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Wednesday, 06 April 2011 03:48

Golden Opportunity for Nigeria

Terence P. McCulley on democracy and election in Nigeria

Nigeria too has been tested by such adversity. Recently, Nigeria has endured term-limit challenges, the untimely death of a president, and the constitutional transfer of power to another. During its first 50 years, Nigeria survived a painful civil war and a pattern of military coups.

Last year, Nigeria celebrated its Golden Jubilee. It was a signal event, marking 50 years of Nigerian independence, and celebrating Nigeria’s emergence as a force on the world stage. This great nation has demonstrated its consequence throughout its history, supporting liberation movements on the continent, contributing to regional military actions in support of peace, security and humanitarian assistance, demonstrating economic capacity and entrepreneurial spirit, and engaging the world as a leader in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), and at the United Nations.

The Giant of West Africa has much of which to be proud. The time has now come for Nigeria to take the next step to achieve its potential by embracing democracy fully and cementing in place the institutions, practices, and values of democratic governance. Free, fair and credible elections are an important part of that process.

Promoting democracy and respect for human rights has long served as the underpinning of American foreign policy, and President Barack Obama has underscored the importance of these first principles in our engagement abroad. We do not seek primacy for a specific democratic construct – democracy is as diverse as the global community – but we are convinced that advancing democracy has demonstrable dividends. Democratically-governed nations deliver safer, more just, and more prosperous lives to their citizens. And strong democracies are more likely to secure peace, deter aggression, expand markets, promote development, combat terrorism and crime, uphold human rights and the rights of workers, avoid humanitarian crises, protect and improve the global environment, and protect human health.

America recognises that the pursuit of democracy is a difficult and organic process. Throughout our history the United States has struggled to ensure that all citizens can fully enjoy the rights guaranteed under our laws and our constitution. America’s 39th President, Jimmy Carter, once stated: "The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself -- always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity."

                                                                                 US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terrence McCulley inspects a a military parade in Abuja 

But enduring unexpected tests is not the same as addressing and correcting systemic or structural problems and the coming national elections present a golden opportunity for Nigeria to demonstrate its lasting commitment to democratic values and institutions.

  Specifically, we urge political parties and the government to allow all registered voters to participate freely and fully in a peaceful and transparent process. This nation's political leadership -- and all those who aspire to lead -- must refrain from engaging in inflammatory rhetoric or supporting acts of intimidation. Violence has no place in a democratic society. We encourage efforts by the Nigerian government and civil society not only to permit, but to promote the inclusion of all political parties and their access to public fora and the media. Finally, whatever the outcome, we call on all political parties to respect the results of these elections.

Democracy is more than a formal counting of votes, and both Nigerians and the international community will judge the quality of this election by more than what happens on election day. Democracy is also about the freedom of all parties to campaign, meet with supporters, appeal to new voters, and deliver political messages to the electorate. Democracy is about sharing ideas and stimulating open public discussion on the future of one's country. Democracy is about upholding principles that are greater than any individual person and respecting the will of those who confer democratic legitimacy: the people of Nigeria.

The Nigerian government is not solely responsible for the success of your elections. Representative and accountable government can only occur when citizens empower themselves by participating fully and actively in the democratic process, ensuring that their votes count. Only Nigerians, by their vote and their commitment to democracy, can ensure that the 2011 elections are truly free, fair and transparent.

Nigeria’s most valuable and most dynamic resource is its people. Every day, whether meeting with entrepreneurs, government officials, civil society activists, farmers and shopkeepers, students and youth, I am impressed and inspired by the optimism, intelligence, drive, and ability of the Nigerian people. I am optimistic that the Nigerian people will decide what kind of government they want and then insist, even demand, that their leaders honestly represent their collective interests. Active citizen participation and open public involvement in all aspects of government is the most essential part of Nigeria’s promising future.

And speaking about the future, I would like to offer a special message for the youth of Nigeria. You represent the majority in this country, and you all have individual decisions to make about where you want to be in the next five to 10 years. But you have an equally important collective decision about where you want Nigeria to be in the next decade. Go out and vote. Choose wisely. Make your voices heard.

The challenge for Nigerians in the coming years will be to build solid institutions, based upon the legitimacy conferred by the country’s strong, diverse and decent people, and guided by democratic principles. You can count on American support for this enterprise, because Nigeria matters in the sub-region, on the continent, and on the world stage. As you build and consolidate your democratic institutions, and with many friends and partners throughout the world, Nigeria will increasingly be called upon to lead in Africa, and beyond. But it starts with you and your fellow citizens. And it starts now, in April, with these important elections.

