Lessons From Mali and Senegal By Peter Claver Oparah

By Peter Claver Oparah

Two significant events happened in Africa last week that should force Nigerians; both the government and the governed to create a health check on the democracy we have in place presently. The military coup in Mali and the defeat of incumbent President Abdulaye Wade in Senegal are two significant events that bring direct relevance to the Nigerian situation. On the local scene, the PDP, the ruling party in Nigeria had its national convention the same week. We shall re-visit this convention, vis-à-vis its nexus with the state and condition of Nigerian democracy in the course of this report but our primary concern remains the events in Mali and Senegal.

The military struck and seized power from civilians in Mali. A group of armed men led by Ahmadou Sanogo struk and seized power from President Amadou Touare. Citing the menace of Tuareg armed gangs in the North of the country, the coupists blamed the ousted president for tolerating the gangsters who have visited bloodletting and chaos especially in Northern Mali. In Senegal, the people defied 85 years old Wade’s amendment of the constitution to allow him more terms, to stand solidly against his continued stay in office after twelve years. The campaign to unseat Wade had been acrimonious, bloody and violent. In the first ballot, Wade scrapped through a narrow lead over his main challenger and estranged Prime Minister, Macky Sall but fell short of the mandatory 50 per cent that would have given him victory at the first ballot. He therefore entered into a run off with his main challenger, who was buoyed by massive support by the people. Wade lost and quickly conceded victory in a rare display of sportsmanship, his deft attempt to commit himself in office notwithstanding.

Nigeria has condemned and applauded. It condemned the coup plotters in Mali and commended the free democratic vote that prevailed in Senegal. For a serious country, it should not stop there as both events should provide Nigeria a tremendous window of opportunity to make a thorough health check on the democracy we had been struggling with for the past thirteen years. What happened in the two African countries should have offered Nigeria the opportunity to do a thorough audit of the state of the nation and the democracy we have in place to see if the system can withstand the type of event in Mali and if the system is capable of generating the kind of event witnessed in Senegal where an incumbent was defeated in a contest he supervised. We need to verify if democracy has worked to suppress the wishes and desires of Nigerians for a just, fair and egalitarian state where no man is oppressed. We need to know if democracy, as we have it in Nigeria, rhymes with the universal concept of democracy. Is the current Nigerian democracy founded on open, fair and credible electoral process? Is it strengthened by a just and impartial judiciary that watches over the interests of the masses? Is it guarded by a credible legislature that waits to catch the excesses of the executive at any given time? Is Nigerian democracy rooted on accountability to the people; the ultimate sovereign in a democracy? Is the process founded on transparency, rule of law, checks and balances, which guarantee every member of the commonwealth equal access to available opportunities?

When we try to investigate further, we would ask the factors that inform, encourage and ensure the presence of the military in African politics. Has Nigeria, as a country, taken care of these factors as to be assured the army will never seek another adventure in our body politics? Are the citizenry so satisfied with the output from our democracy in the last thirteen years as to build a mass movement against the military should they make another attempt to step in? We would find out whether all we have experienced in the last thirteen years are parts and parcel of democracy. We would try to match our record against the universal concept of democracy, the practice and all to see if we are being well served by the current democracy and if this tally with the universal idea of democracy.

It is after we had done these audits that we would come to a better understanding of what we genuinely need as a nation. Do we want this sort of democracy or we need something else? How do we come to achieve what we want as a nation without inflicting much damage on the interests and well being of the masses that remain the paramount concern of any system of government? How do we get a desirable omelet for our citizens while ensuring minimal cost to the egg? How can we achieve the democratic opening of our dream that is in sync with the age old democratic idea? How do we guarantee our democracy is strengthened and sustained through proper governance, in line with the

The event in Mali remains an anomaly as military coups are out of sync with desirable means of effecting changes in government, but a democracy that operates outside the ground norms of democracy is as appalling as military governments. But this is not enough to prevent such adventures or even prevent these adventurers from being welcomed by the people when they strike. The reality of doing a health check on Nigerian democracy is to ensure that it does not deviate from the well-known canons of universal democracy for once democracy departs from these sacred ethos, it tantamount to salt that has lost its flavor. The people of Senegal must be commended for their resilience and perseverance in the face of the resolve of Wade to hold unto power, but then, Wade, despite his bilious traits deserves praise for knowing when to stop the scourge that has led astray many an African leaders and pseudo democrats.

