Who will lead the way in a true political reform that would turn Nigeria’s democracy to what it ought to be “the government of the people (of Nigeria) by the people (of Nigeria) and for the people (of Nigeria)?
One may wonder why the emphasis on Nigeria. Yes, it is simply because Nigeria has never got it right and may never get it right except if something happens: REVOLUTION! But fortunately, revolution must not always be seen as a violent act. By my own understanding, it is only a process of fresh beginning (re-evolution). How it comes about is another issue, and that is what makes it a “violent revolution” or a “re-evolution of thought, process and/or mentality”. That said, we come back to our question: Who will lead the way?
Going back to the origin of states, we make reference to the theory of “Social Contract” according to John Locke. Though Locke was not the first proponent of the theory, I choose to refer to it because it reflects the situation we found ourselves in Nigeria from the perspective of the state of nature. For Thomas Hobbes, the necessity of an absolute authority (in the form of a Sovereign) followed from the utter brutality of the State of Nature. The State of Nature was completely intolerable, and so rational men would be willing to submit themselves even to absolute authority in order to escape it. This was because due to personal interests, it was more like the survival of the fittest. It was a state of anarchy. However, for Locke, it was a state governed by the Law of Nature and not necessarily anarchical. Though individual interests reigned at this state and there was constant probability of drifting to a state of war; there were still some levels of sanity because these individual interests are exhibited by those who had the power of ownership of properties. This power, according Locke, lies with the parents. Hence, it was more of representatives of families of peoples. In Locke’s theory, it was these representatives of families that came together in a social contract which gave birth to civil government. The essence of this contract was to acknowledge and regulate the fact that one’s freedom ends where another’s freedom begins. More so, at the height of clash of interests, the social contract supersedes.
We can relate this to the emergence of government in Nigeria. I remember the stories of our fathers who witnessed the emergence of government in Nigeria, as was imposed by the British and how it turned out to what we have today. From their accounts, the way they practiced their “government” at the family, kindred, clan, village and town levels were so organized and productive such that one would simply believe that introducing democracy would be simple and seamless. It was democratic in nature. However, over 57 years of Nigeria’s existence and about 20 years of democratic rule (intermittently though) have proved every theory of social contract and civil government wrong and alien to “Nigerian tradition”. This is because, instead of reaping the benefits of the “social contract” that brought about the existence of Nigeria as an entity and as a government, it has done the opposite. Nigerian politics, in its entirety, has become an advanced way of pursing personal gains, individual, group or ethnic interests and nothing more, worse still, to the detriment of others.
From inception, Nigerians never agreed on the structure of Nigeria as a country, it was imposed on the people that formed the component parts of Nigeria. I still remember the stories of how the British Colonial Masters invaded my people in a small town of Uga, which could be considered a negligible part of the large entity called Nigeria. My people, being true to their name and identity, resisted the invasion. The ensuing war was so brutal and the memories still lingers in the minds and history of my people. Of course, the colonial masters conquered my people just like every other part of the country.
Secondly, Nigerian never agreed on the Constitution. It was either imported (as in the case of colonial masters), imposed (by the military) or doctored (by the oligarchs) to favour a particular ethnic or political. Following the inconsistencies, all cries to a new and inclusive Constitution, total amendment or restructuring of government and the country has failed to achieve any goal, simply because what was inherited from the Colonial Masters favours one or more ethnic group more than others. They are bent on protecting their interests at all costs, hence it was just a constant issue of recycling the old order. Unfortunately, this is Nigeria which we hope to achieve our collective and individual goals.
In 1999, when Nigeria finally returned to democratic rule, we all expected that the Nation through their “stakeholders” has finally charted a way of massive achievements and sustainable socio-economic development that would enable every Nigerian achieve his/her individual goals or at least provide a social leverage for one to actualize one’s potentials. But NO! It was rather something indescribable and unimaginable especially as it stares everyone in the face at this present times. It is even needless going through what Nigerians have passed through and what transpired to give rise to the situation we find ourselves in presently. They are stories for another day and in different column, however, we must note some facts.
The decay is such that successive administrations find it difficult to lay its foot on any meaningful step towards good achievement and sustainable development. This was why people believed the best thing was to change the process of government through voting out the political party in power. In this decision, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) happened to be the victim. But most disappointingly, the present administrative led by the All Progressive Congress (APC) became even worse. The little gains achieved by past administrations were squandered in a short time and the nation was plunged into the worst recession in the history of its over 57 years of existence.
The fruit of all these is that it has succeeded in turning the nation into a situation worse than the state of nature. In this state, individual interests rule; characterized by selfishness, greed and loss of value for anything good including human life. Most people believe that the problem of this country is corruption but something must be the cause of this deep-rooted corruption in the system; a reality staring this nation in face. This reality has robbed Nigeria and Nigerians of talents, potentials, vision, true leadership, followership, growth, value and name. What is most worrisome is that in the near further, we cannot boast of achieving anything because we have lost both leaders and followers.
Our case may seem hopeless but it is not actually as hopeless as it seems. In the way and manner the necessities of the period gave rise to the “social contract” according to the theorists, necessities of this present time might still awaken our consciousness to work towards getting things right for once.
As it were, the vehicle for achieving any leadership position in this country is a political party, but these political parties have also failed due to the selfishness of individual stakeholders. The PDP had power but failed the masses. It gave rise to the amalgamation of strong opposition parties that formed the APC, which took over power from the PDP through the 2015 general elections. More than the PDP; APC failed and plunged the nation into untold hardship and still playing the blame game. I do not know if Nigerians would be so patient with the APC as they have been over these years. More so, I believe that the event of the PDP’s failure would have thrown the stakeholders into sober reflections and produced a new resolve that would motivate them to work towards getting it right.
As they are preparing for their National Convention, The PDP should know that the Nation is craving for who will lead the way in the political reform that would ensure we play politics with principle and run government with true democratic structures.
As Nigerians await the outcome of their National Convention; they should know that it is time to get it right!
(Ifeanyi R. Ibekwe is a writer, public policy analyst, the author of Public Policy and Conflict Nexus: The Deregulation of The Downstream Oil Sector In Nigeria 1999-2007)