 •Ambassador McCulley is the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria

 

A new day in the global village

If there was any lesson to be learnt from the recent crisis that ousted the former both Presidents Ben  Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was that the long standing policy of supporting dictators for sake of stability and continuity are no longer necessary, viable and sustainable. The need to continue to be backing vision less leaders for sake of stability is no longer necessary for this is a new day. Peoples of world are yearning for freedom and liberty. The end of cold war brought by the defeat of communism and the subsequent surging of democratic movements around the world is a testament of the new day.

There were three major factors that contributed to the fall of these governments and the impromptu uprisings were neither religious nor ethnic based movement. But a movement propelled by injustice and domination heaped on the masses by their overbearing and dictatorial leaders.

The neo-liberal economic policy of globalization that integrated the global economy also integrated the world cultures. Now more than any other time in history, people of all cultural backgrounds are coming in contact with each other, sharing ideas, food, views, and culture. People from developing countries are eating from the fruit of liberty and they like what they taste.

Secondly, technology has made the world small and one. The role of tweeter and internet cannot be overemphasized in the crisis of Tunisia and in the liberation in Egypt. Technology has allowed civic leaders to organize protest, inspire a great Diaspora movement, and provided a forum of breaking away from the culture of silence that looms large in developing countries.

pic: able2know.org

Even without access to the internet, television set in any African village or any distant land does convey the lifestyle of the rest of the world and no one has to tell natives how bad are their condition. The awakening of the consciousness  have been gathering momentum  in modern times, not through the outdated radical communism but through television satellite dish that beams ‘The Young and Restless’ and soap operas , MTV Cribs, blockbuster movies and Coca Cola commercials.

Dehumanizing and oppressing of peoples of the world is no longer sustainable. At the dawn of 21st century - social justice, human rights and democracy have become accessible to the global village and the West should support the people and not put their lots on the decaying dictators.

The election of President Barack Obama ushered in a spirit of hope throughout the world and a promise of a better tomorrow, and the global impact cannot be underestimated.

 

Published in Gideon Nyan

Hosni Mubarak 82, resigned and Power transferred to Egyptian military

Switzerland has frozen the Swiss bank account and assets of Hosni Mubarak

The price of oil has fallen and Global markets are surging

The victory and accolades belong to the people of Egypt - youths, young and the old did not rest nor sleep until Hosni Mubarak, the 30 years Egyptian dictator bowed down from power.  The streets and air of Cairo and Egypt have been filled with euphoria, ecstatic and thunderous joy as they celebrate the departure of Mubarak.

As Egyptians demanded his departure, out of omission or commission Mubarak read the tea leaf upside down and chose to bury his face in the sand. He went on state run television and told the desperate Egyptians that he will continue to be their president. The people of Egypt could not take that anymore and they marched in large masses to the presidential palace peacefully and the next day Mubarak turned in his resignation letter to his appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman.

Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic and dictatorial leadership has been the order of the day in his country for almost thirty years; he has managed successfully to suppress democratic impulse and instinct for a long time. Mubarak was able to convince the civilized world that without his presence and control that the Islamic radicals who were lurking at the corner will take over reins of power. On this cultivated gamesmanship as custodian of stability, he assumed the cloak of inevitability as he was seen as a stabilizing force in his region.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak attends a meeting with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov at the presidential palace in Cairo on Feb. 9, 2011.

Hosni Mubarak  (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

A New day and beginning of a long journey

The people of Egypt needs and deserves their moment in the sun, they have made a history by driving out a dictator by themselves without any interference or help from outside. It was a great achievement indeed by any standard, with almost a velvet revolution a strongman of the land was made to give up power. The forces of change coupled with human will and dignity were too much to be marched by crude forces of brutality and darkness emitted by Mubarak regime.

Hosni Mubarak did not govern alone, with the support of his henchmen, secret police and military he overwhelmed his people with fear, credible threats and intimidation. The remnant of his leadership has not disappeared completely but the military have as well understood and have experienced the power of the common people. The military during the 18 days of the uprising was behaving responsibly and have respected the rights of the people to assemble and to march peacefully. And for this they deserved to be applauded for being the custodian of stability in Egypt. But the military by nature of their training are not competent to rule but to defend a nation.

