Following General Muhammadu Buhari’s spectacular outing at the Chatham House in London on Thursday, 26th March, 2015, Nigeria, no doubt, received an image boost internationally. With a squandered image on the continent, the world’s most populous black nation has in recent times become the butt of jokes and snide remarks across the globe – a laughing stock we had become – to put it mildly among the community of nations.
As Nigeria braces up for the extra time in her all-time defining election, (what many have described as the battle for the soul of the country) the international community seems to have come to terms with the fact that Buhari stands an exceptional chance of winning the elections which was clinically subverted and prevented from holding on its earlier scheduled date of February 14 to March 28. He is the candidate to beat. Both spoken and unspoken words point in that direction; and short of calling him the President in waiting, the treatment of Buhari as such is obviously so. It is the crystallization of such sentiments from Washington to London that have been reflected in the editorials of The Economist and New York Times among other others as has the seeming consensus from global political pundits, allies and partners. The world’s most populous black nation goes to the polls and the implication for the stability of the severely fractured country, her weak institutions, the sub region, the continent and the entire black race is of no trifling significance.
Buhari delivering his speech at the Chatham House, London
Buhari did give a good speech at Chatham House, London, within the time available; and bearing in mind the turf. However, those who continually question his democratic stand; his belief in it; his commitment to it; and his struggle for it need to do a deep soul searching and answer the question: “What makes the Dictator?” “Is it the garb and the gun?” or “is it the manipulation of state institutions and the accompanying deception and rhetoric?”. The cynicism with which anti Buhari elements keep asking the deriding question which has become a propaganda pastime of acute sufferers of political and historic amnesia is a despicable exhibition of ignorance for whatever it is worth. They spend millions of naira on paid advertorials and syndicated documentaries asking the question “can General Buhari truly be/become a democrat?” and saying “Buhari is a latecomer to democracy” Really? Is being a democrat an exclusive club reserved for certain types of people? Is it a royal lineage that admits only those with blue blood?
Does their convoluted logic also presuppose that an ex-soldier cannot be a teacher, preacher, farmer, an entrepreneur etc or engage in any other vocation or activity of his choice? Does serving in the military equal a life sentence of damnation and ignominy? Aren’t there countless politicians dotting our political landscape that are ex- service men; most prominently among them being the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, himself a retired Brigadier General and former governor of Niger State and Minister?
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was a former Head of State and twice a civilian President from 1999-2003 and 2003-2007. Dipreye Alamyiesiagha, former governor of Bayelsa state is a retired Squadron Leader. Ahmadu Ali the current Campaign Director of PDP and former Chairman of the Party is a retired Colonel. Jonah Jang, the current Governor of Plateau state is a retired Air Commodore; Bode George is a retired Commodore among many others. Many of them abound in the NASS and are active members of political parties of their choice. Of America’s forty three (43) Presidents, about thirty (30) of them thereabouts were ex-service men! So what exactly is the problem these people have with Buhari?
Without doubt, the Centre for Democracy and Development in collaboration with the departments of political science, history and philosophy would do us a great deal of good to organize a great debate series along this line. There is no doubt that cataloguing state sponsored assassinations, extra judicial killings, assault on the press and citizens’ freedom and others (that seem to have been mistakenly assumed to be the exclusive preserve and ability of the military) on a comparative basis will be as illuminating and debating them. Like Buhari said in London “I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch”. I only wished he had also gone the extra mile to mention that civilian dictatorships abound.
Nigeria returned to uninterrupted civilian rule in 1999 but in truth we have not had democracy flourish in the real sense of the word. The military may have been returned to the barracks and coups unfashionable, but can we truly say we have a democracy? Is there truly a separation of powers? Has the judiciary dispensed justice equitably and fairly? Has the National Assembly been true to the people they represent? Have they discharged their oversight and law formulation functions honourably to keep the executive in check?
