By Oladokun Taofeek*
In this year’s ‘democracy day’, I woke up in the morning and the first thing my neighbour said to me was: ‘Happy Democracy Day’. At first, I wanted to turn deaf ears to the unfounded greetings, but I felt it would be good to know the yardstick with which the ‘patriotic’ neighbour has measured the happiness in the day. I swiftly replied by posing a question: ‘what is the happiness in democracy?’ Funny enough, she was marvelled by that poser and remained mute for a while. What if you were asked the same question?
The definition proffered by the 16th American President, Abraham Lincoln still rings bell in our memory, maybe because it is widely-quoted and often used conveniently, even by ‘foetus’. I think ‘democracy’ was defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people. I ask myself without requiring you to answer, does the concept ‘democracy’ exists ipso facto in our country-Nigeria?
One needs not be superhuman before one knows that the appropriate definition is a government of some people, by some people and for some people. Funny still, it is widely proclaimed shamelessly that democracy is practised in Nigeria. Of course, our political history shows there had been military interventions and I may not but agree that the best military regime is worse than the worst civilian administration. But then, is a civilian administration the same as democracy?
The giant of Africa, as it is fondly called is naturally blessed with fertile soil, petroleum and a host of other resources, yet millions of Nigerians are living in abject poverty. You could imagine a situation where an average Nigerian cannot afford three-square meal, and living less on $150 per day. The situation is pathetic to the extent that self-feeding is becoming a mirage, not to talk of feeding others. Let’s bear in mind that this is a country where majority of the population are still illiterates. How many of them can even afford a cup of garri. The irony of all is that those that ‘represent’ the people are actually representing their political godfathers and personal pockets. It’s here you will see a ‘representative of the people’ dashing out jet to prostitutes. Indictment by the anti-graft agencies of these ‘representatives’ will definitely capture it all. Are they building houses for their people abroad?
The Fuel subsidy tragedy is still fresh in our memories. You call it a democracy, where after several consultations and admonitions not to remove subsidy, the FGN found it convenient to give us a New Year bonus as consideration for our yearnings. The station of the military men to chase the peaceful protesters away from their ‘squad’ is remembered. Are we operating democracy or military government? Imagine a situation where the National Assembly was not largely consulted before the purported removal. The lives lost and the economic decline after the 5-day nationwide strike has left an indelible mark in our ‘democratic history’. I thought and I still think of the spectacular thing about Nigeria’s ‘democracy’. Is this my subjective stand? These, to my mind, kick in the minds of any conscious Nigerian.
In a democratic country, after the findings of the subsidy theft, the culprits still parade on the streets conveniently without being charged to court. Who even knows the likely outcome of such charge? Ibori’s case is there to reflect on. Bankole’s case cannot be easily dispensed with. The tragic-comedy played by the court that it was not misappropriation but misapplication of public funds is still amusing. What has Nigeria/Nigerian have really achieved from democracy? Oh! Let’s celebrate the hike in the electricity tariff? That’s the crux of democracy!
We have not forgotten the stain on the Nigeria’s judiciary, which is thought to be the last hope of the common man. The drama played by Justice Alloysious Katsina-Alu and Justice Ayo Salami is still romancing the ugly polity. On the celebration of the day, is that to say nothing will go out of the government purse? What is worth-celebrating? If the FGN adopted a low-key celebration of the Independence Day, can’t we do same on ‘Democracy Day’? If we are not truly independent in the conduct of our internal affairs, where is democracy? Nowhere!
The tide of massive examination failure has not been stemmed by even a Professor. Is rubbish being made of the paradoxical statement that child is the father of the man? Any future for Nigeria? Are we not all victims of the Boko Haram menance, which the FGN has impliedly claimed responsibility for? Imagine the sponsors of the deadly groups, being in the cabinet of Mr. President? Azazi’s exposure is still there hanging.
In sum, declaring May, 29th as Democracy Day is like putting pepper on an open wound. It’s high time we operated democracy in the real sense rather than celebrating a ‘ghost democracy’. We are not ripe for celebrating democracy, because none exists. How can we put something on nothing and expect it to stay? From all indications, what is obtainable in Nigeria is a pseudo-democracy. The government, albeit trying its best, but needs to wake up from its kip and do what the people want. It’s then that democracy can be a Nigerian.
* He is a budding writer and writes from UNILORIN. You may reach him on 08066486638 or firstname.lastname@example.org