Egyptian people must understand that the driving away of the dictator was an opening door to a long journey to democratic dispensation. Egyptians maybe in quick need of calling for an election, which is a good thing but election is not tantamount to democracy rather a building block to a democratic dispensation. A constitution is needed as a compass to democracy and rule of law. A secular constitution to be written that respects the fundamental human rights to speak freely and to gather freely without interference. Constitution that guarantees minority and religious rights is the core rudimentary of a prosperous democracy.

 

 

Saturday, 29 January 2011 21:01

Egypt in state of unrest

Analysis and Commentary

Egypt, a North African country and the giant of the Arab world, is convulsing with unrest. Expert observers and analysts are not quite certain how this ongoing spontaneous civic uprising shall progress before any semblance of tranquility returns to this country. Some attribute this current mass public demonstration in Egypt's main population centers as a mere spillover from the recent Tunisian revolution which forced its former ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. What is clear, at least for the interim, is that the Egyptian middle class appears to be driving the current mass protests while the Egypt-based Moslem Brotherhood, an Islamist political movement, is taking a back seat.

Egypt's number one foreign-exchange income source is derived from tourists who troop to the Lower Nile Valley in droves from all corners of the globe. The country also exports some petroleum and gas as well as agricultural produce. Other sources of revenue include the Suez Canal and the near US$2billion subvention that goes to the Egyptian treasury from the US annually since the country's former ruler, Anwar Sadat, signed a peace deal with Israel during the Carter administration.

Egypt's GDP grew by 5.3% and 4.6% during 2010 and 2009 respectively. During my visit to the country last month, I witnessed a large number of construction projects in all parts of the country, from Aswan to Alexandria. The road network and city streets are clean and free of potholes. Fresh agricultural produce is plentiful and affordable, particularly if purchased with foreign currency. The highways of Cairo are full of cars of all types. New residential and commercial buildings as well as shopping centers are popping up all over the place, especially along the recently established beltway constructed around Cairo metropolis. Egypt has unemployment rate of 9.7% which, in African terms, is not at all shabby. So, on the surface, one could easily get the impression that all must be well with the Egyptian middle-class population.

Jan. 26, 2011: Egyptian anti-riot police confront Egyptian activist outside a journalists syndicate in downtown Cairo, Egypt. A small gathering of Egyptian anti-government activists tried to stage a second day of protests in Cairo Wednesday in defiance of a ban on any gatherings, but police quickly moved in and used force to disperse the group.

AP Picture : Egyptian anti-riot police confront Egyptian activist

But the problem of modern Egypt lies in its relative success in past few decades. The country can boast of having the largest middle class in all of Africa even though its population of 80 million is much less than that of Nigeria, for example. Egypt's literacy rate ranks high when compared to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. The downside is that this premier Arab nation has been ruled by a dictatorship since the overthrow by King Farouk by Gamal Abdul Nasser through a military coup in 1952. Till date, one can actually say that Egyptians have never known any democracy beyond what they have read in books.

The revolution spearheaded by the military was able to rescue the country from a quasi feudal system that was headed by the monarchy. The armed forces have, however, not devolved power to the citizenry for a variety of reasons. Initially, the compelling need to maintain a strong united stance against their erstwhile foe, Israel, was given as excuse for maintaining a strong centralized control by the top military brass. Shortly after brokering peace with Israel, President Sadat was assassinated in broad daylight by diehard Islamic radicals who sought to transform the Egyptian society by force. The new Head of State, Hosni Mubarak, soon positioned himself as a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in Egypt and this further endeared him with the West up till date. Some variant of democracy was instituted where Mubarak's rule is guaranteed through the National Democratic Party (NDP) which has retained control of government since it was formed by President Sadat. As is the case in most dictatorships, opposition parties are allowed nominally but barely tolerated.

It is awfully difficult to create a large middle class in any society and then turn around and deny it access to political participation in governance. That is the core problem with Egypt today. The pressure from the middle class has been building up for some time and it appears that repression of their desire for open egalitarian government cannot be sustained any longer, even with brute force. The Moslem Brotherhood, an Egypt-based radical Islamist movement founded in 1928, cannot be wished away either. In the last dispensation before the November 2010 elections, this Islamist group garnered as much as 20% of seats in Egypt's parliament. The military have laid low and have opted to play possum; but again, their man, Mubarak, has been at the hem for past three decades.

