In My Opinion: Another Democracy Day was celebrated in the country on Tuesday, May 29, 2018; and as usual, politicians seized the occasion to bombard the airwaves and social media with messages espousing norms and ideals that the country should live up to.
At the same time, they used the occasion to highlight whatever achievements they think they have made, and also take subliminal shots at their opponents; turning the day into an occasion for self promotion – self promotion on overdrive, considering the fact that the 2019 elections are just around the corner. I tried to read through as many of them as I could; but I had to stop when it started to feel like I was going through campaign manifestos! Phew!
These politicians are a wonderful lot. Their ability to shamelessly tout ideals and accomplishments that often times only exist in the realm of their imaginations is truly the stuff of great comedy. They like to imagine that they are some sort of statesmen on this great democratic stage; when for the most part, most of them would not even recognize Democracy, even if it appeared to them in a brown envelope – a very popular staple in the field of Nigerian politics.
When the late great Abraham Lincoln used the occasion of his famous Gettysburg Address to extol those who fought and died in defense of democratic principles during the Civil War, he described the system of government as that which is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” and prayed that it would not perish from the earth.
However, going by what Lincoln saw democracy to be, I dare say that we cannot give our leaders over here a high grade in living up to its tenets. Is this so-called ‘Democracy in Nigeria‘ really of the people, by the people and for the people; or is this country’s system of government really an ‘Oligarchy’, where a few elites have held sway from time immemorial, to the detriment of the many?
It is hypocritical, and even quite ironical, that Nigerian politicians – many of whom came into office via undemocratic means, rubbishing the will of the people and scheming their way into power – would suddenly become vocal champions of democratic values, one day of the year! What do they know about the rule of law, when they themselves do not obey the rule of law; and employ extra-judicial measures to keep their opponents and others in check?
What do they know about the dividends of democracy when many Nigerians are not really allowed to participate in the democratic process on established platforms, because they do not have a certain standing in society, or are not backed up by ‘powerful forces’? Even when these people form their own platforms, they are not permitted to stand on equal footing as others, and are stifled out via rigging and intimidation. What do they know about credible processes – one of the tenets of democracy – when elections are not really free and fair?
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PAY ATTENTION: Democracy Day Full Speech – President Muhammadu Buhari
What do they know about the gains of free and open societies when the majority of the people cannot enjoy the wealth of the nation; because it is shared, piece by piece, amongst cabal members? What do they know about democratic norms when free speech is tagged as hate speech and citizens are fearful of voicing opposition so that they do not get thrown into jail?
And what do they even know about democracy and statesmanship, when they have not really made any worthy sacrifices for the nation? The true mark of any democratic government would be when the citizens can truly testify that they are reaping dividends. Do not get me wrong, Nigeria has come a long way. We have come past the days of coups and counter coups, when military officers seized power at will. We have also experienced a transition of power, peacefully, from a ruling party to an opposition party. We are thankful. However, we have not gotten to the Promised Land…it is not yet Uhuru! These politicians who use the occasion of May 29 to give speeches that they mostly did not even write, would serve the nation better, if they actually commit themselves to living up to the words.
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It is my hope and prayer that by the next Democracy Day in 2019, everyone occupying public office would actually be the people’s choice, and that these leaders would serve as they should – that they would respect the rule of law; not stifle free speech; work hard for the people; not squander the nation’s resources; ensure that the nation’s wealth trickles down to the poorest Nigerian; be worthy ambassadors of the country and strengthen its image, home and abroad; commit to true national development; encourage discussions from all citizens that would help move the country forward; promote national unity and reconciliation; among others. But if they cannot commit themselves to these, then they should do us a great favour and keep quiet! Let us enjoy our public holiday in peace! This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
In My Opinion Section updated.