De-Merchandising our democracy: The Panacea for credible elections by Remi Adeleke

The   popular postulation of the India Scholar, Prof Appadorrai popular that Democracy is at best the least objectionable form of government that is practicable still holds sway as no superior idea has been able to dwarf it. In spite of this universally acceptable political theory, the demerit of democracy so much outweighs its merits that they cannot be ignored.  One of these demerits is that votes are counted not weighed during elections.  And this is an issue that has to be   subjected to robust debate.  Even if the majority of the debaters are men and women of low capacity and competencies, with no philosophy or ideology.  Imagine the consequences of such debates by such caliber of parliamentarians on the social and material wellbeing of Nigerians.

Today, Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of extremely impoverished on earth.  This is an emphatic paradox in view of natural endowment- exploited and unexploited.  Worthy of note is that in the same country, the political class lives large- as they are about the highest paid in the world with incredibly humongous perks and other spoils of office craftily   designed for themselves.    The ones charged with the statutory responsibility of appropriation have brazenly appropriated so much to themselves to the detriment of other Nigerians. No wonder Nigerians seems to have lost hope and are no longer  talking of dividends of democracy, but basic survival mostly. The truth is that the dividends of democracy in a predominantly illiterate and impoverished society like Nigeria will always remain a mirage at best paltry.  This is because their material status will largely influence their choice of leaders.  Such a people may never elect leadership with the requisite competencies and capacities to manage the affairs of the nation. The popular Marxist theory that every human behavior influenced by the economic reality pointedly justifies this. No wonder vote buying has suddenly found its way into our political development lexicon.

Development does not just occur by accident. Development is a function of the resolve of the people to improve their social and material wellbeing.  Such resolve is anchored on the ability of the people to choose leaders with the appropriate capacities and competencies. This ability is more often than not hindered by the poor social and material wellbeing of the people.

 In Nigeria, the political processes and procedures portray democracy as an end.  Democracy is not an end but a means to an end. It is an established fact that our political process and democracy are the most expensive in the world. When a political process is so expensive that you need a fortune to buy the expression of interest form, just to serve the people, the desperation level of such politicians would definitely be high.  Politics ought to be like a game. But in Nigeria today, Politics is like a war, and the process is like oil and gas business where returns on investment far exceed the colossal resources invested.

A retired headmaster or Secondary school principal should be able to vie for a seat in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is an aberration in Nigeria today because our democracy has been heavily merchandised.

In a socio-economic and political milieu where the remunerations of the political actors are unfairly and ridiculously packaged with superfluously juicy perks( to the detriment of nonpolitical actors in the society) is bound to engender high voltage desperation and violence.    This is what breeds and fuels the do- or -die posture Politicians towards election. And the prevalent social dislocations and convulsions that usually characterize our political process are partly the attendant consequence of this baseless and horrendous bumper package for politicians. That a politician has the statutory mandate to appropriate does not mean he should appropriate larger part of the wealth of the nation to himself.

Worse still, a politician who having paid so much for form suddenly discovered that rather than conducting  a free and fair primaries, tickets are  rather shared to preferred candidates like sharing souvenir in “Owambe” party by political parties would not take it lightly. A short changed politician who has committed committed considerable much resources is not expected to be gentle having be brazenly unfairly treated. It is the bottled up grudges of these shortchanged politicians  normally manifest in violence before, during and after elections.

It is also these bitterness and frustrations occasioned by the unfair treatment by Political parties during primaries that normally prompted the affected to file actions in courts and pursue them to as far as the Supreme courts.

 

 Times without number the customs has impounded arms and ammunition being imported to Nigeria. But the public has never been informed of the personalities behind the illegal importations and neither has anybody been prosecuted for such acts. When a criminal is sanctioned for a particular offence, it serves as a deterrent against other criminal elements in the society. In one of the Federal Executive Council FEC meetings before the general election last year, observation was made about the increase in the importation of arms and ammunition for the 2019 general election. This was corroborated by the DSS report. I do not think we should complain for self-inflicted injuries, when flies start swarming on us.  Yet to witness the conviction of any political thug or sponsors in Nigeria.  Are the personalities   the importations   invisible and invincible?

Against the backdrop of the above ills bedeviling our political process, the panacea to stem the tide of violence that usually characterizes our election is deliberate and sincere efforts by the political actors and other stakeholders to de merchandise our political process. Reasonable fee should be charged for expression of interest form to vie for political offices. When it cost a fortune to get into political office, the temptation to misappropriate, pad cost of projects as being witnessed in the 37billion approved for renovation of the NASS COMPLEX. Diversion of funds and outright looting become options for quick recovery of the colossal resources expended before and during elections.

I am of the opinion that Senator should earn same salary with a Director in the Federal civil Service; House of Representatives members should earn same with Deputy Directors.  Desperation and violence will not only be reduced to the barest minimum, but the political space will also be widened for more visionary, resourceful and credible  leaders, even  with meager means,  to contest for elections into political offices..

Our political process should be made to be more inclusive and credible by conducting free and fair primaries and general elections to reduce bitterness and discontentment amongst politicians and thereby stemming possible violence.

Any Politician that display such high level of debauchery and desperation as importing arms and ammunition  foe electoral brigandage  should be exposed, arrested, prosecuted and be banned for life from taking part in politics. Politics should actually not be a do or die affair, if the desire is actually just to serve the people and the nation.  Politics in the developed world is to serve no to be served. Neither is it a money making venture as we have it here in Nigeria.

Discounting the above highlighted solutions in our quest towards conducting a credible and violence free election in Nigeria would amount to playing the ostrich. Signing of Peace Accord by the aspirants is far from the solution. Also implementation of Uwais report on Electoral Reforms would sanitize our political process. It is also imperative  to urgently implement the suggestions herein  without delay before our politicians start importing tanks for election all  because of the unjustified and preposterous and obscene pay package the award themselves to take care of their need and greed in a country with the highest number of the extremely poor on earth. What a paradox!

 

GOD BLESS NIGERIA

Comrade Remi Adeleke is a Public affairs analyst, resident  in Suleja , Niger state

He can be reached on adelekerm@gmail.com

  

 

 

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