The success of the American democratic system is traceable to its organizational structure, viable and strong institutions, rule of law, respect for constitutionality, enforcement of individual’s rights and privileges. The judiciary in America draws its autonomy from the constitution, and thrives in the acclaimed reverence of being the last hope of the common man. Again, the First Schedule of the American Constitution underlines the inalienability of these rights and frowns at any attempt by any individual or organization to undermine them.
By implication, it simply means that our democracy as it operates today is seemingly asphyxiating under the lawlessness and egocentricity that have become its lot and which make it cumbersome to enforce change and promote positive attitudes to governance among the political class both in orientation and demeanour.
Some persons see themselves as above the law, which is why the judiciary has unconscionably been dragged into politics by powerful politicians for their self-aggrandisement. This brazen abuse of power and disrespect for the constitution further manifest in the way and manner our elected leaders conduct themselves.
The constitution is the highest statute in the country and should be accorded the reverence it deserves. A situation where some people audaciously disregard the law and the constitution is an open invitation to anarchy.
The success of our democracy can only be enhanced if the constitution is duly respected and upheld – no matter how discomforting it may be to some persons.
The review of the constitution should be wholesome and targeted at eliminating the obstacles in the way of the judiciary performing optimally. The conflicting judgements emanating from our courts these days do not give anybody cause to cheer. The development portends danger to our nascent democracy.
Nevertheless, we should not because God has been propitious to us and kept us together attempt to stretch our luck too far. The current altercations that rock the foundation of our unity are causes for concern. The insecurity of lives and properties coupled with the individualism that pervades the kernel of political life calls for serious attention. I am worried that all efforts to contain the rampaging militancy in the north have not produced the desired result, thereby causing panic locally and internationally. The recent bombing of some villages in the north east is a clear evidence that all is not still well with the place.
The era between 2011 and 2016 has experienced unprecedented level of insecurity. The citizenry now live under intense fear of the unwholesome activities of kidnappers, armed robbers, assassins, rapists, and other miscreants that terrorize them on a daily basis. The security agencies charged with the duty of maintaining security have literally abdicated their responsibility and, rather, bowed to the superior firepower and intelligence network of criminals. The enormous resources expended by the various governments in the country to secure lives and properties have not helped in ameliorating the degeneration. The fear is that investors will continue to withdraw their investments from Nigeria until such a time the government will be able to contain the upsurge in criminal activities and rebuild the economy.
It is painful that some companies operating in Nigeria have relocated to neighbouring countries due to insecurity and absence of regular power supply. The recession has aggravated the situation and continued to mount pressure on government.
As far as I am concerned security is the number one infrastructure that the government must critically address before any efforts to grow our democracy can bear fruit. Life is meaningless if the citizens cannot go to bed and sleep with both eyes closed.
Security, if we are to speak the truth, can only come if there is justice, equity, even distribution of wealth, rule of law and obedience to the constitution. The large army of unemployed youth is the major resource for crime and other social misdemeanours that plague our nation.
What about the place of the church in all that I have written? Though we are talking politics, the church is not immune to it after all it is an integral part of society and a crucial socialising agent. In fact, the Justice and Peace Development Committee (JDPC) is one of the organs the Catholic Church has used to play a critical role in the political life of the nation. It is quite heart-warming that the Church has abandoned its complacent posture to become an active player in global politics. His Holiness the Pope has always been a moral compass for navigating the world through trying moments as his voice is highly regarded in matters that affect humanity. What role has the Church played then in Nigeria’s politics to influence it positively apart from the occasional communiqués issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria after their meetings?
As a socialising agent the church should be seen to be doing more than it is engaged in at present to reorient the populace and the leaders on their roles in the advancement of our country. One of the ways it can do is by taking the lead in the search for credible leadership by using its large following and awesome integrity to direct public opinions about whom or not to vote for. It should not shy away from calling a spade a spade even when it is perilous to do.
The early church suffered greater martyrdom and persecution than is the case today and that was what propelled the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the point it is today.
As an independent, powerful organ the church can also encourage its members to seek political offices and try to change things from inside. There is nothing wrong for a priest to vie for elective or appointive office so long as it does not impede the discharge of his pastoral duties or sustenance of his vows. In any case, the clergy may have started playing this role silently and, even openly, in some cases. The emergence of Rev. Fr. Michael Adasu as governor of Benue State under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1992 was a bold step, which though acerbically condemned at the time, that later turned out as a catalyst that has propelled far-reaching changes in the way the church perceives the relationship between its priests and politics.
It has to be stated here that unless the church comes totally out of its cocoons to assume a more poignant posture about governance our nation will never advance beyond its present salutary nuances. Indeed the expectations of the people, especially the believers, are that the church is the only institution that can effectively challenge those who run our affairs and call them to order. This belief derives from the simple fact that the church still commands reverent attention from its adherents. This is why views expressed in this column should be synthesized and disseminated in order to achieve maximum benefits for the society.
