I had to sum up some mental courage to put this into perspective because going by what I read every day about democracy in Nigeria and the principal actors that have since occupied the driver’s seat, I am almost tempted to declare that democracy is doomed for now. The level of imposition, impunity, domination, harassment, abuse of procedure, processes and the absence of internal democracy has continued to rob Nigerians the opportunity of having a credible process in the course of recruiting leaders into various offices. When it is convenient for the so-called pro-democracy activists to speak elegantly about their democratic credentials, they tell you without mincing words that the democracy we are enjoying today is a product of their sweat. They brandish NADECO certificates as the rite of passage and their demonstrations as their moral badge of courage under a military system that prohibited assembly of any sorts.
They insisted that democracy is a better system that guarantees mass participation in an inclusive manner in the process of recruiting leaders and not those who became leaders through the barrels of the gun. They mounted the rostrum majestically and reeled out eloquent speeches with good oratory to impress it on the hapless masses that they were saints and angels from another planet and that military leaders were satanic by their imposition. They would write very interesting papers laced with interesting stories of how the battle was brawled and won. The rate at which you hear the word “comrade” on the lips of some ragtag self-acclaimed ideologues professing to be human rights activists, one is tempted to think that such individuals represent the quintessential attributes and principles of democracy. We were all wrong, but Fela was right: it is actually a demonstration of craze. Nothing can
be farther from the truth.
With the invidious politics witnessed in Lagos in the last couple of weeks and months, from the conscienceless primaries to the amendment of the electoral law within three days, to the actual conduct of the election, democracy suffers serious deprivations. Lagos state prides itself as the Centre of Excellence; a slogan it carries about with magisterial candour. We indeed saw the excellence when it rained cats and dogs some weeks ago with rivers of destruction. The Lagos rains exposed the flip side of a state with an unbroken political succession plan and a governance process that has been widely applauded as functional. We saw the excellence again when we watched visuals and footages of the Apapa traffic lockdown and the burning of two Banks’ buildings in a wave of provocation.
The Lagos rains also exposed the dirty habits of Lagosians; throwing non-degradable objects in drainages and sewer lines in the name of refuse disposal. The pictorial explanation of Surulere floating garbage underscores the dirty habits of Lagosians.
Lagos has since become the epitome of the good, the bad and the ugly. The democratic process that seems to be giving a fairly tolerable colouration to the goodness of Lagos has suddenly been poisoned. As the rains were washing away the rotten underbelly of a City in a state of environmental puzzlement, it unveiled the rottenness of its political and electoral apocalypse. From a grossly ridiculous primary process where the people displayed their penchant for political hooliganism, to unabashed display of violence with rivers of blood flowing from different injuries, Lagos is wearing a garb of double standards. If the Nigeria Labour Congress indecent election was a mockery of democracy, that of Lagos has made mincemeat of anything democratic principles. It was a deliberate demolition of all democratic principles by those who control the levers of power and its crazy aphrodisiac. And in the fullness of this political malady, there are reasons given by those who wield influence to rationalize why the process went berserk.
Joe Igbokwe, the Publicity Secretary of APC Lagos state chapter reportedly had this to say when confronted with questions about the shoddiness of the exercise; “Forget about the APC constitution, we have our own ways of doing things in Lagos that has been working for us since 1999. We cannot allow people to just come from nowhere to use money to hijack our tickets. We reward members who stood by us through thick and thin”. Igbokwe’s statement further casts a slur on the provisions of Article 20 of the APC constitution which makes it mandatory for primary election for aspirants seeking elective offices. According to him, the APC constitution bears no allegiance anymore. It is just a tissue of paper
that should not be taken seriously because the voice of man is stronger than a set of articles bound together as constitution. These scenarios seem to me like tales from moonlight, but further statements credited to some political bigwigs have exacerbated Igbokwe’s sinful rhetoric and mournful ballad.
Beyond the weather condition, the low turnout of voters is suggestive of the mood and gloom of the people. This is not a time to express voters’ apathy but given the circumstances of the primaries, no one could expect anything different. There were little or no campaigns across the geographic spread of Lagos state, partly because the candidates for the election were not known or voters were not sure who they were to vote for. The usual fanfare and vapid sloganeering that often spice up election campaigns were lacking. Rising from the ashes of a flooded City with tales of loss and destruction, the mood in Lagos was further compounded by the imposition of candidates on the polity. The visuals we saw on Television conveyed the notion that Lagosians were on holiday and they cared less about voting or the entire process of election. If what the military did during their grip on the political rostrum was satanic, what we saw in Lagos during the primary elections is not just more satanic, it spoke volume of the political dysfunctionality of a system that has since become the exclusive preserve of some demagogues and political buccaneers. In fact, there is no rationale to castigate the military for foisting jackboot democratic mentality on us; what we are witnessing under what ought to be an inclusive game for all, is a far cry from what democracy is all about. The behavioural conduct of our feudalistic politicians has simply made the “militaricians” saints and moralists in the power dispensation process. At least, we still talk about credible June 12 elections. Which election in Nigeria can we truly adjudge as free, fair and credible since the onset of our democracy especially when the provisions of the party are not tailored and respected in the first place?
We should be mourning our democracy. We all need to rise up and defend democratic principles of
credible primaries and elections if we are desirous of building an egalitarian political culture using our laws as the leveler for anyone who is seeking leadership position.
Denying the people the right to freely choose those to represent them at whatever levels does not only amount to democratic coups against the people but a blatant rape on democracy. Lagos state is gradually declining in terms of class and distinction. It can truly re-enact itself by doing what is expected according to best practices. Even with the bizarre political emanations from Lagos, you will be shocked to see their critical actors travelling to Chatham House to deliver lectures on democracy, rule of law and credible elections, whereas back home, they are confirmed candidates for political hell fire.