Travesty Of Democracy —Isaac Asabor



Like everyone else, I believe that the most popular definition of democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Democracy is equally a political process that allows plurality of political parties to ensure popular participation in the political decision making.

Other manifestations of a democratic government include a free and independent judiciary, a free press and the recognition that is given to the provisions of the constitution, especially on those clauses that concern fundamental human rights. Most of these rights, apart from their inclusion in the nation’s constitution, are also enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights.

The most frequently and popularly exercised rights among other rights are the right of association and assembly and the right of freedom of thought, religion and expression.

Regrettably, since the rebirth of Nigeria on May 29, 1999 democracy through the enthronement of various human manifestations, either in the form of undemocratic behaviours or militancy have compelled faithful democrats to start doubting the understanding of many Nigerians of what democracy is and how its machinery is operated.

This misconception of what democracy is has now gone to a ridiculous and absurd level where Mr. Ojo would for instance, at the bus-stop administer a “dirty slap” on Mallam Yakubu and gleefully turn to Mr. Okeke to say, “This is democracy” and smile to his destination. No, that is not democracy!

Of more concern is the fact that our leaders, who are highly educated, are beginning to see democracy as a system of government that allows earning of “fat salaries”. It is now a system of government that allows a president to earn a feeding allowance of more than N1trn. Some political office holders today earn millions of naira as salaries as if the ugly trend is an element of democracy or entails what an ideal democracy is.

The widely publicised meeting which our Northern Elders recently convened in favour of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha speaks volumes. Prior to the point where Al-Mustapha was pronounced guilty of murdering the late amazon, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the Northern Elders had remained silent on burning national issues particularly that of the Boko Haram. I know if they were to be questioned on why the issue of Al-mustapha was treated with utmost and unprecedented urgency, they would have ridiculously replied that “This is democracy.” But would it not have been more honourable as leaders to speak out on the issue of Boko Haram? Before now I was beginning to doubt their cohesiveness, but I never knew they are abreast with national issues, and that they can easily come together to discuss the way forward on any national issue. Many Nigerians have been expecting the Northern Elders to condemn the dastardly acts of members of the Boko Haram sect but they are yet to do so. Condemning the acts of the Boko Haram sect on individual capacity on the pages of national newspapers, to me, is not enough. I would prefer the Northern Elders to condemn the act of Boko Haram through a convened meeting like they did in Major Hamza Al-Mustapha’s case. I believe they are in position to deploy the persuasive power of linguistic and cultural affiliations they have with the sect to effect. I believe they (members of the Boko Haram sect) would listen to the plea of the Northern Elders.

In an ideal democracy, the whole political constituencies are of importance, and national interest prevails over any other sectional interest. In the spirit of true democracy, I believe the issue of Boko Haram should be of utmost national importance than that of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha. After all, the Boko Haram sect have killed hundreds of Nigerians that were also important when alive like Major Al-Mustapha who is still alive. The point I am making at this point is that our Elders should desist from being sectional while looking at our national issues.

Related News

From another point of view, the members of the Boko Haram sect may one day laughably drag concerned Nigerians to court seeking for justice on the basis of the misplaced fact that their right to freedom of association have been violated. That may sound ridiculous when they demand for their “right” but that would reflect the kind of democracy we are presently operating.

Also, it appears most educated and elitist Nigerians have lost touch with the meaning or essence of an ideal democracy. In my view, the present democracy is what I would in this context refer to as travesty of democracy. It is a parody. The preamble of the universal declaration of human rights which marked its 50th anniversary in 1988 states that “recognition of the inherent dignity is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” In as much as anyone aspires to exercise his own fundamental human right, he should equally realise that others too have dignity and inalienable rights.

Rights and responsibility are inseparable. They are siamese twins, so to say. There should be responsibilities to match rights. Simply put, in exercising our rights, like the rights to association for instance, we should remember the scriptural injunction that says “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” I believe the scriptural injunction is a common thread that runs across the common fabric of all religion. No religion approves the wanton killings of Nigerians and destruction of properties.

We should not forget that the birth of this democracy was accompanied by great labour pains in the nation’s political history. It was a struggle against Abacha and his acolytes. It was a struggle against “Khakitocracy”. It was a struggle against oppression, suppression, clandestine killings and injustice. It cost thousands of lives in bloody conflicts especially between 1993 and 1998.

Chinyere Stella Okunna in her book, Ethics of Mass Communication wrote that “The situation was exemplified by the catalogue of intense government harassment to which The News and Tempo were subjected within a short period of six months (February-August). Journalists in the two sister news magazines suffered a series of arrests and detention, while more than 170,000 copies of the publications were seized by government security agents within the same period.”

We may leave this for another day, but it should be mentioned that the majority of the people in political offices that are today reaping the fruits of democracy never knew how the seed was sown and nurtured with peoples’ blood. We should, therefore, desist from trivialising this democracy that cost Nigerians and Nigeria so much.

•Asabor writes from Lagos.

Load more