What is hard for anyone to predict exactly is what shall happen when the status quo is pended. Secular opposition leadership under El Baradei is most favored by the West to step in to fill the void if the patronage governance system run by Mubarak caves in under the intensifying pressure. The Moslem Brotherhood shall surely come to life, once more, as soon as the repressive lid imposed by the Mubarak regime is lifted. The Islamist movement has become so entrenched in Egyptian society that it might be impossible for anyone to govern without partnering somehow with it. There are fears, in some quarters that the Islamist radicals may emerge to take control, but such a speculation is without sound basis due to the sophisticated nature of contemporary Egyptian society. Besides, the army is on standby to assure that things won't completely get out of hand to the extent which can be exploited by radical elements, both on the secular and religious sides.

Egypt is currently convulsing to the level that it had never done before and lots of anxious eyes are watching worldwide. My guess is that the current unrest has surely woken up the Mubarak regime from its complacency and therefore, far-reaching changes are increasingly becoming inevitable. The West maintains a tacit approval of Mubarak, irrespective of public pronouncements to the contrary. With ongoing global war against terrorism, no one in the West is prepared to see Egypt degrade to the extent of being ungovernable. Somehow, I believe that some negotiations are already going on, behind closed doors, to provide some sort of soft landing for the incumbent government by opening up the political system and leveling the playing field to accommodate the opposition forces.

Dr. Okenwa R. Nwosu is the founder of WIEF (http://www.wief.net/).

 

Friday, 20 August 2010 10:02

Competence and zoning in politics

 

Competence invaluable than zoning in Nigeria

Nigeria is coming of age, part of growth and maturity is self examination. This issue of zoning in People’s Democratic Party (PDP) deserves the re-visitation and re-examination in order to determine its relevance at this present polity. The great thing about democracy is the coming together of free people with free will, thus making decisions that are binding to their vision and aspiration. Hot debate in Nigeria on this issue of zoning must be carried out in way that it promotes the ideals of the country, ultimately enhancing goodwill. This debate must be based on peace, fairness, unity and progress for greater good of Nigeria.

Competence should be upheld in this equation because it is superior and has precedence over geographical location and zone. While zoning can become a tool to promote fairness, it does not necessarily bring about competence in the polity. No amount of zoning can make Nigerian economy to grow and give jobs to millions of unemployed Nigerians. No one is suggesting that the issue of zoning should be dismissed outrightly or relegated to insignificance. Zoning has its place in Nigerian politics due to long history of denial and unfairness on the mostly perceived weak groups and minorities. But the discussing of zoning must be shaped by competence; for allowing mediocrity to thrive inorder to safeguard and protect zoning at all cost has its repercussion for at the long run everybody will be a loser.

In this demanding stage of Nigerian evolution what she desperately need are competent men and women of goodwill from any part of Nigeria to channel the vision of the country to reality. Nigeria needs pragmatic and patriotic leaders from any section of country to manage the affairs of the country as president, governors, senator, legislator, chairman of LG and counselors. Nigeria must be willing to trust one another inorder to maximize brotherhood and interdependence with each other. The best way to increase patriotism and citizenship is to encourage Nigerians to be Nigerians not just Ijaw, Efiki, Igala, Hausa, Yourba, Igbo etc. The time has come for Nigerians to freely live in any part of the country, calling it home and realizing their political, educational and commercial ambitions without going back to the so-called native soil or village.

Zoning for one thing does not increase our cohesive force of togetherness rather it highlights our lack of trust among fellow country men and women. Zoning maybe antithetical to democratic process for it inhibits the free participation of common people to elect the leader they chose fit. Therefore in that case zoning can become a tool for ‘gerrymandering’ which goes contrary to its purpose and justification. The zoning might have a grandiose purpose of writing the wrongs of the past but we must make sure that it does not dominate our politics for it has the propensity to dampen our freedom and liberty in our blossoming democratic dispensation.

Nigeria’s fierce debating on zoning is healthy for our democracy, but our country must seriously look into the issue of competence. We need enlighten leaders to build our country, leaders who are patriotic to the nation and who believe in the verses of our national anthem and national pledge. The time has come for Nigeria to become part of economic super block, utilizing her time amply on discussing economic issues, rather than a nation obsessed with the debate of which hamlet or clan will produce a president.

It will be unfair and un-sportsmanship for politicians to use the issue of zoning to diminish any region of the country in order to make a point or score cheap political point. Such an attitude and mindset will not foster amity but rather heat up the country’s polity. It is unwise and imprudent to gain politically at the expense of the unity of our great country.

