In the ’90s, most Nigerian, non-governmental organizations and other advocacy groups had to brace violence, intimidation, and other obstacles to demand democratic rule in the country.
Having gotten the democratic rule in Nigeria for 21 years, one is forced to ask, Have We achieved the essence of that struggle? To state their views, democracy is much more than electing leaders periodically through competitive elections.
The true democracy is judged by the presence of several essential universal ingredients, and these ingredients include the right of the people to choose freely the men and the women to govern them, supremacy of the Rule of Law, the Independence of the Judiciary.
These features are expected to blossom under democracy. Transparency and accountability are the other distinctive features of true democracy. To be precise, democracy is essentially about the choice of policies articulated by political parties and the choice of personalities.
Like John Lock, an 18th century English Philosopher theorized, the right to rule came from the consent of the governed.
This freedom of choice which is the consent of the governed cannot be achieved without free and fair elections, it is, therefore, somewhat ridiculous when people most times refer to infrastructure or inauguration of such as dividends of democracy- that is far from democratic dividends.
The fact remains that even the worst military dictatorship still construct roads and other infrastructures. Therefore, dividends of democracy are allowing the Rule of Law to flourish, in other words, respect to the Rule of Law.
Most critics have argued successfully, that it is not yet Uluru for democracy in Nigeria, to such critics, what we have as democracy is a civic rule. Someone once said, “the solution to democracy is more democracy not less of it”, still it has to be a true democracy.
No human society has ever collapsed from the excess of true democracy but many have perished from excess dictatorship.
Thomas Jefferson said “I like the dream of the future better than the history of the past” There is therefore the need for politicians to strive to imbibe democratic ideas to sustain the Nation’s democracy. For one, these should start with political parties as they should embrace internal democracy conduct of their affairs.
If parties embrace internal democracy, chances are that the general politics will be more democratic. A situation where delegates appear to be guided to vote for a particular participant is a mockery of true democracy.
We should remember that free and fair elections at every level are the main decides of democracy. Democratic institutions for instance: electoral bodies should be strengthened to resist being manipulated by violence and desperate political groups to undermine the will of the people.
Efforts should be made to make a comprehensive database which captures the biometric of voters. That way, cases of multiple thumb printing can be made, after all, every rigged election starts with the padding of voters’ register on the row.
It is also necessary for civic education if a viable democracy is to evolve. It is only when electorates are armed with true information about aspirants and the need for true democracy that there can make informed decisions on related issues.
The 1999 Constitution, put together during the military era has certain areas calling for urgent redress. For the fact that supremacy of the rule of law which is a major democratic ingredient is derived from the nation’s constitution, the review of the document by the National Assembly should be an inclusive and participatory exercise.
If elections are to be conducted with the latest conformity with the latest technology like electronic voting, the National Assembly should not hesitate to legislate constitutional backing in that direction. Deliberate efforts should also be made to erase contradictory legal clauses from the constitution.
The practice of true democracy is the soul of any enduring political system. It is a desirable idea which every society should strive to uphold. Good governance in Nigeria is achievable if politicians exhibit the ideal principles aimed at strengthening the ongoing democratic experience.
Therefore, in our quest for true democracy, serious, courageous, and compassionate leaders with a social conscience should be encouraged not to relent in the struggle.
Our destiny as a people will be shaped by how much we construct a sense of common identity, based not on the narrow essence of a tribe, but our belief in democracy, good governance, and unity.
As a most viable policy option to mitigate, let us reconcile and accommodate our individual and collective interests no matter the difference in religion and ethnic groups as the electorate daily yearns for Liberty and equality which true democracy offers.
As some parts of the Nation are preparing for off-cycle Governorship elections and Local government elections, conscious efforts should be made to bring all essential universal ingredients of true democracy to bear.