Under which decrees and edicts did civilian presidents kidnap a sitting governor in this country? Under which decrees and edicts did civilian presidents use the security forces to clamp down on the press? Several instances of the invasion of media houses by soldiers, policemen and operatives from the Department of State Security abound. The opposition (which is a natural ingredient for a robust democratic culture) has not been spared. Late Dr Chuba Okadibo, Buhari’s running mate in the 2003 elections, was tear-gassed and it led to his death. Social media critics of some governors have been harassed and even jailed. Peaceful protests which are legitimate aspects of democracy have been halted as was the case when soldiers were deployed to put an end to the Occupy Nigeria protests in 2012.
The Gestapo style-invasion of Osun state in the August 2014 gubernatorial elections and the clamp down on members of opposition; the invasion of the National Assembly by policemen and the tear-gassing of opposition politicians including the speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; the desecration of the Judiciary as witnessed in Ekiti State with the invasion of a court of law and the beating up the judge. All of these and many more speak volumes on the convoluted nature of our walk towards democracy for in truth, we are not yet one in the real sense. Democracy is not all about campaigns, ballot boxes and elections. It is much more. It is also about institutions, systems, processes, the rule of law, a free press, the right to peaceful protest, and above all citizens’ awareness and participation devoid of fear and intimidation. The price of freedom/liberty as Leonard Courtney says is eternal vigilance.
On the fact that coups were fashionable in Africa at the time of his assuming office through a coup d’état, Buhari was spot on. Again, political scientists, philosophers and historians would be doing justice in analyzing that epoch in its time capsule. But the tragedy of today’s attempt at analyzing that era is in the (mis)judgement of yesterday’s events by today’s standards. The result is, more often than not, never a fair assessment of the subject under review, investigation or analysis.
The bush fire effect of nationalism and the clamour for independence from the colonialists is similar to the bush fire effect of the coups that spread across African countries majorly between 1960 and 1970 (which has been referred to by scholars as the decade of coups). Once the coup that felled Late Sylvanus Olympio of Togo in January 1963 was successful, it set the continent on a path of serial coups and counter coups of which Nigeria’s has been no exception. The 1983 coup that brought Buhari to power was interventionist. The politicians of the second republic had pushed Nigeria to the brink; and she needed to be salvaged. However, before the Buhari administration could stabilize and set her on the path of development; to fully occupy her place of pride among the community of nations; and among her peers like Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, India etc, the administration was thrown out in a palace coup in August 1985.
Buhari’s said in London: “We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.”
But even as Military Head of State, Buhari still put memos before the Supreme Military Council to debates and voting! Prof David Tam West attests to this aspect of the cabinet of which he was a key member. Whatever the shortcomings of the Buhari military administration, whatever he did, he did for the love of Nigeria. In trying to get things done mistakes were made. The consensus or axiom is that Military governments are unlike civilian governments just as communist governments are quite distinct from monarchies etc. Buhari’s words in London were: “I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.”
Khaki to Mufti
After the Buhari regime was brought to a sudden end by Babangida in the coup of 1985, Buhari automatically and unceremoniously was out of the army. Like every soldier, the options are always three: die in active service; get dismissed, or retire voluntarily or compulsorily. Buhari fell into the last bracket by virtue of the coup. The world over, Ex-service men are highly respected individuals and their foray into politics is not treated with the kind of ignominy and opprobrium it is treated in Nigeria (albeit selectively). While every country’s history is shaped by its peculiar events over time, it is understandable that the fatigue of military incursion into Nigeria’s political space between 1966 and 1998 has not been lost on the people. But where do we draw the line of condemnation? Are the civilians who served under military administrations also as guilty as the very dictators they now point fingers at or are they exempt? Is it not also interesting to note that Gen Jeremiah Useni (rtd) alleges that civilians have always been part of the military coups in Nigeria? Does the saying “What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander” not apply to Buhari too? If Obasanjo, David Mark, Bode George, Ahmadu Ali etc why not Muhammadu Buhari? The answer lies in the fact that it is not Buhari’s military past that they viciously kick against. No! It is what he represents that gives them (the enablers and promoters of the status quo) endless nightmares.