The lesson Nigeria must not miss is that the leader, and indeed, the entire concept of democracy exists for the people and once the citizens express their preferences, every other thing gives to let the people have their way. If the people and their interests are removed from democracy, it turns out worse than military rule. It is doubtful if Nigerian leaders will even have the courage to let the people have their way in a similar situation and that constitutes one of the greatest banes of democracy in Nigeria. When will Nigerian leaders allow the form of democratic system that will see them losing elections they manage when people do not want them? That is the biggest dilemma our democracy faces as we falter through what has been dubbed a precarious and dysfunctional democracy.

So, the events in Senegal should instead work to strengthen Nigerian democracy. It should re-orient the leaders on the need to establish democracy, founded on the immutable canons of free choice, accountability, checks and balance, work for the Nigerian people. That remains the only way Nigeria could keep soldiers out of our politics and avoid the kind of situation in Mali. And this brings us to the convention of the PDP, which has in its moments of glee, seen itself as the only viable party in Nigeria. PDP has been ruling Nigeria and the majority of the states since 1999. It is to its shame that in this period, Nigeria has just excelled in churning out horrible and harrowing tales of corruption, insecurity, political persecution, electoral roguery, impunity, infrastructural decay, increasing poverty in the midst of unfailing oil boom, etc.

Nowhere is PDP’s unraveling complete as in its inclination to foster electoral fraud as the basis of its existence and as the ruling party, they have negotiated Nigeria to a loop where it is sunk in the quagmire of electoral roguery. Thirteen years after a harrowing rule, PDP signifies the failure of Nigeria and its failure to meet even the least ideal of free and fair electoral process signifies a willingness to ensure the country remains stranded in the pit of electoral infamy. Last week, it held its so called national convention, which was merely the handpicking of the cronies of the president and their usual coronation through an complex and unproductive system of waste. That the PDP cannot conduct a credible election of its officers after thirteen years in power shows the dim and hopeless electoral future Nigeria faces. It shows that the event in Senegal may not be possible in Nigeria in the foreseeable future. It sends a warning signal that the event in Mali may be possible in Nigeria if our so called politicians continue to abuse and make nonsense the precise first and most prominent tenet of democracy which is the conduct of free and fair elections where every participant stands equal chances. It is a strong signal Nigeria, especially those that flatter themselves as the personification of the present troubled democracy, have to take serious or perish.

Peter Claver Oparah

Ikeja, Lagos.

E-mail: peterclaver2000@yahoo.com

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Dera and Ifeanyi Democracy,

Dera and Ifeanyi Democracy, Did you two read this news in today's papers? So should we conclude that Nigerians senators and Peter Claver are calling for military coup? my only advice to you two is when you are sent on an errand like a slave, carry it out like a free man. I rest my case.

Senators to FG: How to avoid coup

Senators to FG: How to avoid coup

Written by Isiaka Wakili Wednesday, 28 March 2012 05:04

Senators yesterday told the Federal Government to provide good governance and strengthen the electoral system in order to avoid a military coup like the one executed in Mali.

Ifeanyi Democracy4ever. I

Ifeanyi Democracy4ever. I know that as someone who is paid to deface opinions that don’t tally with the business of these rouges going on in Nigeria at present, you may not identify an intellectual argument if you see one. That is not what your fault. But can you be specific and tell us what you are quarreling with in this article? Can you adopt civilized means to tell us your point of disagreement so we can read and take home instead of acting like someone without a soul who is given a machete and told to kill everybody in sight who shares different views wth that of the master. You see why people will always score points against a so called democracy where nothing is done to adhere to democratic tenets? Are you aware that the Nigerian senate yesterday debated this same issue of how to avoid coup and drew the same conclusion that Mr. Oparah drew in his well informed article? So do conclude the senate is now calling for coup? My brother quit this business. It does you no good.

