June !2: Who’ll Rescue Liberal Democracy from Yoke of Oppressors in Nigeria, By Sola Olatunji

Wednesday, June 12 is Democracy Day in Nigeria and the air is already filled with celebration, condemnation and fence sitters gossips as the nation celebrates 25 years of steady democratic cruising, though with mixed feelings.

If Democracy were to be a woman, no doubt she would be the most pretty in the world; she will be loved by all as the fragrance oozing out of her body will be captivating. Unfortunately, it has been 25 years of trial and error, wobbling and fumbling yet it has been a journey no one wants to miss based on the fact that some people’s lived (such as the late Bashorun MKO Abiola’s) became the fertilizer that nourishes today’s democracy.

In John Locke’s democratic theory, distinct from the Marxist Theory of Liberal Democracy, all individuals are inherently equal and entitled to state-provided security and social protection, irrespective of social class distinctions. This conceptualization of democracy, as articulated by Locke, originated in Europe and subsequently gained substantial global traction. Over time, this political ideology proliferated, establishing itself as the most widely accepted form of governance worldwide. The pervasive acceptance and global prevalence of this ideology can be attributed to its fundamental attributes, which include political stability, socio-economic growth, the robust development of state institutions, adherence to the rule of law, and the protection of individual liberties.These core principles have rendered Locke’s democratic model a formidable and appealing framework, fostering environments conducive to sustainable development and equitable governance. Consequently, Locke’s vision of democracy has become a dominant paradigm, shaping political systems and governance structures across diverse geopolitical landscapes.

President Tinubu
President Tinubu

Nigeria, undeniably the largest democracy in Africa and the most significant democracy in the black world, holds a compelling case for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Given its substantial contributions to regional and global peace, Nigeria is well-positioned to represent the voice of black people worldwide in the Security Council. If the widely advocated restructuring of the Security Council is realized, Nigeria’s role should be reconsidered. Its credentials are formidable: Nigeria’s contributions to peacekeeping since independence, its status as the most populous black nation, and its position as the largest economy in Africa all underscore its qualifications for this role. Consequently, Nigeria presents a strong case for greater representation and influence within the UN framework.

The journey to democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic was arduous and the freedom we enjoy today was hard-won. Significant sacrifices were made by many Nigerians across the six geopolitical zones, ensuring the establishment of the current democratic environment. Individuals such as Pa Alfred Rilwane, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Kudirat Abiola,  Abraham Adesanya, Ndubuisi Kanu and many others. They gave their all for the cause of democracy. Additionally, President Bola Tinubu also etched his name in gold in the struggle, fleeing through NADECO routes abroad to continue the resistance against the military regime.

Reflecting on our democratic progress, the current president stands out as a pivotal figure in modern Nigerian democracy, acknowledging the immense sacrifices made by many to secure this democratic state.

When we compare Nigeria’s brand of liberal democracy with that of Western Europe and the United States, it becomes evident that some political actors have adapted their democratic models to fit their unique contexts while maintaining core democratic values. As former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo recently observed, our version of democracy in Nigeria seems more like a contraption—nominally a presidential system, but in practice, resembling a unitary system This discrepancy highlights a fundamental issue: in a true liberal democracy, public institutions are legally empowered to operate efficiently and effectively. The Nigerian model, however, appears to deviate from this principle, suggesting a need for restructuring to better align with genuine democratic values.

A critical examination of Nigeria’s democracy reveals that public institutions, such as the police, judiciary, and electoral bodies, are being severely undermined and controlled by political elites, preventing them from functioning effectively Despite 25 years of uninterrupted democracy, election fairness remains compromised due to elite manipulation. This problem is exacerbated by the inability of vulnerable Nigerians to counteract the abuses of political actors who exploit their power to perpetrate injustices. Moreover, the political arena is increasingly infiltrated by opportunists masquerading as social advocates, misleading the public. Consequently, the anticipated exponential growth and prosperity that initially inspired Nigerians to embrace democracy have largely dissipated, eroding their renewed hope to a near standstill.

Democracy was intended to ensure free and fair elections, empowering voters to make informed choices and highlighting the integrity of democratic processes. Transparency and accountability are crucial for a healthy democracy, essential for driving public institutions and maintaining trust in the electoral process. Nigerians, across generations, fought passionately to establish democracy, seeking personal, social, and economic freedoms akin to those in Europe, the US, and other democratic societies. Unfortunately, 25 years into this democratic journey, Nigeria remains far from its true democratic potential. Our version of liberal democracy often enables the extravagant lifestyles of political elites, while most Nigerians endure hardship and misery. Electoral processes are plagued by manipulation, resulting in leaders being imposed on society through fraudulent elections, with public laws flagrantly disregarded without repercussions.

The police, judiciary, and other public institutions, which are expected to uphold the integrity and function as guardians of our electoral system to ensure a thriving liberal democracy, are being undermined by political elites This crippling of key institutions prevents them from fulfilling their statutory duties. As a result, citizens find themselves helpless, with the prosperity promised by liberal democracy remaining elusive even after 25 years. Furthermore, large corporations, in collusion with corrupt public officials, frequently sabotage public laws to serve their selfish interests without facing any repercussions. An example of successful privatization is the telecommunications sector in Nigeria, which saw substantial investments leading to efficient and effective communication systems. However, this stands in stark contrast to the electricity sector, where privatized DISCOS and service providers, 12 years after privatization, have failed to invest in new infrastructure, opting instead to refurbish existing PHCN equipment. These companies exploit Nigerians with flagrant impunity by  obnoxious estimated billing systems, prioritizing profit over compliance with our laws and the provision of reliable services which could only happen as a result of the connivance of  some highly placed public officials who most times act as their mouthpiece.

Otunba Sola Olatunji
Otunba Sola Olatunji

In conclusion, it is imperative to liberate our public institutions from political manipulation and allow laws to function as intended. The persistent dominance of the “oga at the top” culture within these institutions must cease if we are to achieve a liberal democracy akin to those in civilized societies. A nation can’t thrive without a well-informed and well-cared-for population, making it the government’s duty to educate its citizens and provide for their basic needs. Leadership is about the ability to provide solutions to the problems of citizens. The security and well-being of citizens should naturally preoccupy the attention of a good leader. This deliberate subjugation of the rights and aspirations of vulnerable Nigerians by policy makers who live in opulence and parade a caravan of pilot cars during public functions should be condemned by all well-meaning citizens. Why should we be misplacing our priorities at all times?  Our children are singing the newly orchestrated national anthem with empty stomachs inside dilapidated and heavily flooded classrooms, and we took delight in subsidizing religion with N90 billion to  Mecca and some of these pilgrims were caught with cocaine on their way and we are bragging about it  Democracy is also about common sense and should bring shared prosperity, not shared suffering. One of the  most fundamental principles of liberal democracy forthcoming is the equitable redistribution of the available resources for the benefit of all citizens.

The continuous recycling of the same individual who have been in power for the past 25-30 years, as seen in this current administration, contradicts the democratic ideal of shared prosperity and fails to meet the expectations of genuine democratic governance.

.Otunba Sola Olatunji, Chairman of Ikale Heritage Development Association writes from Lagos.


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