Across sub-Sahara Africa, democracy has long become the norm even if going by the passive interest shown by the majority known as the onlookers. Our leaders just like our founding fathers are arguing, quarreling and equally compromising the basic tenets of our democracy. Perhaps it(democracy) also doesn’t seem to serve a reminder to those dark days of military jerk butts that as harbingers of freedom, equality and the rule of law in the administration of justice were bulwark for oppression, official graft and political freedom.
However though, Aficans and their leaders have equally failed to learn from the provisions earmarked for democracy to thrive. Rather than engage in the building of very effective political institutions locally from the ward level to the national level, public officers/officials are making do with our commonwealth. Public institutions have been compromised by civil servants whom mistake public service for perfidy with a mythical belief that political representation is only for access to public funds and in the course make a mince of the judicial process in a desperate quest to pervert the cause of justice.
Nigeria, the self-acclaimed giant of Africa is in deed on dire straits if political and economic contexts are given cognizance. She has become the theatre of the ridiculous from downright mediocre to anarchy. From Bornu to Bayelsa, from Ikorodu to Ikot Ekpene, and going from Benue to Bama, it’s been decadence, destruction, and death by fire. While our representatives at all levels squabble about padding budgets, crass mudslinging has for very long succeeded in breeding the politically passive onlookers through alienation.
There’s hope for mother Africa and Nigeria in particular. The electronic media has been instrumental to the sudden rise in political awareness going from some of the discourse often available. I refer to it as the virtual movement for now, as its future is dependent on the exigency of the so-called onlookers like in the words of an iconic statesman; “every nation deserve their government”. The younger generation are beginning to hear startling revelation of Nigeria and her prime past economically and financially. That she was a net exporter of produce particularly in agriculture as well as refined petroleum products for which we are now a net importer. Infrastructure and the level of its deficit in Nigeria is is in a nutshell why the country has remained in economic recession since 1981 when oil price in the international market crashed for the first time in contemporary history. The North Sea Belt of Aberdeen in Scotland stretching to the fjords of Norway flooded the international market with cheap high quality petroleum products bringing about the Oil glut and Nigeria’s economic woe began. Before the oil price crash, an unbelievably dramatic paradigm shift occurred in October 1979 ushering for the first time in Nigeria and her administrative history the presidential federal system of democracy(copycat American style)
Something tragic held as the platform raised to prepare Nigeria for a return to civil rule democratic government between October 1977 till and September 1978 in which CDC- Constitution Drafting Committee at the constituent assembly inaugurated by the then Obasango military regime decided against common norm to foist the majority to adopt the US styled presidential system of government thereby abandoning the painstakingly built parliamentary federalism given our pre-colonial and post-colonial history that guaranteed equality and proportional representation in the Federal Parliament in Lagos.
State Assemblies, Local Government Councils and the all important City and Town councils became mere appendages of a flawed political system. The adopted presidential system to some extent have been successful in wiping out the political structures embedded in the different towns, villages and cities across the country that brought about Nigeria in 1914 and how colonialists administered a frugal political system through a parliamentary federalism that bottomed up from the 1950s when Awo and his contemporaries serenaded and equally left remarkable landmarks across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria with the deployment of frugality, sustainable development project plans across the health, education, agriculture, commerce sectors to name a few till the murderous spree on the morning of January 1966 began. The colonialists worked with these structures scattered all over Nigeria using the administration to harness potentials for attaining political and economic goals while also bringing politics to its actual root-the people. The Option A4 introduced by the IBB regime remains the closest to which any Post-1966 governments in Nigeria in attempts to reform grassroots political institutions that’s expressly provided for with parliamentary federalism.
The foundation on which advanced democracies are built is deeply rooted in the local political institutions from which a Mayor emerges in towns, villages and cities of the developed democracies. The grass root in modern democracies top the pyramid of their political structure, unlike in the Nigeria presidential federalism with little(Abuja) or no provision for Villages and Town or city administration. It’s evident from the aforementioned that the right of millions of Nigerians had been usurped ab initio that of the constituent units that gave birth to Nigeria. Elections were never held for representatives into the committee and neither was a referendum held to determine acceptability from Nigerians. The departure from a working parliamentary federal system in 1966 marked the beginning of the unknown into the abysmal situation we have found ourselves as Nigerians in the contemporary global socio-political and economic realm.
The basis for the incessant clamour to restructure Nigeria nestles in the comfort of a flawed political system and a Herculean task if it must reaffirm the fact that the government does not give the people a constitution but the inalienable right of the people to give the country a constitution through which the constitution gives the people a government. The political systems of government in the Western Hemisphere is such that it encourages local participation amongst the electorate and is known to have shaped the careers of many statesmen/women-Otto Von Bismark, JFK, Thatcher to name a few. Nigeria presidential system of government does not promote local politics given the skewed arrangement in place to scuttle grassroots domination at the national level. The humongously insane amount required to fund it is unacceptable because it has no provision for independent candidacy which the parliamentary federalism entrenches as practiced in Nigeria Pre-1966. Democracy hasn’t really thrived to expectations in Nigeria because we are square peg in a round hole. Our traditions and cultures that’s in our diversity are simply lumped together as Local governments governed by an impostor albeit a stranger altogether.
Questions from the countless clamour for Nigeria’s restructuring must be asked in bids to understand from which base are these clamours from and conclusion shall answer basic understanding of heresthetics and rhetoric. The latter is defined as a verbal or written art of persuasion unlike the former which is a direct manipulation of the political structure for specific outcome. The dream Nigeria of the founding fathers going by across the board negotiations before 1966 never dwelt anywhere near the all powerful president, governors, Council Chair. There were the Divisions, Provinces, the Regions and the Federal Parliament. The town councils did all the job from the sanitary inspectors, local veterinary centers, produce market officers and the public works department dealing with rural roads. Unfortunately there are no town halls anymore in Nigeria as the vicious hands of the presidential fiasco dealt it her death knell. Local Councils have assumed the status of sheer glorification unlike the Pre-1966 parliamentary federal system in which provinces were building both primary and secondary education institutes to buffer the literacy gap. The provinces aligned brilliantly with divisions in spreading the gospel of free education at all levels.
Today however, Local Councils can’t even collect refuse from public places aross Nigeria. Market places have turned confusion into chaos while public hygiene is at its worst possible ebb. To restructure Nigeria shouldn’t only be defined from ethnic and religious lines but applying the diversity in our society while at the same time institutionalizing the political process in this line of diversity. The moment is upon us as citizens to seek local administration in the governance of component towns making up the local government. It’s such a platform that can ginger active participation from the local level towards modeling into national politics. States under the presidential system are the worst hit. That a single individual runs a state like a fiefdom is an endorsement of the barefaced visible rot in our clime from governance in terms of security, healthcare, education, transportation, agriculture, aviation, and the list goes on with appalling records going with the allegories and fables of milestone achievements.
This piece is not premised on condemning the presidential federalism in its entirety, it’s basic question remains how institutional reforms in its entirety can be applied to enhance public service delivery. A Democratic government is a product from an electoral system which harnesses diverse candidates from equally different backgrounds armed with their policy manifesto to contest for elective positions in a political system.
To be continued…