The Ekiti State governorship elections recently concluded, won and lost, not only ushers a new Governor into the Government house on October 15, 2018; but raises salient questions on Nigeria’s democratic path so far uninterrupted since 1999. Interestingly, the newly elected Governor Kayode Fayemi will be returning to the Ayoba villa, the posh government house built towards the end of his first tenure reportedly for N3.3billion, but largely unused by his successor, out- going Governor Ayodele Fayose. It seems on reflection, that fate might have been keeping the mansion for Fayemi ‘unspoilt’ by Fayose.
However, this fatalistic inference, is not the focus of this discourse. Rather I wish to raise an alarm over emerging threats to democracy caused by the crises of transitional power politics. This has thrown up questions on the sanctity and implementability of democratic principles and practices, reopening debate on democracy as the best form of government in Nigeria.
Several incidences that occurred before and on the governorship election day in Ekiti, last weekend, raised these posers. As widely reported, there was open and brazen monetarily inducement of voters by agents of the two leading parties- All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who were in a do or die competition to outbid each other. Vote casting for a preferred candidate, the stoic democratic process, which signifies the beauty of democracy, became a political bazaar for the highest bidder last weekend. Democracy was taken to the cleaners as Nigerian politicians extended their corrupt practices to the polling booth.
There was alleged intimidation of opponents by security officers controlled by the Federal Government bringing reminiscences of the 1983 elections when the then Inspector General of Police, Late Sunday Adewusi effectively used the security apparatus to cow, intimidate, harass, and subdue opposition parties against re-election bid of incumbent President Shehu Shagari. The police-tisation of the Ekiti elections, though plausible to maintain law and order, seems to be an authoritative over kill of the opposition forces, and the outgoing Governor of the opposition party the PDP, leveraged on this to create a politicahood script. More importantly, such coercive sue of state power will further fuel the debate on the necessity of a state police.
Of course, typical occurrences in Nigerian elections were not lacking in the Ekiti Governorship vote. This include ballot snatching, alleged tampering with results sheets, and reported impartiality of electoral officers. There is no hiding place for evil these days as the social media including its tools- smart and unsmart phones is helping citizens to break news like instant coffee. The two leading parties-APC and PDP are said to be guilty of these malfeasance, though the former is facing more heat as its candidate was declared winner.
Several years ago, at an international conference, I listened by the side line to an informal discussion among several Nigerian federal legislators, attending the conference. They were either unaware or not bothered about my presence in their midst when one of them said to his colleagues: ’Who among us can boast that he truly won his election, free and fair? The truth is that we all rigged our elections’. The federal legislator went further to say that it is impossible to win an election in Nigeria without rigging, a fact that seems to have replayed itself in the Ekiti elections where the two leading parties threw to the winds the dictum: there is honour among thieves. To my amazement, none of the federal legislators contested the statement.
The question on the lips of observers since last weekend election in Ekiti : Is this democracy or moneycracy?
There are other forms or types of government, the most popular being the following- monarchy, hereditary rule for life; Communism, the highest form of socialism that preaches statelessness like in Socialist Cuba and the former Soviet Union; democracy rule based on the consent of the governed as practiced in America and most parts of Europe; theocracy- rule by spiritual laws, recognises God as the supreme ruler like in Saudi Arabia or Iran; oligarchy where power resides in a dominant group based on wealth, status, position, or influence, largely practiced in the United Arab Emirates; and monarchy, hereditary rule based on lineage and royalty that qualifies the Queen of England as the Head of the United Kingdom.
Democracy is believed to be the best form of government because it promotes the rule of law, fundamental rights of citizens, legitimacy of government, peaceful and orderly civilian transition, decision making by three arms of government creating checks and balances, credible, free, and fair elections based in universal suffrage, and a free and unfettered press.
These salient pillars of democracy are under threat as the 2018 Ekiti election shows and 2019 general elections approaches. The recent cash4votes scenario is redefining Nigeria’s presidential democracy to nairacracy.
This brings us back to the question marks on democracy which this write up wishes to raise: Are ideals democracy practicable in Nigeria or the developing world? Is true democracy possible in Nigeria where estimated 60million, about 30% are illiterates and can easily be swayed by emotions rather than logic, by sentiments rather than issues? Is western democracy in its finest form feasible in Nigeria where about 69% live below the poverty line earning less than $1 (360naira), and a cash4vote manna of N4000 on election day, becomes a lifeline and a miracle?
Will American Presidential democracy work well in Nigeria where the Police is centrally controlled by the President and the Inspector General of Police reports to him, whereas in United States, where this model was copied, the police is not centrally controlled but fragmented and organised into national, state, and local levels? Will presidential democracy with its opulence and gradeur work in a country where almost 20% of the population are unemployed with no social benefits? Finally, will democracy work in Nigeria where the minimum wage is less that $50 per month (whereas it is $7.25 -$11 per hour in America); and such the supposed almighty Permanent Voters Card (PVC) becomes noting more than a meal ticket on election day?
Perhaps the question we should ask is not whether democracy is best form of government or not, but rather what other form of democracy could move Nigeria forward if presidential democracy seems to be failing. Methinks it is time we consider other options such as nonpartisan democracy where independent candidates are elected into public offices periodically through universal suffrage and secret ballot without reference to any partisan party, one party democracy eliminating stiff competition for state capture, workers democracy whereby representatives of formal and informal working class elect public leaders at local, state, or national levels, christian or islamic democracy allowing several constituents of Nigeria to be governed according to religions inclinations, or democratic socialism – a decentralised governance system promoting social ownership of the means of production and workers led government.
Do swe tinker with the form of government or the type of democracy? This question will find its way to the restructuring agenda as the Nigerian electorate continue to monetize their PVCs and elections in Nigeria fail the democratic test.
Babatope Babalobi (firstname.lastname@example.org/ +23480 358974 35) writes from Lagos, Nigeria