What does ideal democracy offer the people of Imo State? Ideally, democracy offers the people of Imo the promise that at the barest minimum, they should have unfettered opportunity to choose those to whom all Imo citizens can entrust with our welfare and collective development, those who will best represent Imo because our aggregated choices, counted as votes will make them our honest representatives taking our individual and collective interests before their personal and vested interests.
Maximally, democracy promises the people of Imo that in exercising the interests of Imo people on their behalf as governor or other elected positions, from this it is expected that elected officials will formulate and implement public policies to maximise the welfare and benefits of Imo people and make their lives more joyful and fulfilling and make the future more sustainable for the generations that succeed us. What are these policies that democracy will help us to make into welfare and benefit for Imo people? They are simply problems and opportunities that we identify daily and yearly in our communities and state.
In identifying them we use the best brains, established benchmarks and lessons learnt both locally and globally to develop solutions and alternative solutions following technical and paradigmatic principles, applying our resources according to deliverable priorities, efficiently and effectively to turn such solutions and alternatives into democracy dividends.
These are the simple explanations for the promise that democracy offers in the form of acceptable elections and the deliverables from credibly and legitimately elected officials. Many early philosophers like John Stuart Mills, Thomas Hobbes, Schumpeter, Jugen Habermas and others have elucidated these promises and their dimensions, while more modern philosophers and technocrats have shown the nexus between philosophical expectations and ideals and the technical nitty gritty that transforms identified problems and opportunities or what policy makers call policy issues to the solutions of modern societal challenges and needs. Where these have been applied diligently and committedly, society has been the better for it.
These steps are important to development and although they may also be found in some none democratic states, a contrast that stands democracy out is the attribute of accountability to voters and where that fails, the freedom of the media to call out those who have failed either to deliver the expectations of democracy or be accountable to voters during and between elections. Many of those we elect to deliver these ideal promises of democracy on our behalf, run away from doing these things for our people, instead they take our meagre resource to such places where people have been true to these ideals, to enjoy the sacrifices their leaders made to deliver such promises of democracy to their people.
Worse, they have become not only resistant but increasingly intolerant of accounting to voters, instead they are gradually trying to create a new model that disdains and tries to dispense with voters by undermining the process of credible and acceptable voting. Indeed, we must ask what have they delivered as democracy to our people? To be more specific, what has democracy through elected representatives offered Imo people since the state was instituted? When they go abroad with our resources to enjoy effective healthcare, they create a system that they are even afraid to use. Although, they promoted such substandard health facilities as part of their accomplishments.
They send their children to educational systems that provide higher standards in content, higher standards of reward to personnel and better outcome for providing life skills for learners, at the same time they create and perpetuate sub-standard education at home. They turn our state into a regional and urban planning nightmare while posing for pictures in the architectural paradise created by diligent and altruistic leaders in other countries.
They are quick to describe other countries as a machine that works when referring to regimes of reliable, effective and efficient weights and measures, financing and insurance. They marvel at the transaction interphases –banking, transport, etc. These things do not work in other places because God loves them more than us, but mainly because their leadership deferred immediate gratification of their personal interests and need for the collective benefit of their society and as a reward they built a better society in which naturally as leaders they live a better and safer quality of life. Contrastingly, those who have been entrusted to do the same for our people have debased and corrupted democracy rather than make it work for our people.
It is heart-warming that Imo people are resilient, despite the many shortcomings and much disappointment, the hard work and coping abilities of our people have aided them to not only survive but in some cases outdone expectations. Still, we can do better, where our people managed to survive they can soar, it only takes a disciplined determination to create enabling incentives and regimes.
What can we do differently? First we must create an enabling political environment that stays true to democracies expectations of accountability, allowing our state to benefit the most from what Albert Hirschman describes as effective “voice” that avoids the exit of our people from participation in the decisions that affect their lives, their progress and their development. At the heart of accountability to our people is the need to allow the wishes and aspiration of our people as expressed in intra-party and interparty elections to be fully expressed, for only in subjecting leaders to such approval or rejection will they truly be alive to their democratic obligations.
Secondly, as simple and mundane as due processes may sound, it is only by a diligent compliance with such processes that we are certain of quality outcome in applying whatever innovative policy ideas we introduce to identify and solve our problems or to obtain the most benefits for our people from opportunities that present themselves. And most important we have to revert to a value of merit and excellence, because it is only when we insist on applying this value to health, education, social welfare, trade and industry and basically all our endeavours that we can truly build a state that influences the people to do excellently for themselves and by themselves what they have the potentials to do.
When it is time to talk to Imo people about how best to do these things excellently, when campaigns are legally allowed for nominated candidates, I will present overarching visions and operational details on how I will turn these aspirations to deliverable benefits for Imo people, for now it is important to renew our faith on the basic expectations and promises of democracy and to admit that our people are yet to fully enjoy those promises. But they deserve to.
•Amuchie, a chieftain of APGA, writes from Owerri, Imo State.
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