Nigeria can stand for fairness without disconcerting competence; the most important thing to every Nigerian at this stage of our development and history is to foster unity, peace and economic progress in the country’s political landscape. And our ambitious politicians and their cohorts must stand up for Nigeria.

 

Published in Emeka Chiakwelu

A democratic process is a marathon race that takes a long time to be evaluated. It will be premature to postulate the failure of democracy in Nigeria for ten years is such a limited time to quantify the well being of democratic life in the country. In this journey there are pitfalls on the way but I am an eternal optimist and greatly bullish on democracy. The democratic system of government have served so many countries well and there will be no reason while Nigeria will be an exception. One thing must be made perfectly clear; democracy is about the people not only about the political leaders, the people must be allowed to fully participate in process for a gainful and meaning result.

Nigeria is lacking the civil infrastructure and architecture for the implementation of the process. But lately our civil society and the courts are rising to the occasion. There is hope and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It might appears hopeless because the leaders and political parties are obsessed about winning elections. But democracy is not only about election although it is an integral part of the process; election is a means to an end and not the end itself.

Education must play a vital role in the democratic process, the public and leaders must understand their roles in the process. Nobody nor individual owns the process for democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people. The civil society and media must be vigilant in exposing any darken corner on the path of democracy.

Democracy is an organic system with its vulnerabilities and it is not perfect; at times it can be messy, but it is the best system human beings have come up with. Nigeria can make it inspite of all the problems and abuses the politicians have fabricated. Looking back the past ten years it was bearish but the next ten years, twenty years Nigeria will surely arrive. I am optimistic on the prospect of a well and a thriving democracy in our great country Nigeria.

Published in Emeka Chiakwelu

Mr. Vincent Ogboi, Senior fellow, economic and financial analyst on African affairs at Afripol organization was optimistic on the benefits of democracy emphasizing that democracy belongs to the people not a chosen few. Ogboi said, "Democracy in Nigeria @ ten although not a complete failure is still not out of the ICU-Intensive Care Unit. All the major and critical indicators of political transitions to a true democracy are still missing in the political landscape of Nigeria. Nigeria is like a sick child that has the attention and care of a specialist doctor but continuously and stubbornly refuses to take the prescribed medications that will see her out of the intensive care unit.

It is disheartening that Nigeria with so much capital and human resources knows the right things to do but for some personal and selfish reasons of a few elites (bigmen) have refused to implement any positive recommendations that will move her into the league of democratic nations. This elitist few for some selfish reasons and personal gains continue to refuse to carry the masses with them. That is the reason that majority of Nigerians if asked today will judge this democracy after ten years as a failed experiment because there has been virtually no positive impact in the lives of most Nigerians as only the few Elites continue to live in opulence due to corrupt practices while leaving many in abject poverty in the land of so much wealth." http://afripol.org/vincent-ogboi.html      

Mr. Sunny Oputa, Senior fellow and political analyst at Afripol, the publisher/CEO of Energy & Corporate Africa reacted positively on the state of democracy in Nigeria. Mr. Oputa said," Democracy is for the living and as a vital organic part of a social system; it should only be quantified through growth as it relates to the involvement of the people of a nation in making policy decisions or in electing their representatives in a free and fair electoral system. Democracy as a government of the masses could be a mere usage of word to fulfill political righteousness by the ruling class or a practical application of socio-political philosophy that promotes fairness in a civil society.

Therefore, democracy can only be alive when it is practiced with the involvement of the masses, respect of the power of the people, and with due recognition of their desire. Democracy is silenced and killed when the people’s wishes are forsaken or their consent never sought in the governing of their nation. However, a people on a start to grasp and put democracy in motion could be said to be on a match. Nigeria’s democracy is still at a juvenile stage as this most populous African nation, and OPEC 6th top producer of oil thrives in her 10th year as a democratic nation. At the age of ten, a child is undergoing growth and developmental processes. The child is not mature enough to be judged strictly on the strength and content of his decisions. Likewise, Nigeria’s democracy at this stage is on a developmental phase and a work in progress." http://afripol.org/sunny-oputa.html  

Mr. Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal policy strategist at Afripol said,"A democratic process is a marathon race that takes a long time to be evaluated. It will be premature to postulate the failure of democracy in Nigeria for ten years is such a limited time to quantify the well being of democratic life in the country. In this journey there are pitfalls on the way but I am an eternal optimist and greatly bullish on democracy. The democratic system of government have served so many countries well and there will be no reason while Nigeria will be an exception. One thing must be made perfectly clear; democracy is about the people not only about the political leaders, the people must be allowed to fully participate in process for a gainful and meaning result.

