By Yaya Ademola
Before the advent of the 4th Republic in 1999, Labour, Students, Civil Society organisations and spirited individuals had to wage titanic struggles against the Nigeria military regimes. Under the military, there was no parliament.
While the Court of Law was allowed, promulgated Decrees had ousted most of its jurisdictions! It was as good as non-existing. The press was stifled. Those who remained recalcitrant were killed or hounded into exile. Dele Giwa, a frontline investigative journalist and critical columnist with Newswatch was murdered via a parcel bomb. His invaluable impacts and the events of his assassination cannot be forgotten. Radicals and freedom fighters in their hundreds were murdered and thrown into dehumanising detentions without trial. Stupendous resources were committed to organise an election which was eventually annulled after much rigmarole, and the winner murdered in detention. It was a very dark era that must never resurface again.
Everybody knows what democracy means – representation of the majority. Hence, democratic government is the government of the majority of the populace. The belief was that a civilian government would bring forth freedom of association and expression, better working and living conditions for the majority, amongst numerous goodies.
After all, the essence of governance is to organise society in such a way that majority of the people, if not all, will have a better life. It does not matter anyone’s belief – Christianity, Islam, Traditionalism, Atheism, etc. What is not contentious is that we were all born equal and would all die without exception.
A democratic government is supposed to regulate the society in such a way that there will be great life expectancy: few or nil infant and maternal mortality; organise the growth and development of the child to acquire skill and knowledge that he/she will use to make his/her society better than he/she met it, and through such services, earn income that will guarantee a good life. It is expected that government will develop infrastructures, coordinate researches into all facets of life for better innovation, resulting in technologies that make life continually better, etc. All these will ensure quality, long and happy life for the majority of the people.
However, since the advent of the hard-won civil rule since 1999, the mass majority of the people has not had a fair bargain from the politicians. Nigeria is endowed with stupendous human and material resources with clement climate. The core essence of governance is coordinating these resources for the eventual uplift of lives of the people and protecting their lives and property.
What do we get instead? Terrorists have debased most states in North-Eastern Nigeria. There have been constant killings in Southern Kaduna. Kidnappers and bandits have continued to have flourishing business on Nigerians and waste their lives if ransom is not paid on time. Other violent crimes like rape and armed robbery, amongst others, have continued. Police brutality and illegal detention have continued unabated. Workers are paid paltry wages that can hardly make ends meet, if paid at all or as at when due. The economy has been waning.
Aside the fact that they wear Agbada (known in Hausa as Babariga), the attitude of majority of politicians, with only very few exceptions, is likened to those of the military junta. To clinch power, they jump from one political party to another. There are no distinct ideological beliefs and worldview nor internal democracy within almost all the parties. Campaigns are not issue-based. They use thugs to scatter ballot boxes and destroy elections materials. They bulldoze the parliament. They use ‘legality’ to wrongfully detain critics. They live ostentatious lifestyles without recourse to the people who elected them on the basis of promises of a better life. They brazenly steal money meant for development and welfare of the people. These are the general rules with very few exceptions.
Things are rapidly degenerating to the extent that students and trade unions have started copying the politicians in the use of thugs and dangerous weapons in the conduct of elections! People don’t care again who wins in an election. As far as they are concerned, things don’t change for better no matter who wins; hence, consistent low turnout in successive elections. As keen as 2019 Presidential Election was, for instance, only 35% of registered voters came out to vote compared with 44% in 2015.
But this trend is dangerous for civil rule. All conditions that the military used to tender as excuses to take over power are ripe here. We cannot assert that military coup is out of fashion. If it happens today, it will be as widely applauded as it is condemned. Although, a military government may immediately end insurgency, kidnapping etc, by its orientation and devastating impact on social life, freedom at all levels and the economy will breathe their last. It can certainly not end the biggest problem – corruption – as it was the architect of institutionalised corruption in the first instance.
Military rule can only further fester corruption. As always, the worst section of the elite: the royalty, technocrats, academics, religious moguls and unscrupulous politicians will surely rally around military rule. International noise and sanctions that will be put in place by the imperialists, while gaining all manners of quick-fix, negotiated advantages, cannot stop the military from staying a considerable time in power before exiting.
If citizens leave politics to politicians across parties, civil rule will continually be endangered every day. Ordinary people, popular organisations, active agents within parties, active voters, NGOs, etc, must not act as beggars for political patronage, rather, they should be active agents for superb social and economic reform to reverse the socio-economic misfortune that is the portion of Nigeria today. “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors,” said Plato. Citizens must organise various formations as pressure groups to convince the ruling elites nationwide to do the needful and become accountable.
Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie only recently lamented that “it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between politics and criminality in Nigeria. Our politics has been divorced from morality.” Summing up the recent NDDC saga along with developments in upcoming Edo and Ondo elections, it is hard to disagree with his eminence; and this is simply not good enough! We cannot afford to allow a slide back to the dark era of military rule on account of complacent citizenship.
Yaya Ademola writes from Osogbo, he can be contacted via 08037127929 and [email protected]