My purport is to x-ray the relationship between education, educated people and democracy, particularly as it partakes to Nigeria.
Ekpa Stanley Ekpa
Our democracy is desperately turning to a stock of commerce – one which the equation of wealth with politics is the outstanding feature; a political culture defined by the motive of direct financial gains, characterized by huge campaign expenses, with a terrifying concentration of wealth, influence and power in the hands of a few politicians who claim to be the Messiahs of the people. It will be entirely pejorative to classify Nigerians as uneducated people; Nigerians, anywhere in the world are creative, smart and highly intelligent people.
My purport, however, is to x-ray the relationship between education, educated people and democracy, particularly as it partakes to Nigeria. Since 1728, Daniel Defoe made it clear that of our reflections, none should be more constantly our companion than a deep sorry for the present decay of learning among us and the manifest corruption of education. The special difficulties is that democracy and education are closely linked, and the quality of a democracy can only improves as quality education increases, yet, education is worth little unless it includes education in civilized character, creativity and ability to own up your destiny.
The dilemma is that in reality, a large number of Nigerians are semi electoral literate people who mostly belief what their political heroes tell them without much questions or merely resort to armchair criticism; and people who rely even more on anything that their favorite media outfit presents as reliable news. But it is important to underscore that education and the ability to read newspapers and listen to news are not synonymous. The question, therefore, is what exactly is the nexus between literacy and electoral process, electoral process and sustainable development?
Nigeria achieved a democratic franchise from the pre-independence days in some part of the country; with a dangling question of how to devise a qualitative franchise, the electorates having the capacity to exercise their franchise in manners that bring about good governance and development.
The role of an educated electorate in a democracy is classified into three segments, viz: pre-election (assessment of candidates credentials of competence and the viability of their manifestos); during elections (exercising franchise in civilized, free and patriotic manner); post elections (holding leaders accountable and duty bound to discharge their constitutional responsibilities and to fulfill campaign promise).
In the old Nigeria, with a soul less entrenched in selfish compromises and sentiments, people were elected to represent their constituency based on who they are and what they can do. In 1950, money, ethnicity and violence played less role in the elections of Mazi Mbonu Ojike as the Deputy Mayor to Olorunimbe in Lagos; similarly, Gboko constituency of Tiv Land, elected Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar (a man from Maiduguri) to represent them in the Parliament; this was the Nigerian electoral system before the ‘spoils’ system in our democracy and before the need to distribute high offices geographically. These two systems introduced election rigging and violence; it hiked our census data, the highest number gets the lion share in development index, and communities began to see the urgency to install ‘sons of the soil’ as leaders, who are sent on errand to bring home their share of the ‘national cake’: later, rigging was introduced as a simple path of electoral fraud. Now voting buying defines our electoral culture.
Owning up the electoral process is the major hallmark of a political system that has an educated electorate. Nigeria, is still divided along the temporary opportunities our support for candidates in our elections can fetch us. With the unveiling of the electoral manifestos by political parties for the 2019 general elections, the questions are not about the quoted campaign promises but the fundamental issues of “how” would the candidates actualize those ideas if given the mandate? How would the government fund the ideas?
What time frame would it take the government to actualize the ideas? Informed and educated electorate are expected to go beyond the shouting of Buhari, Atiku, Fela, Kingsley, Sowere, Ezekwesili, Ahmed, amongst others, to distilling the issues on the manifestos of the candidates – this is the pre-election responsibility of an educated electorate in a civilized democracy. The discourse and civic voices must be engaged from the rural areas to the presidency. Unfortunately, Nigerians prefer to monetize their PVCs than leverage it as an essential instrument to restore a decent society and country of their cravings.
More so, with the emptiness of the campaign documents, the onus is on the people to remind the candidates and their political parties that Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, already makes eloquent provisions that it shall be the primary purpose of every Nigerian governments to secure the nation and ensure the welfare of the people. What is more, therefore, is to provide an equipped manifesto that clearly answers the question of how to achieve this constitutional duty and to bring new innovations in line with the global development demands.
Including the fight against corruption in campaign manifesto is saying that the candidates and their political parties are unaware of the sanctity of Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “the State ‘SHALL’ abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”; likewise, Sections 16 of the Constitution already talked about harnessing our natural and human resources to promote inclusive national prosperity, what is left unfixed is the parameters for filling in the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development for a functional, efficient and productive Nigeria, and how such economy will benefit the common man in Nigeria.
The electioneering period presents a window of responsibilities for an informed and educated electorate, with the demands to exercise their franchise in a civilized, free and patriotic manner. The people must shun the culture of money-induced voting.
It is understandable that the impoverished economic situation and beclouding hunger in the country has the tendencies of compromising our uprightness in not selling our votes, but we must know that cowing in is simply to allow the politicians succeed in their ploy to perpetuate poverty in order to perpetuate themselves in power. God forbid that we sell our birthright for a two day plate of food.
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Ekpa, Editor-in-Chief, Nigerian Corruption Cases Law Report, writes from Kaduna