Buhari emerged from his post coup house arrest and moved on with his life. He lived a quiet life away from public glare until Abacha appointed him as Head of PTF in 1998. Buhari distinguished himself excellently in the discharge of that responsibility. That post military assignment has been a reference point in what purposeful, committed and visionary leadership can do to touch lives. While Buhari talked about his converted democratic status in Chatham House, London, and which the PDP wishes to use in lampooning him, he has never missed the opportunity of telling whoever cared to listen that the fall of the Soviet Union was it for him. In his words: “With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot.”
But he had as far back as 2002, in ABU championed the cause of democratic culture and norm. In a speech at the Abdullahi Smith Lecture Theatre at the behest of The Students’ Democratic Forum titled “Discipline and Accountability Under Democratic Leadership”, Buhari had eloquently dissected the challenges of our journey towards representative, multi-party democracy. That speech delivered thirteen (13) years ago seems quite prophetic. It captured was then the reality of our calamity which sadly has not only abided but has metamorphosed over the inglorious years that the PDP has held power since 1999. In my opinion, it was the Chatham before Chatham; not just for the significance of Abdullahi Smith Lecture Theatre as the choice of venue then, but for what ABU as an institution represented as a summit of leftist leaning and intellectual discourses shaped by the likes of Abdullahi Smith himself, after whom the great lecture theatre was named, the likes of Patrick Wilmot, late Yusuf Bala Usman and their contemporaries.
I dare then ask the question “is there any politician alive today who has contributed this much to stabilizing our democracy, making it tick, giving it bite, and preventing our inglorious descent into a one party state as General Muhammadu Buhari? As Ambassador Olisaemeka said in his article “The Buhari of My Personal Experience” (http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/daily/opinion/46199-the-buhari-of-my-personal-experience)
“Buhari represents, in my opinion, the last opportunity we have to get things reasonably right before the baton passes permanently on to the next and coming generation. After him, the generation of the ‘founding fathers’ would have faded away; with their legacies, left behind, hopefully for good. He should be given the chance to restore and consolidate the disappearing values of that ‘golden age’ so sadly disrupted by the military, to which paradoxically and tragically, he and those in that generation, and that before him, were willy-nilly pressed into being a part of.
He carries on his frail, ageing but reliable shoulders a historic responsibility and burden of getting it right. He has a bounden duty to realign the nation towards achieving its manifest destiny.”
Below is the paper Buhari delivered in ABU in 2002:
Discipline and Accountability Under Democratic Leadership
Text of an address by General Muhammadu Buhari at the Student Democratic Forum Lecture at Abdullahi Smith Lecture Theatre, Ahmadu Bello University Main Campus Samaru, Zaria Saturday, July 20th, 2002 at 10.00 a.m.
It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today. I would first of all, like to thank members of the Students’ Democratic Forum for inviting me to talk on Discipline and Accountability under Democratic Leadership.
- The importance of this topic for present day Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Indeed so important are the two, i.e. democracy and accountability, meaning, unless they are there, democracy will not be able to deliver any of its expected dividends. The topic coheres well enough and most appropriate for us today. Accountability, so to speak, is a form of self-discipline, and, while it is possible to be accountable without democracy, it is impossible to be democratic without accountability. I therefore understand from the topic of my talk that you want me to tell you what makes democracy tick.
- When we talk of democratic leadership we usually mean representative, responsible government i.e. a government freely elected by the people and is truly responsible to them. Let’s agree at the outset that, whatever the ideology in question, we recognize democracy as perhaps the best, form of government today, provided we agree on a definition of what democracy truly means.As Reinhold Niebuhr rightly observed “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
- The democratic system itself is in reality a culture, i.e. a culture of elections, rights, obligations, checks and balances. Like all cultures, it requires believing in, nurturing, tending and participation.
