History currently appears to be posing a very lively and serious challenge to those Nigerians who are still stuck with the traditional perception that the existing Nigerian political order (the status quo) is sacred, invincible, and therefore, too formidable to yield to any process of dynamic metamorphosis.
For Nigerians who still appear to be out of touch with the realities of the time, it is never too late for them to have a second thought. Long thinking? Yes, that’s the most ideal option. After all, the legendary William Shakespeare got it right when he stated in his landmark play, Macbeth, that “too swift arrives as tardy as too slow, and in their triumph die like wild fire and powder.”
It is increasingly becoming an open secret that the Nigerian common citizens have for quite a while been out-stretched to a breaking point by the prevailing pseudo-democratic practices. Well-meaning Nigerian citizens and people of good will around the global community have since overtly demonstrated a desire for a change in the persistent political practices that have blown the people little or no good. Civil government of imposition cannot be expected to deliver the dividends of true democracy. True democratic practices come along with accountability as the elected would always see himself as a servant or agent of the elector who is more or less the principal in any ideal situation. Here, Nigeria has been bankrupt.
True patriotic leadership implies the ability to see the top of the highest mountain above from the depth of the deepest valley below. The moral judgment holds that all human beings are of equal intrinsic worth; that no person is intrinsically superior in worth to another; and that the good and/or interests of each person ought to be given equal consideration. I prefer to call this the ‘assumption of intrinsic equality.’ Here again, Nigeria has been bankrupt. Understandably, the problem of Nigeria truly has no linkage with ethnocentrism. It is class war. It is the broad divide between the haves and the have-nots. This trend has no Divine fingerprint whatsoever. It is a choice by a select few Nigerians to destroy Nigeria.
Since the inception of the present Republic in Nigeria, there has existed a diabolical system involving a master design by the so called ‘professional politicians’ to hoard the enormous economic resources of the nation. These few people would often restrict a mammoth chunk of the Nigerian financial worth to themselves, only to release a little bit of it, to be thrown around during election seasons. The lives of not a few citizens (particularly the youths) are often lost in the process of the ensuing scramble over the scrums thrown around during election times by the political impostors. Thus, election banditry has been perpetually synonymous with Nigerian democracy. Souls are sold for a mess of porridge. This has invited a dearth of faith in the entire system of things by not a few. However, it is not the time to lay wreath. Hope still lurks around the corner.
Interestingly, God has his unique way of disposing his special favor upon a person or a group of people he so dearly loves. Sometimes, God’s best gifts might seem embarrassing to the mediocre or ordinary minds. When we request for strength, we receive difficulties and trials to make us strong; when we request for wisdom, we get problems to solve so we can grow wiser; when we request for courage, we get obstacles to overcome and become increasingly courageous.
No doubt, true democratic practices correspond to the hopes and aspirations we have for them. The real point of democracy is to strengthen the position of the cheated and the down-trodden, the deprived and the depraved as well as the dispossessed and the vulnerable. These include the unprivileged poor and destitute, the physically and mentally challenged, the societal underdogs (children, elders, women and helpless youths) and what have you.
But so far, there has been so much wrong with the Nigerian brand of democratic practices. Popular nostrums often upheld by even the so called political analysts have made matters worse for those expecting a better day on the Nigerian socio-political shore. At least, few Nigerians are still buried in the dead pool of hopelessness aptly defined by the traditional political perception that the Nigerian citizens can never be sufficiently enlightened to let go the perceived self-defeating inclination that the status-quo is invincible, and in fact untouchable.
These people may continue to bury their heads in the self-destructive belief that Nigerian citizens are too cynical to opt for examining the old political order. They persistently hold to the belief that though even a failed leadership may lack everything else, but they would always hold on to, and with a clenched fist for that matter, their ability to recycle themselves at every turn as long as the so called democratic election is held on the soil of Nigeria (and not Heaven). This leaves very excruciating pains in the minds of faithful patriots, lovers of humanity and advocates of justice, fair play and human equality. Matters are made worse when the diabolical view that change is impossible in Nigeria are perpetually perpetrated by those to whom the society would have ordinarily reverted for possible solutions to the nation’s problems.
How else could one express one’s shock at the blasphemous utterance of one of our former Heads of State and/or Presidents (do not say I told you) that “Even Jesus Christ cannot conduct credible election in Nigeria.” This could be rightly viewed as the worst blasphemy ever openly committed by a ‘public servant’ in Nigeria. Without credible election it would be difficult to truly demonstrate the people’s disapproval of a system that has failed to work in the best interest of the generality of the Nigerian populace. The alien belief that credible election is impossible can be very destructive. It originates from the pit of hell.
Suffice it to say that the old political order presently exercising its stranglehold on the Nigerian socio-political system has persistently unfolded as a diabolical framework with a trademark of insensitivity to the common people’s plights and complaints. It has unfolded as an almost failed system which has remarkably faltered in its bid to religiously deliver the dividends of democracy to the common people. It is quite obvious that with an unflinching commitment to the cause of justice and fair play, greater equality – or better, a reduction in the existing level of inequalities – can come about. Yes, with the ever-growing clamor for Nigeria’s national rebirth, and a shift of focus from the hitherto intimidating obstacles to the possible solutions, change is possible in Nigeria.
