Elections in Nigeria, How democracy poisoned everything
“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” -Winston Churchill.
Nigeria recently concluded her sixth general election ever since she adopted and returned to democracy as a form of government in 1999 after thirty-three years of military rule. It seems like the outcome of the just concluded election did not meet some people’s satisfaction, as some educated elites took to social media to rant and put blames on the average voters, being the major determinants in the election. This goes to prove the popular saying that “One man, one vote can cause the majority of the population to be unhappy”.
It is clear and known that in Nigeria and Africa, generally, the average person is not usually bright, well-informed, or opened to vital information about the governance of the state. Most people are apathetic and consequently made to suffer for making important decisions without proper knowledge of the aftermath and consequences of their decisions. Many times, voters make silly, biased, and unfortunate decisions which most time lead the country to stagnation. Who should we blame? Should we continue to put the blames on the average voters?
Shouldn’t we blame democracy for all the series of disappointment and stagnation Nigeria had experience from 1999 till date? Let’s face it, it is a fact that democracy, universally, has nothing to do with the right choices, rather it’s about the popular choices, as most popular candidates get into offices, not the best candidates. People, most times, get elected not based on their competencies but their popularity to the masses and on a few promises that might be solemn or a bundle of lies. Most voters vote based on who they dislike the least and not who they think is the best and merit it. This is why elections most times is reduced into choosing the lesser of two popular evils, instead of considering a well deserving candidate. Democracy will make a rational thinker wonder if popularity is one of the numerous qualities of a good and credible leader. Little wonder, the late Nigerian Afro-beat pioneer and human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, censured democracy in his song titled ‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’. In his words, democracy means the demonstration of craze (Crazy demonstration). Isn’t it true? Why should an individual or party popularity determine the competence and the acceptance of a leader?
According to the great moralist and philosopher, Plato, “democracy is a terrible system of government, not to be considered under any circumstances”. In Plato’s words, democracy, properly understood, degenerate into tyranny. Plato worried that majority of voters, just as seen in Nigeria today, would be too dumb and ignorant to make a wise choice of leaders. The idea of every man having equal rights to vote is said to be the beauty of democracy, but in reality, it is ill of democracy. Winston Churchill is also believed to have said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. In Nigeria today, most citizens are usually apathetic when it comes to politics and governance. Many voters lack even basic knowledge of politics. The majority typically do not care or have a say about who runs the government and how it is run, all that matters to them is for a means of survival to be guaranteed
Hence, when decisions are made through mass voting, there is a tendency for people to have opinions on things that they know nothing about, and here in Nigeria that majority are often irrational, ignorant, or poorly informed on vital issues; voters are easily manipulated. Therefore, when elections are held, citizens are subjected to the tyranny of the majority, who are not usually bright and well-informed. The votes of the majority are usually forced on the minority. If you are a part of the majority, you will be satisfied. But if you’re one of the minorities whose wishes are denied, you will be unhappy. When the majority of voters make the wrong choice of leaders, they do not just hurt themselves. Minority voters, rational voters, even generations to come also share from the misfortune brought by that democratic decision. Should people be allowed to ignorantly make bad choices so long they face the consequences themselves? Should the choices of the ignorant voters lead the country to stagnation and economic crisis so long they make the choices themselves? Maybe when the people in a democracy realize that the majority can legally vote to take the wealth of the minority, they will reject the injustice disguised to be just.
Democracy, properly investigated, is a legalized corruption and anti-progressive system. Being a system that encourages popularity over competency; individuals and political parties are made to spend billions of naira on political campaigns and vote buying, which I often like to refer to as legal bribery, just to get their candidates known and widely accepted by the people. In the long run, when they get elected, instead of doing their duties to the ones that voted them in, they became more responsive to their political parties because they are the major sponsors and investors in their political victories. Consequently, after two to three years of being solely responsible to their political parties, they would begin to worry about the next elections and so no long term projects will be accomplished leading to stagnation in the long run. Democratic administration is usually unstable, being of short duration until the next election, therefore long term objectives are not usually achieved. A nation will flourish only with a stable government. China is deprived of democracy today, but they are happy and progressing. Rwanda stands out amongst all Africa nations today because her government is stable and is deprived of absolute democracy. Other few democratic nations that are progressing today, just like Rwanda, do not practice Absolute Democracy, including the US. In fact, the only achievement democracy had made ever since Nigeria abandoned Military rule in 1999 is the peaceful handing over of power, unlike the series of coup d’etat we witnessed throughout the military era. Corruption, misused of power, mismanagement of public funds, violation of freedom of the press by the government, disregard for rule of law, money laundering and host of others are still part and parcel of our democracy just like it is in the Military era.
In as much as equal rights to make choices seem just and fair, it does not mean everyone is fit or intellectual enough to make the right choices by themselves. People generally make the wrong choices not because they prefer it, but because they don’t know what exactly is good for them. So, the big question now should be ‘If not a democracy, what?’. Deciding a system of government from a number of alternatives is no easy matter, but the belief that democracy is the best system for Nigeria shouldn’t be accepted.