The most prominent aspect of democratic governance is the development of a democratic civil culture that sets out, and itself obeys, the rules and practices that characterizes the ability of a people to govern themselves according to constitutional provisions. In short subjecting everything to the rule of law.
In theory, which we must translate into practice, the democracy that Nigeria needs is one that is founded on periodic, free and fair elections; and in it, the majority rules while the rights of the minority, are respected and guaranteed by law. It should be anchored on the independence of the judiciary, freedom of faith, expression, association and aspirations. All these must be based on the principle of the rule of law, due process and the equality of all persons before the law.
- The functioning of this democracy must be based on the concept of the demarcation of powers, with adequate checks and balances to guard against the arbitrary exercise of power and ensure accountability in governance. And here we might as well paraphrase Reinhold; and, for our purposes, say:
“Man’s capacity for accountability makes democracy possible but man’s inclination to corruption and lack of accountability makes democracy unnecessary.” Essentially, therefore, democracy is about making the leadership accountable to the people and the people themselves disciplined.
- It is an understatement to say that there has been a clear lack of accountability in the conduct of public affairs in this country. The public service, as the executive agency of the government of the day at various levels thus, federal, state and local levels, wields enormous powers, where the government of the day allows it to function within the normal guidelines and regulations laid.
Nowadays, this power is wielded with much arbitrariness and abuse of procedure. In the democracy Nigerians are asked to practice and which we are being told is the one being practiced; the public is entitled to know what policies, activities and development projects are approved by the appropriate agency. In addition, the people must have access to the estimates made for public expenditure in order to ensure that expenditures of public funds are limited by approved estimates.
Even when all these transactions have been carried out lawfully, the public is entitled to demand that they must be properly kept in the appropriate books of accounts and independently audited and accounted for.
Weather this is being done in the very democracy we are practicing today; is a big question that I will like to leave the answer to the public.
- As I observed on a different occasion, the last time the annual financial account of the Federal Government were prepared and submitted for audit was, I understand, in 1980.And at the 1984 conference of Auditors-General of the Federation and State’s Directors of Audit, it was revealed, to the astonishment of no one, that eleven states last submitted their annual accounts for audit in 1967! During the tenure of our government 1984-85 we instituted a programme to update audited accounts and publish them. But, as usual, this was soon forgotten away by the Nigerian penchant for lack of implementation and follow-up.
There must to be consistency in policy planning and clarity in stating policy objectives so that we always know what we are doing and why. This can only be done if we have a purposeful public service in place. No doubt, recent events have badly dented the service, but this situation is not irreparable or irreversible.
For our democracy to succeed and the regime of accountability to prevail, Nigeria’s public service must rediscover itself. It must find its way back to the pre-1966 Golden Age.
- Today the lack of accountability has, for instance, helped to create wide distortions of income distribution throughout the society.
And because little is being done to the culprits, this has also fueled the scramble for appointments, especially to executive positions, which, because of the same lack of accountability, enable their occupants to do as they please.
The mad rushes for the presidency, and the unending clamour for its rotation among the zones, derive directly from the rich pickings which lack of accountability confers on it. This is a very serious matter, which ought to be remedied.
But more serious are going to be some of the longer-term after-effects on the younger generation that did not know that at one time a system of accountability existed in this land. But simply knowing this without doing anything about it is unlikely to help our nation. The prosperity that embezzlement and other fraudulent practices conferred, especially in the recent past, is a direct result of this failure to investigate and punish.
In general, corruption and every aspect of lack of accountability benefits from the fact that ours is a nation that doesn’t ask the right questions. But in some instances, there is no need to ask questions because the evidence talks louder than words.
However, whether questions are asked or not, we all know that in no distance past many public officers controlling votes, awarding contracts or belonging to task forces enforcing any kind of law became lords unto themselves.
They did as they pleased, generated revenues for themselves and their families, and they competed with each other in erecting mansions and indulging in conspicuous consumption – with money largely derived from public sources. And many still do.