@ Ifeanyi Democracy or

@ Ifeanyi Democracy or whatever. You see, God does not answer stupid prayers and you feel He will answer the prayers of rouges who use democracy to steal Nigeria blind? Get a life. Who are you? Come off the mask. The writer is a well known person and his writings are always there for all to see. I am Ikechi Ngwube. Who is the person behind the funny name of Ifeanyi Democracy? Come off the mask so we will place you and I bet you are one of the rapists destroying this country presently in the name of democracy. And have you borthered why people like you still hide behind funny masks? Because you know you are doing a devilish mission. Democracy, like patriotism has become the last refuge of scoundrels.

@Nkechi Ngwube..,God does not answer STUPID prayers!

My friend, the God I know and serve (The Alpha and Omega) does not answer STUPID prayers. At least not when someone is wrongly accused. Who told you i'm "stealing billions of naira"? That one na for your mind. I may be your next door neighbour.

Nigerians must be wary of

Nigerians must be wary of people like Democracy Ifeanyi or whatever. They are the people that support evil and hide under democracy to cheat and dupe this country. Reading him, I remember Comrade Squealer in Animal Farm. He is certainly in the league of our modern day Comrade Squaler who will always come in with Comrade Napoleon is always right. Rouge democracy indeed!

@ Ifeanyi Democracy4ever: My

@ Ifeanyi Democracy4ever: My friend come clear and reveal yourself instead of hiding under the mask to defend evil. If you throw away your mask, I am sure you are one of these vampires stealing billions of Naira from Nigeria at present. What specifically are you quarrelling with in this beautiful scropted article? I am afraid Nigeria should be wary of acoundrels like you who hide under democracy to visit evil on the country. You are a cowardly imbecile and God wull certainly punish you and your ilk!

@ Ifeanyi Democracy4ever: My

@ Ifeanyi Democracy4ever: My friend come clear and reveal yourself instead of hiding under the mask to defend evil. If you throw away your mask, I am sure you are one of these vampires stealing billions of Naira from Nigeria at present. What specifically are you quarrelling with in this beautiful scropted article? I am afraid Nigeria should be wary of acoundrels like you who hide under democracy to visit evil on the country. You are a cowardly imbecile and God wull certainly punish you and your ilk!

I believe that it is the

I believe that it is the criminals that have worked to ensure Nigeria doesnt have real democracy that are working against our democracy. For their stomach, they steal, kill, rig, manipulate and at the end of the day shout democracy.People like this Ifeanyi Democracy is benefitting from the decay presently. That is why he struggles to defend the obnoxious acts of the rouges and thieves who are presiding over Nigeria's decay. They will fail, Any democracy that does not build on free and fair voting is worse than military regime, Period!

The soldiers in amli are malus for western powers

The article has only one objective. To incite the army in 9ja to overthrow the government of GEJ period. Often the turncoats hide under various guises to enable them use the army as usual to win lucrative oil contracts! So coups must take place! Ogboru is an example! Our billionaires were cloned by the army. From dangote, danjuma to adenuga. We all know those who became instant money bags under OBJ, late Abacha, and IBB through the oil wells in the niger delta. If 9jas wanted us to build a clean stable and corrupt free society, they would have gone for late Gani. They did not. Instead voted for OBJ who donated over 140m to the coffers of PDP one week after he was released from jail. Wade was punished by the gods-he it was who ordered Nato to kill gaddafi if he does not leave power-yet unknown to us all he wanted was power for himself-Coups in africa are arranged by the imperialist powers. Imagine the progress if Nkrumah, gaddafi and toure had stayed on!

Some persons definition of DEMOCRACY is warped!

