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‘Democrazy’ Nigerian style

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‘Democrazy’ Nigerian style

The Collins English Dictionary defines Democracy as “a system of government in which people choose their rulers by voting for them in elections.”
Coined from the Greek world ‘δημοκρατία dēmokratía’, it literally means “rule by people”.
In this modern era there are three types of such systems. For instance, in a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body, and vote directly on each issue, e.g. on the passage of a particular tax law.
In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature.
While in a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association.
Going by the explanation of the various types of democracies as explained by Wikipedia, Nigeria is supposed to be practising the third form – constitutional democracy.
But sadly the reality on the ground clearly shows that this is not actually the case in the so-called “Giant of Africa,” and in fact is more like what the late Afrobeat great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti coined in his hit song “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” and from where I got the above headline.
And a trend in recent election results only further paints a picture that something is not quite right with the way we are practicing democracy in the country.
Last weekend local council elections took place in Imo State with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) sweeping all the 27 chairmanship seats and 636 of 645 councillorship seats.
The results were announced by the state Chairman of the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC), Mr. Elthebert Ibebuchi.
While announcing the results of the polls, the ISIEC chief said that 13 political parties fielded candidates for the council election. Ibebuchi also declared that Redemption Peoples Party, Accord Party, KOWA, Young Progressives Party and Rebuild Nigeria Party, all won one councillorship seat each.
He, however, said that the election was inconclusive in Oguta, Isu, Isiala Mbano, Aboh Mbaise and Owerri North councils even as the commission provided a level-playing ground for all the political parties and their candidates. Ibebuchi also disclosed that the commission would establish Electoral Tribunal for adjudication of disputes arising from the conduct of the council’s polls as PDP, APGA and the CUPP boycotted the election.
Of course, this is no longer a big surprise and only kept to a recent trend whereby the party that controls the government at the state level usually sweeps all the elective seats available.
About four months ago the same exercise was carried out in Oyo State with the APC winning all the chairmanship seats in the 33 local government councils and the 35 Local Council Development Areas in the state. The party also won the councillorship seats in the 610 wards in the state.
Of course in announcing the results in Ibadan, Mr. John Ajeigbe, the Chairman of Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, described the election as “free, fair and credible.”
But the poll was boycotted by the largest opposition party in the state, the PDP on the ground that they knew it would not be credible.
PDP Chairman, Alhaji Kunmi Mustapha, who announced the local council poll boycott, said: “It would be an effort in futility.”
In June it was the turn of Rivers State to conduct its own council polls and with the same outcom as the ones of Imo and Oyo states. Predictably the party in power, the PDP, won all the 23 chairmanship positions contested in the local government area elections conducted by Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC).
And just like his Oyo counterpart, Chairman of RSIEC, Justice Chukwunenye Uriri (rtd) noted that the exercise was “free and fair”, adding that there was no report of violence during the elections.
Understandably, this was not the position of the opposition, APC, whose party boycotted the poll on the ground that it was already tilted in favour of the ruling party.
Reacting to this, the state governor, Nyesom Wike said: “Sixty-six out of 68 political parties participated, but no violence. That means that if APC had participated, probably we would have seen violence”.
In July six years after the last polls took place, Lagos State finally held chairmanship and councillorship elections into the 57 Local Governments/Local Council Development Areas of the state, with the ruling APC winning the chairmanship seats in all the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas.
However, the APC “only” won 369 councillorship seats while the PDP won four seats and Accord Party, three.
Speaking on the polls, the state governor, Akinwumi Ambode uttered words that Nigerians would love to be able to see politicians put into practice when he said: “I am happy that this election is coming in my own time. The whole idea is for us to evolve a process where the citizens come out and believe in a process that is credible. When the people see credible elections at the local government level, they will be excited to participate because they know that it is credible, peaceful and without violence….We need to enhance democracy in the country and we can only do it by what we are doing today.”
Unfortunately this is not the reality as state electoral commissions hardly organize free, fair and credible polls, rather those whose results are predictable. But if the truth must be told, while the state electoral officials are often unashamedly skewed in favour of whatever party controls Government House, to a large extent the same cannot be said of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has tried hard to remain neutral when handling federal elections.
This clearly manifested at the last general elections in 2015 when for the first time in the nation’s history an opposition party was able to wrest the keys to Aso Rock Villa from a party in power!
One can only pray that INEC keeps it up in next year’s general elections, while one is also appealing to the state versions to allow the true will of the people to manifest, and not what the government in power wants in local government elections!
It is only by doing this that Fela’s “democrazy” lyrics in his 1980 song will no longer hold true in this country.

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  1. Pingback: ‘Democrazy’ Nigerian style —

  2. Pingback: ‘Democrazy’ Nigerian style — New Telegraph - Naijaray Headlines

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