Those calling for the head of Smart Adeyemi, the senator representing Kogi West district for expressing preference for military rule as against the current form of democracy in Nigeria are just being hypocritical.
In their indecent haste to seemingly protect the institution of democracy (whatever that means) they completely glossed over the fundamental issues elevated to the fore by Adeyemi’s presentation.
The impression one got from the reactions of the senators to his contribution to the debate on the Bill for the Establishment of a National Electoral Offences Commission is that he prefers military rule to democracy in its pristine form. That is not the correct interpretation of what Adeyemi actually said.
And what did he really say that should warrant the indecent attempt to stop him from expressing his views on a crucial issue before the senate? He said he preferred military rule to the way democracy is being practiced in Nigeria, particularly the electoral process which is nothing but a charade.
Hear him, “there cannot be democracy in any nation where we do not have free and fair elections. There will be a misrepresentation, bad governance, misappropriation of funds and all the shortcomings we have witnessed over the years of our democratic rule. As a result people of questionable characters find their ways to elective positions”.
A critical appraisal clearly shows Adeyemi neither passed a vote of no confidence on democracy in its pure form nor endorsed military dictatorship.
His was a comparison of democracy in the way it currently operates in the country with military rule as we had in the past. It is a case study on democracy using Nigeria as an example.
And in his conclusion: if what goes on in the name of democracy in Nigeria represents all that that governance framework can offer, it has no substantial allure over military rule. He has said it all and he is entitled to his opinion.
But what can be gleaned from this is obvious frustration with our inability or refusal to imbibe and put into effect those attitudinal and supportive dispositions that mark out representative democracy as the most preferred form of governance framework. His is a disappointment with what goes on in the name of democracy in this country.
That is the context he spoke and it will be difficult to fault. That is what he meant by “I have said over the years that military government is the worst but the situation is even worse now when you have people that are forcing themselves on the people”.
These are statements of frustrations indicating our collective failure in upholding those attitudes and dispositions that provide the fertile ground for democracy to germinate and flourish. The key issue is how people force themselves on others.
Adeyemi provided the answer in his opening statement when he said democracy is impaired in a milieu where there is absence of free and fair elections.
He itemized the negative effects of manipulated elections to include subversion of the collective will of the electorate, bad governance, misappropriation of public funds and all the ills we have witnessed since our return to democracy.
It is these systemic dysfunctions antithetical to democratic ethos that led him to contend that democracy in the form it has been practiced here does not show much promise over and above military authoritarianism.
Who can fault the reality that many of those who occupy elective offices today did not get there through popular mandate? Who wants to pretend that the will of the electorate as expressly expressed at the ballot box did not seriously count in the victories some of our elected officials are currently savouring? What of the militarization of the electoral process and its reduction to a verity of military warfare as were obviously evident from past elections including those of Rivers, Bayelsa and Kogi state where incidentally, Adeyemi comes from?
What is there to pretend about in the assertion that the faulty and militarized electoral process been responsible for the bad leadership the nation has been contending with? What of the concomitant corruption it accentuates as those who bought their ways through, devise devious strategies to recover monies they spent during elections? What of the primaries of the political parties that are supposed to throw up popular candidates for elective offices? To what extent can we say they conform to democratic principles and practices of allowing popular choice unfettered access?
These are the issues in contextualizing Adeyemi’s statements. And if the truth must be told, there is nothing democratic in the processes that throw up candidates from the primaries of the political parties. What we see very often is selection rather than election.
This is evident from the rancorous primaries that threaten to and in most cases factionalize the parties after such engagements.
Many of such parties are still nursing the wounds inflicted on them as a result of highly disputed, rancorous and undemocratic party primaries. How these conform to democratic rules is at the heart of the frustrations of the likes of Adeyemi
The situation is even worse when it comes to general elections. Killings and maiming, snatching of ballot boxes and electoral materials, rewriting of results and incapacitation of the card readers so as to rig elections and the unwholesome activities of some electoral officials all combine to cast serious slur on the manner of democracy we practice in this country.
Rather than promote popular participation and popular choice, we are left with manipulated results and the subsequent imposition of candidates in a manner reminiscent of the system of military administrators of the military era.
Adeyemi was only implying that the collective mandate of voters must be a determining factor for ascendancy to elective political offices.
And where that is not the case, then what we practice is democracy in its most aberrant form. Aberrant democracy is another name for dictatorship either of the military or civilian class.
He seemed to be contending that the establishment of a national electoral offences commission may not achieve much if there is no positive change of attitude from all tiers of government to allow democracy flourish in its perfect form.
I understand him to be canvassing for the executive, the legislature and the judiciary to take up key roles in ensuring that the form of democracy we currently practice is retrieved from the observed imperfections and unwholesome tendencies that impede the capacity of our ballot process to approximate the collective will of the electorate as expressed at the ballot box.
That is what makes the difference between democracy and other forms of governance framework. That is what should stand out democracy from our sordid experiences with the past when military administrators were appointed for states without any input from the people.
Yes, the days of that order are gone with democracy in place. But such memories are easily evoked each time our electoral process throws up people through manipulated and questionable circumstances with other arms of the government seemingly complicit.
What Adeyemi did was to interrogate our electoral process; its capacity to approximate the collective will of the electorate as expresses at the ballot box.
It is an interrogation of the democratic process in the aberrant form it functions on this clime. The aim is to seek improvement in that process.
Those who quarrel with his comparative views on the issue, are perhaps, being misled by the bountiful opportunities thrown open by the democratic engagement that put humongous sums of money into their pockets. They are afraid that something untoward may happen if this view gains traction.
But, they should be challenged by the increasing loss of confidence in the electoral process through acts of omission or commission by the executive and the judiciary.
A situation where those rejected at the polls were eventually imposed on the people in very questionable circumstances because the verdict of the Supreme Court is final will continue to accentuate the frustrations of the likes of Adeyemi. If that is what democracy entails, then it offers little hope.
Credit: Emeka Omeihe