a mental and ideological tabula rasa to his kitchen cabinet is lend himself to motley opportunistic ideas that tragically skew public policy in the direction of special ethnic and religious interests. Given the offhanded manner Mamman Daura and the late Sama’ila Isa Funtua spoke about the president’s kitchen cabinet, for which they became the fulcrum, few Nigerians believe that the cabal and the presidency sufficiently dispelled suspicion of its unhealthy influence over the government. The attribution of miscarried and tyrannical public policies to the kitchen cabinet got so bad that some Nigerians secretly derived morbid relief in the passing of two key members of the dreaded cabal, Abba Kyari and Sama’ila Isa Funtua.
It will take some time to measure the extent of influence wielded by the president’s kitchen cabinet, or find out exactly what role they played in the increasing dysfunction of the country. But it should take far less time in determining overall what impact this government has had on democracy, society, security, economy and politics. The presidency should set the country’s democratic pace. It has been unable to do that, and has in addition shown little interest in lauding and fostering the concept as the cardinal principle of government. In Nigeria today, democracy is in fact besieged, with the government serving as the battering ram. Lifting the siege will depend on how involved the people are, and to what extent they can put their shoulders to the wheel and stay focused under pressure. They know the judiciary is limping on one leg, the other leg having been amputated by the government and the national assembly is displaying gentle but episodic activism, particularly the House of Representatives. They also know that in this dispensation, democracy will remain an outcast, and not only at the federal level but also more pertinently and worrisomely at the state level.
The situation is bleak, and it will take a lot of effort to ensure that election, the only surviving indicator of democracy in Nigeria, does not pitch the country over the cliff in the struggle for power. Indeed, managing the powder kegs of political restructuring and election 2023 will be the main preoccupation of Nigerians, as they try to steer their country away from disaster in the months ahead. Their task is not helped by the atrocious kite flying of the cabal, the rampant violence and insecurity in the country, especially in the North, the Boko Haram war bedeviled by mismanagement and insincerity, the massive ignorance that plagues the country and beclouds their collective judgment and obfuscates their choices, and the remorseless manner the presidency chases ethnic and religious chimeras. Nigerians are pretentiously deeply religious and set great store by miracles. Now, they need those miracles to save their democracy and see the country through 2023. In most states of the federation, change may be inevitable. Some of the governors are more of their family representatives in government than the expected leaders of the people for trust. They serve as drain pipes of public resources while others smell corruption and cluelessness combined as others have already derailed from the path of good governance as others are busy fighting imaginary opponents with public resources against development. 2023 should be the year to salvage Nigeria from the hands of the undesirables for the promise land. Genuine Change anchored on sincerity of purpose is Inevitable!
Let us look at it this way, in most states of Nigeria governors serve as the chief contractors of the very government they lead. They have stationed fronts within and outside the system that do their biddings. Governors have around them some criminally-minded errand boys that specialize in money laundering scandals. Governors hire and fire aides at the slightest mistake. Appointments to political offices are not by competence and merit but by sentiment. Fronting aides and lackeys are posted to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) considered ‘juicy’ for a hatchet job of stealing to oil political ambitions of their godfathers. Rabble rousers and sycophants make the kitchen cabinets of Governors, Senators and House of Representatives members for obvious reasons not far from selfish interest. Habitual blackmailers, renowned satanic agents and vagabonds are stationed for a fee as attack dogs in case of any challenge to the faulty governing system no matter how factual it may be. The Democracy is now turned Demo-crazy and should that be allowed to flourish? Nigerians yearn for all inclusive government for the system to grow and appreciate!
It is only in the Nigerian democracy that politicians source loans to contest elective offices for liquidation after accessing power. How that is done, should not disturb a sleep. It is liquidated through stealing of public funds and other corrupt practices. Politics in Nigeria is a lucrative business that brews insecurity and indiscipline. That reminds me of an interesting posting I received on my WhatsApp alleging that a particular political party in Wase local government area of Plateau State not mentioned, is transformed to a limited liability company owned by some of those in government. In that local government, it is an ‘abomination’ to some few for anyone to fault the style of those politicians believed to be mean and dictatorial on a wrong platform of life.
Whether the next president will eschew the offensive insularity of today in favor of the inclusiveness the country desperately needs will depend on the worldview and vision, and if he can honestly ask whether Nigeria is a nation, whether the people are pursing the same goals, and whether the leaders are capable of the altruism and global vision Nigeria’s founding fathers could only dream of. But Nigeria needs to be unchained from sincere leadership deficiency syndrome.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues