The classical theorists of the concept of democracy hardly, if at all, observed that, as a political system, democracy per se doesn’t necessarily bring about peace, economic prosperity, socio-political stability and respect for human rights, after all.
Unsurprisingly, the proponents of democracy hardly observe this fact either, having imbibed its theories hook, line, and sinker without questioning its purported unconditional and universal applicability. Of course, the beneficiaries of the system, e.g. elective office holders and political appointees would never bother to give any thought to this observation, for obvious reasons.
Though democracy is basically an instrument supposedly designed to ensure good governance that in turn brings about socio-economic development, its potential to achieve so is determined by the kind of environment and circumstances it operates in, which explains why it works out quite perfectly in some countries, and fails in others.
Instances of disparity among countries in this regard are obvious even among countries with comparable length of democratic experience and comparable development potential in terms of human and material resources. Nigeria and South Korea represent a typical example in this respect. Obviously, the former remains one of the world’s most economically backward and socially unstable countries, while the latter is one of the most industrialized, economically prosperous and peaceful countries in the world. In fact, in terms of quality of education in particular, while it rapidly dwindles in Nigeria, South Koreans have already been classified as “over educated” considering the sheer amount and quality of knowledge the average South Korean acquires and masters in his particularly field(s) of academic interest.
Though South Korea is older than the independent Nigeria by 12 years having become a sovereign state in 1948 while Nigeria got its independence from Britain in 1960, yet the two countries remain more or less within the same age bracket in the context of the journey of nation-building. The 12-year gap between them therefore doesn’t excuse Nigeria’s disproportionate backwardness compared to South Korea. This is particularly so when viewed against the backdrop of the fact that Nigeria is far richer than South Korea in terms of natural resources.
Besides, even if it’s argued that Nigeria’s democracy has suffered interruptions on several occasions due to military interventions, it could be counter-argued that South Korea also only managed to achieve real democracy in 1987 following years of political instability under military regimes and military-dictated civilian administrations at various points of its pre-1987 political history.
Now, this therefore underscores the need to identify and address the underlying challenges undermining the potential of Nigeria’s democracy to deliver good governance and appropriate socio-economic development despite the fact that it (Nigeria’s democracy) is theoretically more sophisticated and more transparency-oriented than many developed democracies.
Looking into this issue, I observe one thing that all successful democracies share in common, which I for one believe explains why they have succeeded in terms of economic development and socio-political stability etc. while others fail. I observe that, a typical developed and successful democracy had, prior to its adoption of liberal democratic system, been under one form or another of a totalitarian but benevolent and welfarist political system that gave priority to its citizens’ welfare albeit at the expense of their right to political participation, freedom of expression and other rights considered fundamental under liberal democracy. Its citizens were therefore already enjoying a reasonable standard of living that over the time formed the criteria of the minimum quality of life every individual in the country should enjoy and indeed take for granted.
Also its form of democracy is locally modified to address its peculiar challenges and drive its pursuit for development in light of a well-defined and locally formulated order of priority based on its short, medium and long-term development goals.
Whereas a typical dysfunctional democracy like Nigeria is stuck in the dilemma of imported and unmodified principles of liberal democracy, which were designed for societies with priorities, challenges and needs different from hers.
Having adopted the British-style democracy on its independence in 1960 before it subsequently switched to American-style democracy, which it has ever since then operated, Nigeria has never introduced any significant modification to address the peculiar challenges undermining the system’s potential to work out in the country. For instance, despite the fact that this form of democracy is simply too expensive for Nigeria, the country remains ironically too constrained by its own constitution to get rid of many unnecessary yet resource-consuming institutions like the Senate to save cost. This is in addition to the chaos of duplicity of roles among many government institutions and agencies that unnecessarily costs the country massive resources.
Besides, with a public that has largely effectively resigned itself to perpetual leadership-inflicted hardship and apparently finds solace in groaning, lamentation and wishful thinking, Nigeria isn’t an ideal environment for the mainstream liberal democratic instrumentalities to bring about appropriate socio-economic development.
Also, unlike Nigeria, a typical successful democracy regards the system as a means to an end rather than the end itself. After all, there are many undemocratic yet hugely successful countries in the world, some of which have even outdone some of the advanced democracies in terms of economic prosperity and social stability. Communist China, for instance, has maintained impressive rates of economic growth overtaking the democratic Japan to become the second largest economy in the world after the United States economy.
I am sure Nigerians would equally willingly agree to waive many of their constitutional rights e.g. right to political participation, freedom of expression etc., which after all have been grossly bastardized, in exchange for dignified living conditions to enjoy adequate security of life and property, sufficient and efficient infrastructure, abundant job opportunities, access to quality healthcare services, quality education, uninterrupted power, water and fuel supply.
Dear Esteemed reader,
As part of our drive to keep improving the content of our newspaper, we are conducting a readership survey to enable us serve you better.
Kindly take two minutes of your time to fill in this questionnaire.
Thank you for your time. Click here to begin