By Kayode Ajulo
Democracy in saner climes has been refined and improved upon to make governance practicable and progressive. Good governance would require political parties with different ideas how governance could be beneficial to all through the introduction of party politics.
Unfortunately in Nigeria since independence, democracy has failed to take its roots because of lack of knowledge of democratic principles, and also because military interventions had affected negatively the growth of democracy. It would also be recognized where religious, tribal or ethnic considerations predominates, it is highly improbable that democracy would take root. Perhaps the military politicians of those years could not solve some of Nigeria‘s complex problems because they themselves were part of the problems to be solved.
Military dictators of the past which suppressed principles of democracy also curtailed the growth of opposition. The counter-coups of the military era were the direct results of stifled opposition within their ranks. The civilian governments which followed the military dictators were not different in the methods of suppressing opposition.
The advocates of dictatorship (whether military or civilian) believe sincerely that decisions affecting the destiny of a nation especially in Nigeria would be resolved with a fiat i.e. ‘with immediate effect‘. And things would change dramatically. Without mincing words, they really must be basking in the euphoria of hallucination for holding such reprehensible views and position.
Is it possible to follow the tenets of democracy without opposition in a state? Or could progress be achieved and stability is maintained by a government in a state where opposition is oppressed? The present state of Nigeria shows a panoramic view of ruling parties sharing all the so called dividends of democracy and the good things of offices, whilst wishing to send opposition into extinction.
In Nigeria today, there are signs of political uncertainty and economic instability fuelled by large unemployment of University graduates who are now turning into crimes. Before the March 28, 2015 presidential elections, many promises of transformations – political, economic and security were made. Is it not possible to create an atmosphere where there is security, peace, progress and prosperity, where opposition is not stifled but given an enabling environment to offer constructive criticisms?
In a broader sense, it may be necessary to formulate another concept of democracy where good governance is possible without the ‘unruly’ interference of the opposition.
Sadly, the signs are ominous. The recent invitation and subsequent detention of High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Alh. Attahiru Bafarawa, former Governor of Sokoto State, Alh. Bashir Yuguda, the former Minister for Finance and others are clear cases of witch-hunt, harassment, intimidation; growing level of impunity; abuse of the rule of law and flagrant violation of human rights which are becoming very alarming and call for great concern by all patriotic, civil society organizations, the media and the international community to take note of.
Now here is the bigger threat, not just for Nigerians but the international community too.
In the last two weeks in my law chambers, in Abuja, I have been receiving petitions, enquiries and consultations from various groups and members of civil societies, primarily on complaints bothering on highhandedness of this government.
I am also awestruck on how young Nigerians of employable age are moving out of the country in droves, not necessarily to seek economic succour, but because they no longer have confidence in an administration that has neglected its youths, and could not guarantee them basic needs of life. Besides, part of the sheer anxiety was that the spate of insecurity occasioned by Biafra agitators, Boko Haram Islamic extremists, threats from other militia groups, Niger/Delta uprising and ultimately lack of clear cut agenda to guarantee them better future are becoming increasingly worrisome for them which they could no longer bear. Worst still was an ambitious bill to send to prison for two years in Nigeria anyone who makes an allegation against a public officer or institutions on social media which has already passed a second reading at the Nigerian Senate.
The attention of the world media is now being drawn to Nigeria as the nation is gradually drifting into dictatorship; lack of freedom of speech and press freedom and with it youths recording heavy queues at various Embassies and High Commissions on a daily basis. This development can’t be described as dividends of democracy anyway. These times are most interesting. They are intriguing and as well frightful.
Subsequently, after evaluating the performance of this administration in the last 6 months, members of the opposition observed that President Muhammadu Buhari is engaging himself in sham and selective anti-graft war and has named him a dictator and with the view that if he is sincere he should go after former All Progressives Congress governors, who had petitions against them for alleged corruption. Added to their voice was that Nigerians have seen through their propaganda, deceit and lies, as well as their ineptitude in handling governance.
Also to the members of the opposition, it is clearly manifest that the same dictatorial tendencies manifested during the military regime of 1984 is being presently applied in the polity in the attempt to discredit the opposition parties and weaken them ahead of 2019.
My take on this is very simple; I want Mr. President who is perceived to be an elder statesman to prove these allegations wrong so that Nigerians and our foreign allies could see him in different light contrary to what opposition has labeled him. Frankly, and with due respect, any serious Nigerian President at this time is expected to address the challenges confronting Nigeria in the areas of capital expenditure threat, debt spiking, savings stagnation, unemployment, exchange rate volatility, judicial reform, poor state of the Nigerian economy, rule of law, infrastructure deficit to mention a few.
No nation can survive without a vibrant opposition, in a clearly defined political system, opposition parties are believed to play an inexcusably critical role in shaping policy agenda, conducting civic education and checkmating excesses of the government in power, often times in collaboration with the media. By their roles, they are faced with the need to correct such moves that constrain the democratisation of the nation building process.
President Buhari at this perilous time must distance himself from the ‘Mafia’ around him (if any); this is the time to rise to the occasion, convince the world that he is genuinely a true democrat, an unbiased and detribalized leader with passion and vision.
Kayode Ajulo is a Nigeria lawyer, unionist, politician and civil rights activist. Founder/Chairman of the Egalitarian Mission, Africa, a non-governmental and non-profit making Organization for the promotion of rule of law, social and economic equality in Africa.