We totally reject every attempt by crooks posing as intellectuals to use USELESS articles for subtle calls for military COUP in Nigeria. Some arm chair critics just believe that until their PREFERED candidate wins election, the country has not started practicising DEMOCRACY. They believe that until PDP loses presidential election, we are not in a DEMOCRACY. They forget that we all have different interests and DEMOCRACY is a game of number. Andy Uba recently narrowly won an election in Anambra state. Personally I would have prefered if any of his opponent won that election but the reality is that for WHATEVER REASON people queued up and voted for him and he won. The interest of these persons whether right or wrong MUST be respected. That is DEMOCRACY. We all have our interests and people are entitled to make their MISTAKES in a democracy. Their 'mistake' must be respected.

Some persons definition of DEMOCRACY is warped!

We totally reject every attempt by crooks posing as intellectuals to use USELESS articles for subtle calls for military COUP in Nigeria. Some arm chair critics just believe that until their PREFERED candidate wins election, the country has not started practicising DEMOCRACY. They believe that until PDP loses presidential election, we are not in a DEMOCRACY. They forget that we all have different interests and DEMOCRACY is a game of number. Andy Uba recently narrowly won an election in Anambra state. Personally I would have prefered if any of his opponent won that election but the reality is that for WHATEVER REASON people queued up and voted for him and he won. The interest of these persons whether right or wrong MUST be respected. That is DEMOCRACY. We all have our interests and people are entitled to make their MISTAKES in a democracy. Their 'mistake' must be respected.

No to Military Intervention! Yes to CITIZENS INTERVENTION!

We say NO to USELESS articles using subtle means to call for military coup in Nig. What Nigeria needs today is not the 1966 blunder(first military coup). Nigerians say NEVER AGAIN to military INTERVENTION in politics. Nigerians say yes to CITIZENS INTERVENTION in politics. We have seen military rulers in the past in different shades and colours who claim to be 'messiah' but ended up taking us 5 decades backwards. It was CITIZENS INTERVENTION that voted out Wade of Senegal. It was CITIZENS INTERVENTION that installed Rochas Okorocha as gov and booted out Ohakim. Citizens INTERVENTION installed governors like Fashola, Ibukunle Amosun, the gov of Nassarawa,etc Our DEMOCRACY has several challenges but its left for us the CITIZENS to engage the system more and make it work for us. We must not lose sight of how bad many of our states were before 1999. Some states like Lagos, Enugu, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Imo ,etc have made SIGNIFICANT progress in this democratic dispensation.

Never Again to Military Rule In Nigeria!

All these USELESS articles using subtle means to call for military coup must be stopped. It is amazing how FOOLS who brand themselves as intellectuals will stoop this low and see MILITARY INTERVENTION as alternative to our present predicament. One would have expected these so called "intellectuals" to be at the fore front of the campaign of "NEVER AGAIN to MILITARY INTERVENTION". We have challenges okay but the solution can NEVER repeating the BLUNDERS of 1966(the first military coup). The solution can NEVER be military INTERVENTION. Imagine how much Nigeria would have progressed if not for military intervention in 1966. Imagine how much progress we would have made if we had been patient with the politicians of the first republic to make their mistakes and make amends. Imagine how much progress we would have made if we have kept faith with DEMOCRACY from the 60's or even from 1979 till date. Perhaps we may not have gone thru the civil war. What Nig needs now is CITIZENS INTERVENTION

Nigeria and African Lesson

Nowhere is PDP’s unraveling complete as in its inclination to foster electoral fraud as the basis of its existence and as the ruling party, they have negotiated Nigeria to a loop where it is sunk in the quagmire of electoral roguery. Thirteen years after a harrowing rule, PDP signifies the failure of Nigeria and its failure to meet even the least ideal of free and fair electoral process signifies a willingness to ensure the country remains stranded in the pit of electoral infamy. Last week, it held its so called national convention, which was merely the handpicking of the cronies of the president and their usual coronation through an complex and unproductive system of waste. That the PDP cannot conduct a credible election of its officers after thirteen years in power shows the dim and hopeless electoral future Nigeria faces.