elevation of societal morals and ethics. The dividend of democracy is
not quality education and its accessibility to all, effective health
care delivery system, infrastructural development, steady power supply,
etc. After all, in some countries of the world, these are existing
in-tandem with dictatorship. The dividend of democracy is power.
The 18th century German sociologist, Max Weber, once defined power “as
the ability to get others acting in accordance to your will”. When
Nigerians gain the dividend of democracy – power – they will have all
the elected and appointed officials and every institution of government
acting in accordance to their will. As such, the powers of the governing
will be subordinated to the will of the governed. Then, Nigerians will
levitate from pawns and stooges in the elite power game – that we now
consider democracy – to become the focus of the interests, concerns and
actions of elected and appointed government officials and every
institution of government. And the Nigerian ruling elite will inevitably
descend from supercilious, profligate, over-paid, self-indulgent and
money-stealing panjandrums to public servants.
It is a political dynamics that will inevitably bring about – economic
prosperity, rule of law, social justice, effective health care delivery
system, infrastructural development, steady electricity supply, etc, not
at the benevolence of a dictator but as dictated by the will of the
people. The problem of Nigerian democracy is that, like a dictatorship,
the powers of the governing are not subject to the will of the governed.
Without this indispensible ingredient of democracy, Nigeria remains a
dictatorship with the façade of democracy.
Not surprisingly, as in a dictatorship, the political class repudiates
the public will and ride roughshod over the masses. They undermine a
principled distribution of the national wealth by strengthening an
unconscionable economic system that reinforces the inordinate wealth of
an elite few – politicians, government officials, businessmen,
super-star pastors, etc – at the economic strangulation of the
generality of the people. In their avarice and extravagance, many state
governors misappropriate public funds to the point of not paying the
salaries of state employees. In some states, civil servants are not paid
their salaries for months, sometimes, up to 18 months. To work for so
long without pay must be unimaginably agonizing. It is gross;
disconcertingly redolent of slavery. Nothing reminiscent of slavery in
the 21st Century can be in consonant with democracy.
It is lamentable that our relatively wealthy country is the home to the
greatest concentration of extreme poverty in the world. In addition,
this our “poorest oil-rich nation in the world”, ranks with the poorest
and war-torn countries of the world in terms of incidence of poverty,
life expectancy, child mortality, and other social indexes. It is
disproportionately populated by dispirited and demoralized masses
wrenched by economic hardship and consumed by the endless drudgery for
daily subsistence. It has been written that “the root of bondage is
poverty…” The incredible mass poverty in this land of plenty must be a
stratagem by the ruling class to keep the people in bondage.
There is homelessness, especially, in urban areas; people live in open
air and under the bridges. For many that can afford housing, their
habitation is pitiful. In them people are crowded, sometimes, up to 10
persons in one room. Their neighborhoods are festering squalors, with
gutters clogged with filth and debris, providing breeding grounds for
mosquitoes and all forms of vermin. Not surprisingly, dirt borne
diseases, like malaria and typhoid fever are widespread in Nigeria.
Nigeria is also home to the highest maternal and infant mortality rate
in the world. With only 2% of the world’s population, she accounts for
11% of the world’s maternal mortality and 12% of the world’s under-five
mortality. It is a sad reality that persists because the ruling elite do
not patronize Nigeria hospitals; they jet-out to hospitals in India,
Britain, Germany, etc., for their own health care, and even, routine
In their Apartheid-like systematic humiliation of the masses, state
governors have routinely ordered the bulldozing of the homes and
businesses of Nigerians without due process. Ostensibly, these are done
in furtherance of urban redevelopment programs, but there are evidences
of other motivations, like the appropriation of choice real estate. The
methods adopted in most of these demolitions are tear-jerking. Homes are
demolished with little regards for the hapless and helpless men, women
and children abruptly rendered homeless and the indigent dispossessed of
their sources of subsistence. Thus, families, including children, babies
and pregnant women, with no alternative accommodation are unexpectedly
thrown outside in the rain and cold. A man’s home is his castle. It is
inviolable, even, when it is an illegally built shack. The removal of a
man from his house without painstaking adherence to due process and the
rule of law is tyranny.
The Nigerian president, governors and a number of the other members of
the political elite, with the arrogance of power and contemptuous
indifference only appropriate of colonial masters and medieval feudal
lords, run people off the street with their siren-blaring motorcades.
Those that failed to hurriedly get off the street are beaten up by their
security details. In the past, these speeding, siren-blaring motorcades
had run people over and caused fatal accidents. In their snootiness and
inconsideration, they neither admit their offenses nor apologize. Like
the power elite they serve and represent, the Nigerian Police Force
treats the masses as though they have no right worthy of protection by
the law. Not surprisingly, it is world renowned for brutality,
trigger-happiness and extra-judicial killings.
So, despite our much vaunted democracy and recent celebration of twenty
years of unbroken democracy, Nigeria is still not a democracy. Nigeria
will become a genuine democracy when the ruling elite become subject to
the powers of the electorate, and consequently, act only in accordance
to the will of the people, which is antithetical to electoral fraud,
profligacy, theft of public funds, and other abuses of power and
degradation of the Nigerian masses.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
0803 529 2908