- Moral absolutes that used to be the pegs on which our society’s values were anchored had, by design and default, been abandoned, so totally that one could, with justification, wonder whether it would ever prove possible to revive public morality. Neither the hold of religious precepts, nor the sanction of public shame, nor yet the eyes of society, or the fear of the penalties nor even secular civic pride or the plain responsibility of being just human would make people behave according to the rules and follow laid down procedure.
The fact remains that we will not overcome these manifold problems by mere act of democratizing. Of course democracy is not an end in itself.
It is only a means to an end, which for us is good, representative, responsible governance and its other dividends. Certainly not the type of dividends our ears are daily fed with today.
And if Nigerians want to fully realize the gains of democracy which I believe they do; people must be ready to play according to the rules, and pay the price required. They must be their own watchdogs and guard against the many forces that look capable of subverting the system.
“That people naturally prefer freedom to oppression can indeed be taken for granted,” said Chester Finn, Jr., “but that is not the same as saying that democratic political systems can be expected to create and maintain themselves over time. On the contrary, the idea of democracy is durable, but its practice is precarious.”
- In Nigeria it is not just voter-apathy that threatens democracy and responsible governance. It is what, for want of a better term, I call system-apathy. At one extreme end people are impatient – they don’t have sufficient patience to play according to the rules of the system; while at the other extreme end, they are too patient (docile is the word) to accept any determined corrupt money-bag to produce election result he wants in any constituency in the country today.
So much so that this docility has turned corrupt public officers into statesmen. We should all be worried enough to want to do something about it.
The first antidote against such subversion is to ensure that elections are free and fair, and representative of the popular will. But that is not enough to deliver the goods. The leader elected must have what it takes and have vision for the polity and be a person of integrity. The leader must be able to communicate and have a proper sense of history; but, above all, he must be ready to lead by example.
In addition, what our country needs in its leader now is astuteness in crisis leadership and courageous enough to confront corruption head on.
- The second antidote is to have effective checks and balances to curb arbitrariness and any creeping despotism in the leader. These checks, which ought to emanate from several different sources, must be patriotic and strong enough to deter the most determined dictator. Firstly, there must be a return to the party supremacy and discipline of the first and second republics. The leader elected must be loyal to his party and its programmes; and be respectful to its by-laws. This is very important since the electorate normally elects on the strength of party programmes; and without this type of respect for party supremacy the leader becomes an unguided missile let loose among the people.
Secondly, the legislature and the judiciary must provide the constitutional checks and balances required. When this is missing, especially in the instances where the people’s elected representatives pursue goals other than the public good, the leader simply becomes a constitutionally elected dictator, and the people’s watchdogs become cheerleaders as the republic is raped.
Thirdly, the media must provide the most immediate, open check on the excesses of the leadership. As watchdogs of the people, the media, relying on the peoples right to know, report on the successes or failures of leadership. The media must continue to inform and educate and be an alert watchdog over government and society’s powerful institutions.
The media of this millenium must be able to operate beyond religio-ethnic and regional lines. They must cross over to addressing issues rather than sentiments. The press must be agents of unity and understanding. Sensational captions and stories may obviously attract buyers of newspapers which is good business, but the consequence of that may produce environment with no one to purchase subsequent editions. In plain language our media must be patriotic enough to reduce areas that are likely to produce crises in society.
Benjamin Franklin once said, given the choice between government without newspapers or newspapers without government; he would, without hesitation, choose the latter. I would too, but they must be newspapers that told the truth and tried to reduce crises in the polity.
Holding aloft a standard of independence, fairness, and objectivity and drawing on the strength of its tremendous resources, the media is best suited to expose the truth behind all claims made by leadership and hold officials accountable for their actions or inactions. Journalists must wield this power of the media, which has often been seen as even greater than that of the other two Estates, with a great sense of responsibility by journalists.
- With all these checks, counter checks and balances in place, it remains for the leadership to give the right direction so that democracy may sprout, grow and sustain itself. And here I know of no better or more functional definition of democracy than the one given by Seymour Lipset. I quote:
“Democracy in a complete society may be defined as political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders of political office.” End of quote. And I would like to assure that democracy can’t do more than what this definition made for you.
