NIGERIA @ 52: Pathways to Sustainable Democracy and Rebirth – Mike Igini

In Breaking News, Opinion

by Mike Igini Esq.
Resident Electoral Commissioner
Cross River State.

It sounds strange biologically and indeed laughable, if not unfortunate, to speak of rebirth of a country at 52 still gappling with the intricacies of how to even leave together; but democracy and the rule of law is not a finished product that is graffated into society rather its an evolutionary process that grows with the growth of a society, a dynamic task in constant progress (or sometimes even regress). Adopting democracy ,therefore, has not been an easy task, especially for Africans given their cultures and societies often steeped in hierarchical traditions, patrilineal dogmas and deeply religious traditions.

Besides, the challenge of dialectics of two publics ( see Eke primordial and civic realms) on account of colonization. wherein an African or a Nigerian belongs to both realm he is not governed by the same morality or value template due to greater attachment to the primordial realm, the civic public or governmental realm is where you are expected take from(or steal) to saturate the primordial realm unlike the Europeans that have loyalty only to the civic public. The orientation of successive leaders that took over from the generation of those who fought for and secured independence and left governace frameworks that were abandoned with atttendant crises that have made national unity, progress and development difficult if not impossible.

The difficulty of the task is universal, for in truth when we consider that; “the process of democracy building took between 27 and 256 years in Britain, between 78 and 168 years in France, between 30 and 80 years in Germany, between 30 and 70 years in the USA, and about 50 years in Japan (Karl-Heinz Nassmacher,2003), then we must not only dwell on our difficulties, but collectively identify and confer through election authority on those Nigerians that are ready to make the required sacrifices that would turn around our development trajectory because the only thing that has seperated Nigeria from the rest of the developed world is leadership.

At 52 we should only take measured satisfaction on our collective current efforts and how to sustain them, that we are alive to inspire hope, courage, find solace and ponder upon the pathways for future progress.

At such times like this,we must remind ourselves of our own history as a people that given that we have been brought together by the event of 1914 that was not an act of God but the action of a humanbeing,Lord Lugard, we should be together as a country for mutually assured prosperity and not mutually assured destruction(MAD).

While this may be easy to say, the task of development which brings about prosperity has not been fully defined globally, some have defined development strictly on the terms of economic growth, using indicators like the productivity, employment rate and similar ratios and averages, while others have criticized this narrow perception of development, insisting that such averages do not tell the full picture preferring social indices which show not only the summation of economic growth but also the relationship of the people in a country with themselves, the degree of satisfaction and happiness derived from living in the total environment, as well as the safety and security of the people who live and thrive within the country

At the milestone of five decades and two years, we are afforded another opportunity to define for ourselves, what the value of development means to us as a country, is it prosperity for our individual selves and our close friends? Is it prosperity for our specific tribes, religious groups and gender, age group or club members at the expense of others? This understanding is a crucial building block for our wellbeing because, we may strive, fight and even go to war for the sake of prosperity but never attain it because even when we are prosperous we may never know except we have set a benchmark to remind ourselves that indeed we had a goal and we can recognize when we get there.

To define the goals of development for our country, therefore, we need to define what we mean by development, agree upon basic rules and pathways to get there, accept that as human beings which do not always find similar satisfaction in the same things at all times and on the same occasion regarding each and every sphere of endevours, we are bound to have differences in appreciation and satisfaction on the pathways to get to our common goal of development, such agreements cannot come within one day, one year or even ten years, and as we have learnt in our national case, may even be difficult to achieve even after 52 years given the enclave and backward mentality of a few but powerful elites on account of power relations.

More important, to reach the goal of a common understanding for our development, we have to cast our consensual agreements in plastic, so that we may be able to remind those who want to drag us all from that part of development that we have a common compact. I use the term casting in plastic rather than casting in stone, because in practice, laws even national compacts in the form of constitutions are made for the requirements of some time frames, and practices over time may prove some laws impracticable or we may find that the benefits of using such laws are not worth the cost to society, and therefore accept that they need to be changed, modified or scrapped, these are not unusual but important baby-steps in the journey to democratic consolidation.

We are at the threshold of such a moment in our country, for having practiced democracy in bits and pieces for sometime before 1983 and briefly in 1992- 1993, we have learnt useful lessons ( and here I hope I speak for all of us) about what works and what is unhealthy for our national development, we are all agreed that the process of transition of power, how it empowers or dis-empowers voters who decide what type of leadership they want is at the heart of our development goals, because when the right people decide development policy and take the views and sensitivities of Nigerians into consideration, we are likely to find peaceful progress, but how we implement that agreement is still ongoing.

Agreeing on common things is not often an easy exercise between people, even people with similar backgrounds, let alone a country with very much diversity like Nigeria. This is why rather than agreement, people use words like consensus, rapprochement and understanding. And for this reason matters which affects us in common need not be a win-lose affair, to exemplify this type of mind-set, we have recently witnessed budget issues between the executive and legislative arms of government. while it is understandable that budgets are issues of allocation of funds to interests and priorities, at the core of the process is the matter of common development, hence trade-offs and understanding should inform such national issues that are fundamental to development.

For a budget is actually a financial plan, a forecast of intentions and how funds should be allocated to them to attain progress, even though it is initiated by the executive, modified and approved by the legislature, and the Act interpreted by the judiciary in cases of legal uncertainty when necessary, the impacts and benefits of a budget are not confined to any of these three arms of governance, these impacts and benefits are intended for the whole country, so if there are losers and gainers, the Nigerian people and the Nigerian nation, their gains and loss should inform the decisions of the people in any of these arms of governance, which is why having a common understanding of the issue of what development means to all of us is crucial.

Current discussions have been focused on how and what we accept as a compact on the pathways to such development through a constitutional review. At the stage of 52 years, we must therefore be able to diverge from the failed pathways of the past 51 years, including the use of methods which we have repeated often and which bore very little fruit by way of development, hence in the next 50 years, our focus should start with three priorities on the pathway to consolidating our democratic quest.

One, is to agree and return Nigeria to development framework of federalism with all its essential features as given to us by our forefathers , Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Zik and others whose periods of leadership remained the golden era of development in our history, a consensual definition and goal for development. We should find common grounds to reach an agreement on the basics of a constitutional arrangement to strengthen federalism without destroying the strengths of unity in diversity and finally is the need to settle, ones and for all time, the electoral mechanisms for peaceful transition of power starting with accepted methodologies and severe sanctions for violation of party primaries.

Political parties are the building bricks of internalized democratic culture in a society. In settling the process of transition we must keep in mind that there are 812 executive positions and over 1000 legislative positions including state and local council legislative positions which are contested politically in Nigeria. Therefore, no one position or office is worth destroying the whole superstructure in other to have and assert it for just a particular time-frame.

May God bless and save Nigeria as we should work more and pray less because God almighty has given us what is required to be one of the greatest countries in the world but leadership is what seperates us and remains our challenge not absence of prayers.

Mike Igini wrote in from Dublin.

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