It was meant to be a thanksgiving service to thank God for keeping His Excellency safe from the Warri bomb blast. The choir sang with a rejuvenated spirit, the pastor preached with a fresh passion, and the congregation danced with great joy, all forgetting the popular notion that His Excellency is owing some salaries.
The first lady gave a heartfelt testimony much to the adoration of the congregation and while the happy moment lasted, all set aside anti-government grudges only to pick such up few hours after the service when the realities of the mighty hands of hunger, familiar state insecurity and poor infrastructures dawned. At this time however, grievances could not be aired or heard as fundamental issues were set aside when the opportunity beckoned. The reason is simple, aggrieved citizens were star struck at the sight of their Excellencies.
While democracy is reputed worldwide as a collaborative, all-encompassing participatory style of government, the 21st century has been characterized with modifications of the real democracy.
Twenty years ago, the Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct, commonly referred to as The Fitzgerald Inquiry, tabled its findings in the Queensland Parliament after an exhaustive and sensational two years of public investigation. Its findings and recommendations continue to have a significant effect on many aspects of public life in
In the report, the lead investigator and Queensland’s ex commissioner for corruption, Tim Fitzgerald gave an insight into the budding style of democracy in Australia where the ruling party and opposition fight over power in order to use power to empower a small group, members of which dictate and influence decision making processes. In this mutant style, vetted interests reign supreme over collective well being, and the views of the opposition are suppressed and unaired hence the citizens are unaware of the ills of those in power. The deception is taken to the polls where continuity is inevitable. As horrible as this seem,
Empirically, if the American voters in late 2000 believed that the Clinton surplus was as high as the Democrats now claim, and if the long-term projection for the surplus was accepted as valid by those voters, Al Gore would have won the 2000 election in a landslide that would have rivaled President Reagan's victories. In reality, the voters in 2000 were nervous about the economy, having just witnessed trillions of dollars lost in the dot-com fiasco, and Bush won.
Africa’s democratic styles are also undergoing several modifications due to its peculiar challenges. In a 1997 address to the International Conference on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity, Mr. K. Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa identified six fundamental challenges facing us as Africa as well as the problems of governance and citizen participation in development. These are strife, non- participatory governance, inert civil society, disenfranchisement of women in politics and governance, incapacitated institutions, and poor governance reforms. This had culminated in a rare blend of Australia’s deception, America’s populism, and star struck sycophancy by the citizenry. Nigeria is a good case study.
At any forum for interaction with the citizens of Nigeria, governments at all levels had perfected ways of manipulating the citizenry and gain false commendations to secure their mandates. Their latest strategy is the invasion of the once distinguished and dignified online community. Akala is one of such public office holders currently enjoying online dominance. The wall post of one of his fans read thus:
“Happy Easter to you too sir! Keep up the good work we are behind you 1001% all the way...because nobody can do it better!!! We have seen what the past governors have done, we are seeing yours and the difference is very clear...AKALA NI ALL D WAY!!!”
On close examination, I discovered that the person who posted the message is a young secondary school student of Queens School Apata, Ibadan. Considering the number of months she and her contemporaries were forced to stay at home due to the governor’s complicated misunderstanding with the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, one begins to wonder what the girl was thinking. She is not the only one affected by this syndrome.
Market women forgets the fact that the market sanitary condition is dangerous, farmers forget that the cost of state funded fertilizers is astronomic and women groups forget that they occupy less than 5% of political offices (even God accepts 10%) when these political office holders come around.
It is a thing of shame that at every medium available to the masses to show their grievances and dissatisfactions, the long arms of politicians frequently hijack the divinely ordained process. Even our active civil societies’ activities are gradually being compromised.
Recently, it was announced that the Save Nigeria Group received a US$25,000 donation from a source in support of its activities. Without announcing whether the source was screened, the money was accepted. How are we sure that there is no strings attached, sooner or later? There is also the rising clamor that the SNG should be transformed into a political party. How sure are we that the youths campaigning will not be used to drum support for some political office holders? The template is there, we are only awaiting its manifestation.
We now have youth groups, women societies, masses unions, and several others speaking for groups. And in most cases, these communities are used to gain popularity. They organize government funded rallies to facilitate popularity such that when elections are rigged as usual, no external observer raises eye brow since the candidate is popular.
This cycle is gradually becoming our trademark as a nation. Governors are followed around by gaily dressed women representing all the women, our corridors of power are filled with well fed and joyous individuals who give the rulers a misrepresentation of what truly happens on the streets. Radio and TV stations daily blare pro-government adverts sponsored by political prostitutes and jobbers seeking offices, the streets are littered with solidarity billboards and posters, and the aggrieved have no choice than to keep mute for the fear of being lynched.
Nigeria’s situation is a unique case study in managerial classes as even the best professors of governance cannot decipher why angry masses could detour from being annoyed with the status quo, to overnight praise singers. Poverty is one potent factor.
A poor mind is not poor of ideas, but of reasoning. When poverty has become so deeply rooted, it becomes impossible for the individual to reason sanely, and any source of income generation is seen as a favor. No wonder Nigerian workers still thank politicians for paying salaries, and in return, political office seekers make payment of salaries one of the point agenda. Nigerians, despite 50 years of independence, are still tightly bound with shackles that are stronger than colonial rule. The mindset of an average Nigerian on governance is to get his or daily bread. When this is achieved, all is well, and continuity is supported to secure food safety.
It is shameful that we are still far from the days when Nigerian will rise up and fight for better infrastructures, instead of patching things up. No one knows his or her rights, and we daily live with the on-your-own spirit. How can we progress?
It is therefore expedient for every attempt to liberate Nigeria and Nigerians from the strongholds of political oppressions to start with the reorientation of the average Nigerian. Presently, on the major streets of Nigeria, no one knows of any plan for liberation. Free readers read newspapers only to be informed, and entertained by the plights of our leaders. In the markets, Hausas are taunted with Yar’adua’s health status not because they want good leadership, but just to catch fun! We joke with sorrowful issues, we take with levity what looks like generational curses all because the citizenry feel hapless and regrettably helpless. We are in democracy but the vibrations of Army boots are putting all under curfew. How can we progress to the next phase when our orientation is so bastardized?
The remaining civil societies have a lot to do. There is the need to seek revolution. They need to take the quest for a better Nigeria from corner offices and online communities to the streets and creeks. If Nigeria will be liberated, it’s not the ajebutters that will achieve it; it’s not the well fed new vanguards like Dele Momodu that will lead it, it’s the responsibility and saddled duties of the poor masses. Until then, our liberation will remain virtual, our freedom will remain elusive and the baton will be handed over to the next generation to continue the tradition of deception, populism and citizen complacency.