It only gives you the power to change leaders when they fail. It cannot guarantee a successful government. The success is largely determined by the quality of the leadership.
A leader, according to one of the American presidents, “is one who has the emotional, mental and physical strength to withstand the pressures and tensions, and then, at the critical moment, to make a choice and to act decisively; the men who fail are those who are so overcome by doubts that they either crack under the strain or flee.” But here at home, even if one is overcome by doubts and plagued by failure, all he wants to do istazarce.
- Tazarce and other subversive maneuvers can hardly take us anywhere; it will only take us backward. And unless we change our way – of sit-tight leadership and chequebook politics – we shall never know democracy in this land. Within the last three years, for instance, we cannot in all honesty, be said to have tried our best to lay down the foundations of a stable democratic polity or the ground for good governance. What we observe in this country is not the responsible exercise of power, but an intoxication of the leadership by it.
Democracy gave us a chance, but we fail to grab it to take corrective action.Instead we went on the path of punitive action in full blast.No wonder we lost the way; and this, in turn, led us to the path of self – deceit.
We were promised better days ahead; yet we only saw days that are worse. We were promised light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel only got longer – and we are still enveloped by its darkness. We were promised an end to corruption, but we only witnessed its ascendance and triumphant coming of age. We were made to listen to endless lamentations on the deterioration of public education system, and we were promised its revitalization; but we only witnessed its near total collapse, with burial arrangement already made with talk of privatisation of our universities. We were promised enhanced security for lives and property but the police itself went on strike.
The promises were endless and the failures countless, but these are celebrated by the leadership as successes. They said they had made a difference, though few indeed believed them.
It was clear that we were slowly moving towards the situation that says, “Never believe anything until it is officially denied.” And in a situation where the leadership was trying not to be accountable you may suspect everything until it is officially confirmed.
- But democracy is not about the accountability of the leader alone. It is about building a system that guarantees not only rights but also imposes obligations on all those who are in it. It is part of the responsibility of every one of us to speak out when things go wrong. But the silence coming from our campuses is deafening. And for want of a proper description, a very bad omen.
Isn’t there a greater responsibility and clear obligation on the well informed? Every one of us is a shepherd and, sooner or later, the auditor will come round to count the sheep. Time was when there was this robust debate on campus, not just on the salaries and allowances of teachers, but actuated by a genuine desire to improve the objective conditions of the people. But unknown to us outside, and perhaps even to you inside, the campus has long ago given up its true tradition.
There is today the absence of involvement by intellectuals in the everyday affairs of society. Gone were the days the likes of Dr. Bala Usman, whose struggle, almost single-handedly, established a tradition of dissent on this campus in the 1970’s.What in the world happened to that tradition?
And whatever one may say about the ideology that provided the basis for his struggle, there is little doubt that campuses across the country are today all the poorer for the lack of it. You must therefore wake up before it is too late. Or is the teacher waiting to be taught?
- Long ago one of your class had prodded you. “ You are all the same, you intellectuals; everything is cracking and collapsing, the guns are on the point of going off, and you stand there claiming the right to be convinced. If only you could see with your own eyes, you will understand that time presses,” Jean-Paul Satre said.
And as time draws to a close, there are only two choices facing our academics – involvement or escapism, fulfillment or betrayal. There is no third choice. Today you can’t sit on the fence because the fence, uprooted by people’s anguish and resignation, is no longer there for you to sit on.
No doubt, our campuses had seen better days. Perhaps time for the turn around has not yet dawned for this nation that prefers building stadium than funding universities. A nation that loves identity cards more than improving agriculture. You shouldn’t make matters worse by betraying your own trusts. Leadership at all levels has to, as it were, renew its contract with its constituency.
