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Nigeria needs true democracy not revolution

Presidential Candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, during a courtesy visit to Daily Trust Office in Lagos on October 4, 2018.
Omoyele Sowore

Most of the comments concerning the legality of the Gestapo style arrest of Omoleye Sowore the facilitator of the “Revolution Now Movement” are detracting from the issue at hand. It’s important to remember that Sowore contested the last Presidential election and performed poorly.

He has no right to call for “revolution” simply because he didn’t win. He isn’t a boy, he is a 48-year old middle-aged man who has to take responsibility for his actions and utterances. His poor performance at the polls gives weight to the assertion that the scanty protests which took place were not in support of him, his political party, nor indeed of his poorly conceptualized “revolution”. Protesters interviewed on TV said they were objecting to the hardships, intolerance, illegalities, and trampling on the human rights in Nigeria which are not being successfully addressed.

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Sowore’s “revolution” aside, it’s evident an increasing number of Nigerians believe that democracy isn’t working in their interests. The often arrogant and abrasive manner in which government spokespersons address citizen’s concerns doesn’t help matters. Rather than admit to any sort of failure, they prefer to waffle illogically and label opponents as corrupt people, terrorists, or just plain stupid!

True democrats are humble, accept criticism of their failures, and accept that nobody has a monopoly on wisdom therefore a variety of opinions must be taken into consideration. To paraphrase Toni Morrison the only time political office holders feel tall is when they stand amongst people who have been reduced to crawling on their knees! Democratic leaders aren’t supposed to exercise absolute power, to be successful, they must build consensus.

The problem is that rather than attempting to build consensus and engage the three arms of government in Nation building, an overbearing Executive has declared the Judiciary and Legislature corrupted, swept their own alleged corruption under the carpet, and mobilized the security apparatus against the people. Citizens are now threatened with facing “the full wrath of the law” if they openly complain about the increasing nationwide daily maiming and murder quaintly referred to as “insecurity”.

The situation has degenerated to the extent that in addition to bloodshed by Insurgents, so-called “Herdsmen”, and Armed-robbers, Soldiers now kill Policemen, Policemen kill innocent citizens, and the general public takes matters into their own hands by publicly lynching suspected thieves, errant Soldiers and Policeman. While human life is becoming virtually worthless, Government continues to point fingers and blame everyone other than themselves for this abominable situation.

There is no denying that this government inherited many problems from their predecessors, but there is also no denying that under their watch the nation has not fared better. The growing resentment over their incapacity to solve even the most basic of the problems is causing many Nigerians to lose faith in democracy.

There is still poor epileptic power supply and mass unemployment, widespread insecurity, deteriorating education system, deplorable Federal roads, an unhealthy environment, and a Health sector so bad that the President himself doesn’t trust it for his own medical treatment!  In the absence of any widely publicized well-articulated and generally agreed plan to solve these problems citizens are voting with their feet and fleeing. All the signs of poor governance which led to the collapse of previous democratic dispensations are clearly visible and the federal government’s reaction has been to resort to militarism and authoritarianism.

Displays of coercive power aren’t the cleverest way forward. There are a multitude of benefits to be gained from cooperation with members of Civil Society and the Human Rights Community. Embracing them and maintaining a cordial relationship is a sure way of reawakening faith in Nigerian democracy and stemming the seething undercurrents of rage. While a security clampdown may be expedient, one of the major lessons of history is that the more coercive power is used to deprive people of their rights, the more there is a likelihood of a violent response from the populace.

As for civil liberties, freedom to peacefully protest is one of the fundamental rights of democracy, and it must be upheld, instead of the current mass arrests or killing of unarmed protestors. Brutalizing citizens is far more likely to cause “revolution” than the ranting of the likes of Sowore. Democracy is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but whether by accident or design what appears to exist in Nigeria nowadays is government of a certain group, by the group, and for the benefit of the group.

As a result of this perception, ethnic tensions are simmering. Undeniably there would be less need for security clampdowns if government resolves to be less “know-all”, takes alternative opinions on board, and entrenches federal character in appointments. Although the Constitution limits the authority of the Executive, it gives them all the powers they need to run the country successfully. Yet at both Federal and State it is breached with impunity.

The ridiculing of the Judiciary by the Attorney-General’s justification of disobeying Court Orders, coupled with a rubber stamp National Assembly has rendered the checks and balances of true democracy obsolete. Unless more democratic policies and practices are implemented, and adherence to the Constitution enforced, there is little reason to believe that there will be an end to the spread of insecurity, hatred, enmity and calls for revolution.

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