Again, talking of the pessimists, my heart bleeds for their ignorance and seeming lack of the ability to discern the signs of the time. Of course, history is replete with them. Some human societies brim with them - with men and women who may be able to geographically forecast the weather, but cannot observe and properly discern the signs of the time. Yes, so numerous may be these breed of fellow citizens who cannot see the dotted lines no matter how bold the lines may be.
However, no amount of ranting would do justice to an explanation of the historical variations and complexities in the process by which changes toward fairer democratic practices have often unfolded in other societies. Some countries, including even African countries, have once had it so rough and all of a sudden the stars of hope and respite began to shine on their socio-political atmosphere. Change has the answer. Good a thing, the human societies are often dynamic. Virtually, there would always come a time in every human society when people who have been relegated to subordinate status by history, socio-political structure and belief systems would rise up and openly demonstrate their rejection of the status quo, and begin to press for change in the way things work.
In a traditional sense, the intricate Nigerian democratic practices would certainly be very unsuitable for export to other neighboring countries and beyond. It would be pertinent to recall what one analyst rightly told me about Nigeria. In his thoughtful view, Nigeria is the only country that opts to import what she possesses, and opts to export what she doesn’t possess.
It is an open secret that Nigeria has crude oil, but she continuously imports petroleum products. On the flipside, Nigeria is a country that daily seeks to export democratic values to the neighboring countries. Yet, true democratic practice was since been consciously banished from the geo-political landscape of the country by the same people who continue to parade themselves as the ambassadors of democratic ideals. What an irony!
Truth is the greatest weapon needed to pluck Nigeria from the clutches of self-imposed defeat, desperation and despair. Interestingly, “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident.” (Arthur Schoepenhauer). There has hitherto been lack of conscious efforts by the so called powers-that-be to tailor the Nigerian democratic practices to fit the needs and possibilities of the good citizens of the country.
The true democratic practice that Nigeria should opt to embrace should be the type that would be best designed to serve our fundamental political ends, goals and values. For the most part, the gradual development of the new level of consciousness within the Nigerian polity is a providential fact. The evolution of this new consciousness seems to possess all the characteristics of a Divine decree: it is unfolding in leaps and bounds, and it is constantly eluding all human interference. It is evident in the prevailing upsurge of public events in as much as enlightened Nigerian citizens continue to fuel its persistent progress.
Of late, not a few Nigerian elites have been troubled by what is largely viewed as some of the undesirable consequences of complacency on the part of the majority. ‘Democracy for the few’ is distinct from ‘participatory political democracy.’ While the former, with its common characteristics of being a civil government of imposition, would often confronts society with untold mishaps, the latter, with its common characteristic of being a government of true equality and representation, would often truly delivers the dividends of democracy to those who have the greatest need of them- the common citizens.
This realization has aptly blossomed into a new level of consciousness among patriots and pundits alike. Thus, present realities continue to point to the fact that change is possible in Nigeria. Increasingly, there is a renewed call on those who have hitherto been submerged in the iceberg of cold complacency to get fired up and embrace the spirit of nation-building. That Nigeria belongs to every citizen, and not just a select few rings doubly true.
This line of thought has opened a new page in the anal of the Nigerian national struggle for democratic survival. This has elicited a renewed passion for something new, something spectacularly different from the old order that has blown the common citizens more evil than good. And given new opportunities and moved by anger, resentment, a sense of injustices, and a prospect of greater individual or group opportunities, some members of the group within our national polity hitherto subjected to untold deprivations would usually begin to press for change – a change in the way things work in our country.
This is informative on the renewed clarion calls for all Nigerian citizens to get on board the political ship. This implicates a call to consider other workable options for achieving a more dynamic and result-oriented democratic journey. The traditional practice whereby the democratic process appears to have been abandoned by the majority, and left in the hands of the so called ‘professional politicians’ (only about 2% of the nation’s population) has failed to reflect the collective will. This practice has failed to address the common good.
It is interesting to note that the message is resonating well with the grass root base. Nigerians are getting wiser by the flip of every second. For about six weeks I had the privilege of sharing the change message with not a few people across Nigeria. There was no restriction as to where the message would be shared. I shared it at the motor parks, in the market places, on the streets, at newspaper stands, on the air planes - with individuals and with groups. In all the instances, the response of the people was passionate and their joy was beyond measure.
Yet, the degree of enthusiasm witnessed at the “Citizens’ Votes-Must-Count” Unity Rally organized by UNCCI Inc. in association with its Nigeria-based subsidiary, UCCI Inc. in the garden city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Saturday September 11, 2010, just like other rallies and events organized by other committed groups like Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Make-Your-Votes-Count (MYVC), etc, in other parts of the country sent the strongest signal to the pundits and pessimists that change is possible in Nigeria. Resulting from the historic Port Harcourt event, a good number of young folks got fired up and volunteers to persistently spread the message even in public buses, parks, etc. It has become increasingly clear that 2011 elections would be the greatest history that would be recorded since the 1960 independence of Nigeria. Change is possible in Nigeria.
Dr. Terry M. Bagia
Author, Human Rights Lawyer, Community Organizer and
President of United Nigerian Citizens Consultative Initiative Inc. (UNCCI) cum United Citizens Consultative Initiative Inc. (UCCI)