Our Brand Of Democracy: Nigeria's Awful Experience Under Civilian Rule

18 January 2011

By Hamisu Gumel

For a good decade now, democracy has been for sale in Nigeria. It has been for sale as development, as freedom, as political liberty and as human rights, but never has it been proffered as insecurity, dictatorship, human rights abuse, impunity, political rascality and failure of leadership. We have been inundated and rattled by glittering superlatives on democracy to the extent that if some one would suggest an alternative system of life and governance, swift condemnation and denunciations would rain on such person describing him as primitive and undemocratic. Indeed democracy, as a term, has become an imposed deity to be liturgically worshipped by all.

 But in truth and essence, what benefit can we say this democracy (the way we are made to see it in Nigeria) brought to the general populace, especially the poor Nigerian masses vis--vis it's much touted benevolence? We have been promised dividends of democratic rule by the rulers, but, like a mirage, we have seen nothing to that effect save insecurity, poverty, closure of schools, absence of infrastructure and mass killings, abuse of citizens' rights by the security operatives and, recently, a spate of bomb blasts across the country.

With the recent explosion of bombs in some places across the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, the writing is now boldly on the wall that Nigeria is making a descent into an anarchic situation, a failed state. In other words, this is a clear sign of breakdown of law and order in the country where now governments at all levels failed to carry out the basic function of protection of the lives and property of the citizenry. And, the most worrying thing is that the government is not showing serious concern about this dangerous situation of absence of security in the country where poor, defenceless citizens lost their lives on almost daily basis as a result of one form of violence or another, beyond the issuance of condemnatory statements. This, also, is an obvious indication of the government's lack of respect or regard for the lives of her citizens.

We are saddled, in this country, with irresponsible leaders and politicians that in the face of dangerous situation the nation is in, they carry on with their usual manner and ways of doing things for the satisfaction of their selfish interest. Yet we are supposed to be operating a democratic system, a system which is adjudged the world over to be the best system of governance that offers people freedom and prosperity. Today, everything in this country has changed to the worst, as political marauders and buccaneers take charge of our affairs exhibiting highest degree of irresponsibility. Their ultimate aim is attaining power for the sake of it and nothing more. Now as the 2011 general elections are around the corner, you see them busy planning for what each one of them could be able to grab of the juicy leadership positions while the country boils and is heading toward a precipice. They are bent on grabbing power and spare no effort employing all forms of dastardly scheming through whatever means available to them (including violence and election rigging) to see to the realization of their aims. And we still call this democracy!

 It is unfortunate that the current Nigerian government is still running about singing democratic principles and rule of law. From 1999 when this set of civilian rule was ushered in to this day, the level of poverty in the country has plummeted to a highest decimal point thereby further pauperizing the citizenry and jeopardising our existence. Thanks to our civilian rulers who hide behind the toga of democracy and rule of law and perpetrate the highest crimes against the nation while at the same time coming around to proclaim the virtues of democracy and civil rule and condemning the military. But are the military men now not better than them? At least, the military, despite its suppressive nature, did not perpetrate such kind of corruption and thievery and the security situation wasn't as pathetic as the present. Deception has been the habit of the supposedly elected leaders. And, perhaps, it is this habit of theirs that emboldened criminal groups in the country, who are currently holding the nation to ransom, to have their field day at our collective expense. 

Yes, this is the feature of our shallow brand of democracy sanctioned and celebrated by our brand of leaders. They never stop promising us juicy dividends of democracy, and every while the citizens looked with new hope. But that hope always withered and washed away like sand on the rock blown away by the wind, as the promise turned to be a gigantic tomfoolery.

 They promised us security of lives and properties. But what we see is an unprecedented rise in armed-robbery and kidnappings among the major insecurity situations in the country. As the armed robbery, kidnappings- for-ransom and bomb explosions take their terrible tolls on our dear nation, our security operatives continue to stroll around in their newly-acquired armoured vehicles in an apparent display of power. Instead of hunting down the criminals, they end up killing and harassing the innocent citizens.

 We have been promised development. But what development have we seen than the development and flourishing of corruption and impunity in the corridors of power. The much-coveted mantra of rule of law is now a historical relic. Multiple examples abound: the case of former corrupt governors now straddling the corridors of power with a ridiculous hilarity; the James Ibori shielding scandal; the Siemens and Halliburton cases e.t.c. they are all swept under the carpet and forgotten. And the culprits are still there roaming the corridors of power with utmost impunity and a sense of arrogance.

 They promised us political freedom and choice. But when last did we have a free and fair election where our votes (not their selfish choices) really counted? In place of elections, it is now a selection process. A democracy without peoples'mandate! "We have made our selections for you, so just follow," they seemed to be saying rather ridiculously.

 Therefore, since this  system of civilian rascality we pretend to be calling democracy  has failed to deliver us to the promised land, and in fact, is the very bane of ours, why then can't we reject it and adopt the way to our total salvation and emancipation? How can we continue to delude ourselves with the outdated thinking of "democracy is the only option" or "it is our own on the saddle, so lets support him," following a cabal of elite who don't mean good to us as they continue to milk the country dry to the chagrin of all of us? A government that fear the anger of foreign countries more than sparing the lives of its citizens is not a responsible government. A country that continues to pauperize her citizens and celebrating the corrupt and criminals is far from being democratized.

 It is now for us to unite on a collective stance to save our collective destiny from being ruined by unpatriotic elements. We must shade our minds of that blind followership mentality and make sure no ruler whose hands are wet with the blood of innocent people or the one who wasted our resources and years without anything to drive home with, return to power in 2011 as a start. This we shall do by standing up to our rights and protecting our votes.



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