Your constituency is people; your political party is intellect; and your ideology is whatever intellect dictates – the fearless pursuit of the goals of humanism. But today I see neither fearlessness nor pursuit after any worthwhile goals. I hope I am wrong.
Where are the informed voices of Academics and students in the reported cases of high expenditure outside approved budgetary allocations?
Where were these voices when the unilateral increment of petroleum products was made? Where are these voices when we have started seeing the return of the untidy interim court injunctions? Where are these voices when the very foundation of democracy is being subverted? I am referring to the registration of only 3 political parties out of more than 20 applications.
Yet among those denied registration were NCP, MDJ and PRP the last two who even under the military were given provisional registrations, in spite of having council chairmen and councilors, four years after; someone is telling us that they are yet to qualify for registration. Looking at the profile of these parties, I tend to believe that they belong to the masses – and I guess this in the very constituency of the academics. Is the academics endorsing the system that allow only the money bags to form political parties?
At the risk of being accused for campaigning in the university, I make bold to challenge you to come out loud and clear to lead the way.
You should all return to your constituencies and enlighten your parents, brothers and sisters to play their civic duties first by registering, then voting, and above all ensuring that the true winners are the ones declared. Otherwise posterity will not forgive you for allowing selfish people to tinker with the rule of the game.
Permit me to recall, what I said about leadership in my Arewa House lecture in 1998. I quote: “The aspiring leadership must be able to inspire loyalty in the followership and imbue it with the desire and willingness to follow and be law abiding.
It must set the example for people to follow.And though it has often been said that people get the leadership they deserve, it is even truer today to say that the leadership gets the followership appropriate to it – the one it begets and nurtures.And, painful as it may be, we must accept that no corrupt and unaccountable leadership can beget a responsible, disciplined community. The leader must be the embodiment of the people’s aspirations and be competent, upright, of positive disposition, able and willing to take bold, painful, unpopular decisions and be able to meet unpleasant situations with tact and equanimity, as and when required. The leadership must symbolize the qualities of sacrifice, integrity, patriotism, competence, vision and acceptance of the spirit and burdens of democracy.
The leader and his group need not only to be good leaders in the partisan political game, or in running the country; but they must also be good losers, who will respect the voice of the people when it speaks.” Again I quote:
“The leadership must be able to guarantee peace for the land and prosperity for the individuals within it. It should be clear that at all times and in all places the issue that is absolutely non-negotiable, is the question of law and order. To many, it has become quite desperate as they leave home everyday in fear for their lives with armed robbers, secret cult gangs and assassins on the prowl. For the majority life is indeed brutish and short.”And even now, for many, under our so-called democracy, nothing has really changed.
The thievery goes on unabated; and people see no reason to attempt to be disciplined. Perhaps when you consider all this you may begin to appreciate efforts of past leaders of this country who struggled to instill discipline and accountability under a non-democratic setting. It was a difficult, almost impossible, task. And it is a task that we must carry on within order to save the present and preserve the future of our great country.
And we can best do this within a pluralistic, democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria. Which is what we must now create and nurture.
And we must keep in mind that the price for the ability to do this is careful vigilance.
“People may be born with an appetite for personal freedom but they are not born with knowledge about the social and political arrangements that make freedom possible over time for their children,” Chester Finn. Jr. said. “Such things must be acquired. They must be learned.” But that is not all.
“Democracies,” he said, “ flourished when they are tended by citizens willing to use their hard won freedom to participate in the life of their society – adding their voice to the public debate, electing representatives who are held for their actions, and accepting the need for tolerance and compromise in public life.”
We can only do this by internalising the culture of democracy. As democrats in Nigeria we must learn to eschew rigging, indiscipline, and other corrupt electoral practices in order to avoid the perennial crisis of succession that always threatens our polity. Our elections must be free and fair; our practice of democracy must be by negotiation and reading mutually acceptable compromise; our leadership must always be held accountable by the people and their representatives, and the followership must be disciplined watchdogs for the democratic process. And this is the only way out.
Thank you very much.
Aliyu Bala Aliyu