Chukwudi Nweje, Lagos
Former presidential candidate Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili has said that Nigeria must dismantle what she calls a “monopoly democracy” before the country can make progress.
Ezekwesili, who spoke on Monday in Lagos at a #FixPolitics conference organised by the Robert Bosch Academy, said Nigeria is stagnated because old politicians exercise a political monopoly over the country.
She also said the political monopoly is more dangerous than any economic monopoly, even as she promised to train 3,000 youths.
“When you look at the degree of participation in a democracy, it will tell you whether such democracy is participatory or a monopoly. A monopoly democracy is more dangerous than an economic democracy. To have a monopoly in how the system functions is to retard the system,” the former minister stated.
She also blamed the challenges facing the country on how the various ethnic nationalities with nothing in common were merged together in what she called a “patchwork”
“In Europe, statehood is about people with similar language coming together. In Africa, it was the Berlin Conference that marked out the territories. In Nigeria, administrative convenience propelled the colonial authority to bring the people together. It was a patchwork.
“Nigeria emerged made up of people who had nothing in common. There was no common identifying point of reference beyond the colonial power’s administrative convenience,” she argued.
She said Nigeria could have overcome the challenges of the forced amalgamation of the Northern Protectorate and Southern Protectorate in 1914 if the right things were done at independence in 1960.
She blamed the immediate post-independence leaders for not renegotiating the terms of Nigeria’s existence when they took power.
“In gaining independence, there was something that needed to happen that did not happen. There needed to be a dialogue between these people that were brought together by the colonialist the external force. That did not happen. The fact that we failed to hold a dialogue on how to live together constituted a gap. These failures and gaps continue to hunt us till this day.”
Ezekwesili added that the failure of the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria to hold a dialogue on their own terms how they wish to coexist has prevented Nigeria from transiting from a country to a nation.
“The failure of the independence nationalists to at the end of colonial governance, to discuss and peacefully agree their self-negotiated terms for shared values and unified vision of nationhood prevented emergence of an agreed framework of a minimum common identity as a “New Nation” of multi-ethnic, multi-religious multi-cultural and multi-lingual diversity of people who have negotiated the basis for Unity. These failures and gaps haunt the country and its people up until today,” she added.
On how to get out of the logjam, Ezekwesili advocated political structural change to enthrone true democratic principles.
She said: “Elections and other political processes are pivotal to the quality of a country’s governance and can either advance or stagnate or decline the short, medium and long term prospects of a people. All citizens in a democracy who qualify to select those that govern their society are inherent possessors of political power.
“Election in a Democracy is the means of competition that enables people to choose their candidates or make preferences among options individuals who wish to be handed the political power that belongs to the people. The Political Power that citizens hand to those they elect is a delegated authority which they must have to legitimately make decisions that will produce outcomes which are favourable to the collective welfare of society. Political Power by those elected ought to produce public goods and services that improve the well-being of those that delegated authority to them. The political freedom of Nigeria is still a mirage.”
Earlier, the factional governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 general election in Delta State, Prof Pat Utomi, said the only way Nigeria can make progress is for professionals to get involved in politics.
He said: “Nigeria is in a terrible place because the country has people who don’t understand public service occupying public offices. The only thing that can bring Nigeria back to the right track is for professionals to get involved in politics. Our challenge in Nigeria is to bring in people with values into politics.”