One of the things the Buhari administration got right is the official recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day. The maiden celebration is only two days away. The people of this great country from the four directions of the compass once banished tribe, tongue and religion to vote two Muslims as president and vice president but they were rudely overruled by the military junta of Ibrahim Babangida who, in spite of all his socio-economic and political sleight of hand, could still have wound up a hero had he handed over to a democratically elected team.
The annulment of the June 12 election forced many erstwhile pan-Nigerians to retreat to their tribal cocoons in the belief that Babangida was doing the bidding of the North whereas, as time has shown, the acclaimed military Maradona had simply dribbled himself to a cul-de-sac in a selfish survivalist game.
The recognition of June 12 as national Democracy Day is significant as it reaffirms the supremacy of the people over a gang. Democracy is generally acclaimed as a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting by voting candidates of their choice into power. The unfortunate annulment set Nigeria back by many years. We are still picking the pieces today.
Out of the 30 states in Nigeria at the time, Abiola won in 19: Abuja, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Yobe states. Opposition candidate Ibrahim Tofa won in 11. That election killed tribalism and rabid religious sentiments.
Had Nigeria been governed by businessman Moshood Abiola and diplomat Babagana Kingibe for eight years, succession into high office would, by now, have become routine and the rule would have been established that the people are king in a democracy. But subsequent events have reduced our nation to a cacophony of ill-rhymed voices.
Perhaps, at times like this, we should examine the texture of democracy we are saddled with. Can we do better? And the many issues we have swept under the carpet, isn’t it time to bring them out for scrutiny and possible resolution?
Perhaps, it’s time to confront our many demons as Rwanda has done. Up till now, there’s no agreed history of the civil war; no attempt to use lessons from the tragedy to inform the future. The overthrow of the First Republic by the military sent us on this downward spiral from which we don’t seem to be in a hurry to recover.
We don’t yet have national heroes in the true sense of it, but tribal champions whose names are routinely chewed like kolanuts at major national ceremonies. One tribe’s hero is another tribe’s villain. There is no dedicated attempt to make a nation out of the disparate peoples of this geo-political space. We might as well be described as a conglomeration of atavistic tribes perpetually at war.
My sense of democracy is that one size does not fit all. In spite of the West’s insistence that only its definition of democracy is valid, evidence abounds that the process of electing representatives of the people as custodians of their sovereignty can be tweaked to reflect the nuances of disparate peoples who make up a nation. Say what you will, the Chinese system has served that country so well that it is warming up to upstage the United States as the world’s senior prefect.
Since it opened up to the world with glasnost and perestroika, Russia has been on the rise, so much so that it has now become an issue in US elections where politicians on both sides of the major divide now have to look over their shoulders to see if Russia is cyber-stalking or spying on them.
The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain which are largely independent. The country is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of the seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet.
Perched at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north, UAE has the 10th-highest economic freedom score (77.6) in the world based on the Economic Freedom of the World Index. The country, which several decades ago was but desert wasteland is today one of the biggest tourism attractions on the planet.
Our refusal to reappraise our democratic system so that we can come to terms with our past and fashion out a political setup that caters to our complex situation is partially responsible for the negative narratives by Nigerians about their own country. One Citizen A.B. Olajumoke, miffed at the de-marketing of the country by its citizens on social media, recently wrote: “If these extremely nagging and negative narratives are only carried out by the poor and uneducated, you could excuse their ignorance, but to hear supposedly well educated people spew out the same poisonous garbage, is disheartening. It makes one wonder if one is living in a country of the insane, the dead or the half living.”
Nigerians have the capacity to device a system that will work for them and free them from the shackles of micro-nationalism which have chained many people to their tubular vision. But do we have the courage to face our demons headlong and banish them forever?