By Wale Giwa
Today, Nigeria has witnessed about sixteen years of uninterrupted democracy in her fourth Republic. However, the troubling question that comes to mind is; what has Nigeria achieved in the last sixteen years of her democracy? In fact, what kind of democracy is her modus operandi? Can Nigeria be said to be practicing Western Parliamentary democracy? Or what kind of democracy is Nigeria practicing?
The political modus operandi in Nigeria here is what we shall call “Nigerian Democracy”. It is a kind of democracy that is entangled with the cultural values of Nigeria. It is situated within the confines of her culture. In Western Parliamentary democracy, the opposition party is often seen as a checkmate to the ruling party. It seeks to give only constructive criticisms to the ruling party. It duty is also to ensure that the ruling party come to their senses, in times of political turmoils. Well that is a true Democracy. Let us come down to Nigerian democracy. In Nigeria here, the opposition parties acts as an enemy to the ruling party. An enemy that will seek any means to destroy the ruling party. They also give destructive criticisms, rather than constructive ones. So you see, there is a dichotomy between Western Parliamentary democracy and Nigerian democracy.
On a different terrain, Nigerian democracy is an altered form of a true democracy. Democracy preaches equality of all citizens both young and old, in the politics of a Country. But Nigerian democracy is quite different from this. This is because Nigerian democracy is situated within the confines of her cultural values. Let us illustrate better. It is a societal norm in Nigeria’s culture that younger citizens should pay utmost respect to the older ones. In other words, the younger ones have no right to challenge the views of the older ones. In fact, the younger ones have no business or say in the discussions of the older ones. Wherever these norms are defied, it is often regarded as an utmost disrespect. But in a true democracy, this is outright inequality. And democracy ought to be a system of equality. So you see, there is a conflictual lacuna between Western Parliamentary democracy and Nigerian democracy, where the latter does not pass as a true Democratic system.
However, given the ills of Nigerian democracy, it merits are somewhat commendable. An example of this is the Multi-party system adopted by Nigeria. In western Parliamentary democracy, only two political parties are required. Anything more or short of that, is a redundant. But given the state of disunity in the country, a two-party system or “three-party system” is not exactly the best for Nigeria. Perhaps a concise look at the political history of Nigeria is expedient, to illustrate better.
As a result of the tripartition policy of the Richard Constitution of 1946, Nigeria was divided along ethnic lines, into three Regions; The Western region, Northern region and Eastern region. This, on its own, added a big strain on Nigeria’s unity. In the 1956 elections, three main political parties contested for leadership positions. They include, The Northern Peoples Congress(NPC) led by Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello, The Action Group (AG) led by Obafemi Awolowo, and the National Council of the Nigeria and Cameroon, which later became the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) led my Herbert Macaulay and Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, each representing the three main tribes of Nigeria; The Hausa, the Yoruba and the Igbo respectively. With this gigantic mistake, Nigeria entered into her first republic. Unfortunately, the chain of tribal events which was further reinforced by the tripartite policy of the British, led to the excessive corruption, nepotism and mismanagement of public funds in the first republic. It wasn’t long before the first republic of Nigeria, fell like a pack of cards.
Furthermore, before the 1964 elections of the First republic, the NCNC, AG, UMBC and NEPU, formed a coalition and became the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA). Simultaneously and in response to the earlier coalition, the NPC being in close cahoot with Samuel Akintola’s new NNDP, formed a coalition with the MDF, and eventually became the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA). With this polarization, and the emergence of two political parties, the stage was set for a well contested election. Unfortunately, the elections were rigged and electoral malpractices became evident. All these, swept the Army into power, thus, plunging Nigeria into several years of military dictatorship.
Given this historical analysis, it is crystal clear that the emergence of three political parties along ethnic lines before independence, and the emergence of two political parties in the 1964 elections, added fuel to the issue of disunity in the Country. It was like a time-bomb waiting to explode. Unfortunately, the corrupt practices in the first republic, set the bomb ready to explode, and the effect of that explosion is what the latter generations are currently facing.
According to the great American philosopher, George Santayana, “those who can’t learn from history, are doomed to repeat it”. Going back to a two-party system or establishing only three political parties in the Country, stands as a foolish idea. However, several solutions have prevailed concerning this issue. One of them is the introduction of the multiparty system in Nigerian democracy. As it stands today, there are more than thirty established political parties across the federation. Each of them with the legitimate right to contest for elections at the federal, state and local levels. This is a big step towards a better and united Nigeria. Despite the downs of Nigerian democracy, the introduction of a multiparty system, stands as a gain and merit of the Nigerian democracy.
On a final note, the introduction of this multi party system, is equivalent to scoring a point out of Ten. A lot still has to be done concerning Nigerian democracy. The first of these, should be a total exclusion of our cultural values from our democracy. Democracy should never be situated within the confines of any culture. A descendant of this kind of altered democracy is GodFatherism (a system where by a political figure is often worshiped by other godsons). This kind of system should be eradicated, if Nigeria must move forward. Democracy is a system of equality where citizens are armed with equal participatory rights. Hence, To keep this country moving forward, all hands must be on deck to ensure the positive revolution of our democracy.