APC VS. PDP: Pathway to Impactful democracy By Soji Omotunde

Call it merger or carpet-crossing, politics in Nigeria is set for impactful democratic dimension with the emergence of a cross-country All Progressives Congress (APC) that will make it a formidable contender of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Concisely, that APC can now become enlarged as an alternative to PDP will be the issue that will make politics meaningful. It does not matter whether the politicians in power are feeling threatened of the possibility of being logged out of office, or those in opposition are excited of the prospect of taking over power, what would be of essence to the people is the build up of democracy in governance.

Democracy may be a recognisable utterance by many, but it is a concept still misconstrued and distorted when totalitarians and single-party regimes alike assert popular support by claiming the mantle of democracy. Yet, the power of the democratic idea might have prevailed through a long and noisy history – democratic government, in spite of abiding challenges, continues to evolve and flourish across the world.

Democracy, which initiates from the Greek word ‘demos’ or people, is defined basically as government in which the supreme power is vested in the people. In some forms, democracy can be exercised directly by the people; in large societies, it is by the people through their elected representatives. Or, in the memorable phrase of American President Abraham Lincoln, democracy remains commonly defined as government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This common definition of democracy comes with an attractive set of values that when properly implemented guarantees the governed rights and freedoms of people that are unmatched in any other governance system.

Pathetically, politics in Nigeria has hardly made meaningful impact on the life of the people beyond military dictatorship, even as the nation has been pretending to become democratic. Consistent civilian administrative failures have been more of not seeing democracy resting upon the principles of majority rule and individual rights.

The most imperative and emblematic aspect of democracy is the ability to freely elect the leaders by the people. This characterizes the most noteworthy difference between democracy and other forms of government. Without this vital constituent, democracy ceases to exist. Since the ancient Greeks forged the contemporary knack of democracy, it has triumphed against other systems of government and become the global model. By its very nature in which leaders emerge and can be removed only through the vote of the people, democracy no doubt better guarantees the responsiveness of leaders to the needs of their people who voted them into office.

With the many years of civil rule, Nigerians of all bands are staggering in disillusionment as they live through a dubious democracy that has turned out to be a most visionless and ethnic-oriented in the nation’s declining history. The first republic ended in disaster. The second republic was also truncated by the military in desperado. The only opportunity that would have pumped up true democratic leadership choice in the June 12, 1993 presidential election was aborted to pin down the factual will of the people. Today, the damaging tendency is still on – up to the current Anambra State sabotaged gubernatorial election. With such fraudulence and electoral manipulation of the will of the people, 14 years of PDP in dominant federal rule has not brought any tangible developmental improvement into the nation.

While illegitimate leaders continue to pretend with the false label of a democracy, in reality it has been more a replica of military juntas where the usurpers of power have used the apparatus of the state, complemented by godfathers and other enablers to deliberately and routinely rig elections and impose candidates at every level of government. Genuine democracies conduct habitual free and fair elections open to citizens of voting age. People in egalitarianism have not only rights, but also the responsibility to participate in the political system that, in turn, protects their rights and freedoms.

The sham system that pretends to be a democracy has given a free rein to an unconscionable and blatant cluster of inefficient and uncommitted leadership in governance. Today, we are experiencing another utmost looting spree, like under the military, in the nation’s account. With fuel subsidy scandals and unaccounted excess oil incomes, there is absolutely nothing to show for the record earnings. The most fundamental infrastructural necessities of life such as good roads, power supply, pipe-borne water and serviceable hospitals are physically fictional and imaginary – except in the few states of the opposition parties where works are truly being done.

The strength of a nation is determined by those who man it.  The people entrusted with the custody of governance must practice the basic life principles of ethics, integrity and responsibility.  Of course these principles go out the window when the people are hungry and cannot take care of their families.

People are not merely fulfilled having access to the ballot box when their wills are denied. Rather, they should have access to the basic necessities of life which is necessary for building and maintaining strong nation. The higher the edification of the people, the better placed they are to understand the issues and hence their ability to choose the right people to represent them in government. Making the wrong choices can negate the hopes and aspirations of the entire nation.

The one-major party democracy we are currently practicing is a charade. In order to make progress as a nation we must get rid of pretence and go through the pains of development by having the opportunity of making alternative choice. As democracy includes genuine competition for power, if APC is strengthened with authentic progressive visions and missions, a voter can make a choice between it and the non-performing ruling party that just became proud as the biggest party in Africa simply because people in a corrupt nation wants to be partakers of the defrauded goods of the land.

Meaningful democracy must be directed to the interest of the poor who form majority of the voting class. In a democracy, everyone has one vote.  The professor in the university and the peasant farmer in the village each have equal say.  The problem is that if majority of the citizenry are poor, uneducated people, there would not be the high level of civic sense necessary for a successful democracy. This is why bad governance decisions can easily be made.  Corrupt and inefficient politicians are taking advantage of the underprivileged by offering cheap bribes in exchange for their votes.  Ongoing story of Anambra State is an example which INEC wants to close eyes to with what it tagged supplementary election instead of total reformation of unrighteousness. This might of course negate the quality of the democracy we should desire to build in 2015.

Free and relatively fair elections must be the rule if politics would develop the nation. It must not be ethnic resolution that has been bringing insolent people to power just for the sake of power.

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