Like the Disciples of Christ we are called to the service of God and our nation. We should not shy away from carrying the cross even if it means dying in the process. Remember there is a reward for any sacrifices we make for the sake of Christ and in search of heaven.
My heart bleeds that many opportunities in the past to move Nigeria forward were fluffed by the indiscipline that characterised the lives of members of the political elite. Nigeria’s democracy is, therefore, at the crossroads pending when a serious effort is made to reengineer the socio-political and economic machinery of the nation. The vision of President Muhammadu Buhari to transform the economy and chart a course for our democracy is borne out of a burning desire to put Nigeria on the front burner of sustainable development – without which our democracy will remain stagnated.
Because of the central role the economy plays in the overall advancement of our democratic agenda as a nation, I recall former President Jonathan setting up a National Economic Management Team (NEMT), which he chaired. The committee swung into action by setting machinery in motion to deal with the perennial food insecurity in the agricultural sector by introducing the Agricultural Transformation Action Plan (TATAP) that will within 4 years ensure partnership, investment and accountability in the sector, create 3.5million jobs, inject N410billion (or $2.58billion) into the economy and enrich farmers to the tune of N300billion (or $2billion). The focus of this plan was in the cash and food crops in which our nation enjoys comparative advantage. They include rice, cocoa, sorghum, cotton, cassava, etc. However, the package could not achieve its objective before he was voted out.
For any such projects to succeed it must have to draw from the sad experience of the failure of similar projects in the past such as DFFRI, PTF, etc. The whole essence of government is to cater to the welfare of the people and secure lives and properties of its citizenry. Any government that fails to meet these aspirations or expectations, as the case may be, is not worth its salt. This is why responsible governments have worked conscientiously to meet these inalienable aspirations of the people in order to command their confidence and spur them to discharge their civic duties to the state.
I must state without any equivocation that some governments in Nigeria have failed abysmally to live up to their electoral promises, particularly as they affect the welfare of the people. How can any government expect the cooperation of its people when it cannot even provide basic amenities such as water, electricity, good roads, health care and education? These amenities form the bulwark of the people’s overall needs. From available statistics, it is true that past administrations did not do much to provide these basic amenities, which is why the people have lived largely in pain and penury. There is nothing tangible to show for the huge monthly revenue allocations that accrue to states. It is only a few states that have tried to justify their existence as a government. It is a sad commentary on our national existence that the people still find it Herculean to source clean water or access quality health care. These account for some of the reasons for high maternal and neonatal mortalities in our country.
Has anybody paused and asked why life expectancy in Nigeria is at its ebb (46 years at the last count), when countries such as Japan and China enjoy higher life spans of between 75 years and 80 years? The answer is very simple: life in Nigeria is hellish and brutish. In fact, the situation defies the Hobbes’ postulation.
Curiously, it is universally agreed that Nigeria’s woes are self-inflicted and, therefore, substantially amenable to functional solutions. The focus of the world is steadily tilting toward Nigeria because of the pivotal role it plays in restoring peace in war-torn countries across the world, especially in Africa. This is why it views gravely any untoward development in Nigeria. The question now is: why can’t Nigeria summon the will power to confront its own socio-political problems with the same passion and intensity?
So to catalyse and redirect the citizenry to show a more cooperative disposition toward the government demands an urgent need to drastically redefine the attitude of the political class to governance. The extant laws enacted to control the excesses of political office holders should be strengthened to moralise and sensitise such leaders to be alive to their constitutional duties to both the people and the state.
In the same vein, the institutional framework for the promotion of rule of law and order should be remodelled in such a way as to make them increasingly stronger in tandem with global best practices. By so doing, we will be laying a solid foundation for the fortification of our faltering political system, which has suffered untold battering from the illogical and phlegmatic attitude of our politicians.
The far-reaching decisions of the Buhari administration to revamp the economy should be given a chance, since governance entails greater sense of expiation and sacrifice. Things may be very bad in our nation today, but tomorrow can be better.
I have never believed that democratic governance is a tea party. It is a very serious business, which is why everybody should contribute his or her quota to national development. It has taken the United States over 240 years to be where they are today. The same thing obtains for other older democracies across the globe.
For Nigeria, it is just a journey of 56 years to be where we are. The general belief is that Nigeria despite its multifarious ethnic colorations will continue to survive as one, united, indivisible nation.
Don’t mind the current difficulties we have been made to pass through; all will be better in the foreseeable future. All we need do is to remain united, avoid divisive tendencies and make individual and corporate sacrifices to make Nigeria great again.
We have made mistakes, I agree. But for how long are we going to cry over spilled milk?
Let us put the past behind us and develop Nigeria.