This Soup is Naked: Let Us Reposition Democracy in Nigeria
By Adebukola Osunyikanmi
The taste of homely soup illustrates the state of a democracy. A conversation between a mother and her daughter. An innocent discussion on socio-economic situations of an average Nigerian family. An expository revelation of status of most people who have sworn allegiance to be faithful, loyal and honest, and serve Nigeria with all strengths required to make our fatherland a regional and global giant.
Soup and its contents not only reveal the standard of living of the family, it also defines the skills and discipline of the cook. The soup and its contents, its nourishment to the body and the satisfaction it offers are all indicators of personal well-being. From an innocent child’s viewpoint, the soup is naked if it lacks contents that can guarantee nourishment and sustenance of good health. From the foregoing, we can glean a deeper understanding of contemporary Nigeria and her democracy. This soup is naked. Nigeria’s democratic practice is essentially naked. Ours is a democracy that is characterized by quadriplegic challenges: leaders without vision, blind followers, weak institutions and corrupt electoral process. Nigeria’s democracy is a system that is devoid of its essential contents.
In every democracy, citizens exercise their franchise by electing their representatives. There are variations of democratic practices based on social context, political environment, political history, demographic structure of the people and the strength of institutions. Hence, we see the Americans embracing presidential democracy, the British practise parliamentary democracy and the French love their semi-presidential system. In spite of the noticeable variations, democracy has helped those countries achieve political stability, peace and development. Nigeria’s democracy is an anti-thesis of the ones practised by the above listed countries. We witness a warped democracy in Nigeria.
As another election cycle approaches in 2023, Nigeria needs to retool her democracy. The position here is not about lamentations of everything that is wrong with Nigeria at this critical stage. Every Nigerian feels the pangs of insecurity, near absence of basic social services, dilapidated infrastructure, and the poor state of educational system. Here, democracy is further frustrated by ethnic rivalry, religious crisis and terrorism. Killers get away without facing the legal consequences of violence and murder. Life has become worthless in Nigeria.
In light of the fundamental flaws, Nigeria’s democracy needs practicable contents for its rebirth and sustenance. Democracy must stand on a sustainable platform in order to be formidable. We need political parties with clear manifestoes. The current candidates are yet to give us concrete plans and how they intend to implement them if they are elected. The political parties lack ideology. The adoption of a relevant ideology will strengthen Nigeria’s democracy, limit defections and cross-carpeting that have continuously reduced Nigeria’s democracy to monetised politics.
Another important recipe to enrich Nigeria’s democracy is the strengthening of institutions to make them formidable pillars for Nigeria’s democracy. The overbearing influence of the executive arm over the other two arms also has negative impact on governance. The mechanism of checks and balances must not be jettisoned.
At the party level, there must be a good setting for accountability to citizens. Accountability is the bedrock of democratic sustainability. All politicians must embrace free and fair elections. Everyone must avoid vote buying and clientelism.
Democracy demands equity. A level playing field must be guaranteed. Party leaders must ensure there is no bias for or against any aspirant. Women with requisite capacity must have the confidence to contest for positions. The access to political power must be truly democratised.
Politics and electioneering require finances. However, potential leaders may be eliminated from the process because of the high cost charged for nomination forms by some political parties. The extravagant display of questionable wealth during campaigns should be addressed if brilliant-but-not- rich men and women must go into government. There must be an enforceable law to limit financial commitment of an individual in the political process. Excess spending must lead to proper prosecution by the appropriate institution. Populism deters inducement for democratic survival. Politicians must focus on citizen-oriented policies that suit domestic and external realities. They can energise their campaigns with good political marketing. The quest to serve and the character behind every promise must determine outcomes at the polls.
As we prepare to replace our leaders in 2023 through democratic means, it is time we pursued a new culture of democracy. The political parties must allow internal democracy to produce credible candidates at the primaries. The politicians must not use cash inducements and violence to manipulate the process. The electorate must vote for credible candidates irrespective of tribe or religion. The electoral umpire must be fair to all candidates. The judiciary must not re-direct citizens’ mandate to wrong candidates. Above all, elected officers must begin to honour their social contracts with Nigerians. After the 2023 elections, the innocent child should be able to taste the soup and tell us it is enriched with the right condiments. The soup hopefully will not be naked post-2023. Let the politicians and the electorate ensure we have a much better democracy after the coming elections.
*Professor Adebukola Osunyikanmi.Department of Political Science, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Nigeria.