Nigeria is lacking the civil infrastructure and architecture for the implementation of the process. But lately our civil society and the courts are rising to the occasion. There is hope and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It might appears hopeless because the leaders and political parties are obsessed about winning elections. But democracy is not only about election although it is an integral part of the process; election is a means to an end and not the end itself." http://afripol.org/emeka-chiakwelu.html

 

Thursday, 24 June 2010 21:19

Building democracy and good governance

THE general elections of April 14 and 21 have come and gone. The elections on the whole were considered to be poorly conducted, badly managed and lacking in credibility. 
What is gratifying to most Nigerians who wish this country well is that the voting process was peaceful, but because of the unfairness of the process, the declaration of questionable results elicited violence, especially in areas where the fraudulent process produced unbelievable outcomes. Be that as it may, the election has been conducted and results have been declared. The next level is the adjudication process at the election tribunals. 
Those aggrieved by the results of the election can proceed to the tribunal and seek justice. Recent activities of the Nigerian judiciary should give every Nigerian the confidence that justice would be done, unlike in previous cases where judgments were pronounced three years after election. To favour the aggrieved party, this process of 2007 should be speedy, fair, consistent and objective. 
There is no doubt that Nigeria is developing, and the Nigerian people know what they want; they want poverty reduction, they want jobs, education, power, water and good roads. Nigerians would expect the newly elected President to work assiduously to achieve a high level of accomplishment on these social issues. The new President can douse the apprehension of Nigerians by pursing people-oriented agenda, create confidence in his government, avoid the use of the usual language of intimidation against the opposition, and gather all of us to focus on the issue of the betterment of the Nigerian people, their welfare and security of life and properties. The new government should look into areas of school enrolment, repair damaged roads on our highways, stop ministers and governors from diverting the money meant for community, economic and social development into foreign accounts. 
Strengthen EFCC, empower ICPC and drastically reduce corruption. Encourage our sons and daughters in foreign lands to come back home and participate in nation building, by creating a conducive environment for self-actualisation. Mobilise Nigerians in a friendly manner to start thinking of themselves differently and more positively as achievers and go-getters. Show good example and force government officials to follow suite. 
It is important to note that the president is a civilian, and he is expected to put a human face on governance. Nigerians have sacrificed enough since the days of SAP in those heady days in the 80s and its attendant deceit and double talk. Nigerians are wiser now! They do not expect their new President to begin by asking them to make sacrifices. Nigerians have made enough sacrifices in the last 50 years, please let our people begin to enjoy the dividends of democracy now not tomorrow. 
What is more important to Nigerians given the experience of this last election is that the presidency, the legislature, the judiciary, the civil society and the president should start now to seek ways of making the INEC truly independent for the 2011 elections, it is almost around the corner! Democracy is a process, which develops with every passing election. With the apparent gross bungling of this last election, the nation should begin now to search for ways of conducting a truly free and fair election. We should not wait until year 2011 before we begin to discuss the modalities of the next election. 
For instance, how truly free and fair could an election be, when it is largely conducted by the presidency to select its own successor. Every human if given similar chances, would try to manipulate the process to select favoured candidates. The suggestion I wish to provide at this time is that INEC should be run by a tripartite council consisting of representatives of the presidency, the legislative and the judiciary. This Independent National Election Council (INEC) would give a more balanced and truly free and fair election that would be more acceptable than if it were by an individual (INEC) Chairman wielding all the powers in favour of the presidency, just one arm of the Government with commissioners who still depend on instructions from above. 
Nigeria is truly developing, and it is important for the citizens of this country to realise this fact and work towards making positive contributions towards further development of the nation. 
When an election is conducted to promote democracy, that in itself is a major achievement. That the election is flawed as indicated by all stakeholders including the executive in 2007, then instead of burning houses and fighting on the streets with guns and cutlasses it would make more sense if we go back to the drawing board, put on our thinking caps and thoroughly investigate the causes of this systemic failure, then guide against it from now by instituting fool-proof models that can stand the test of time and elicit peoples confidence. One of such reviews must thoroughly look at INEC as it is presently contrived, to remove it completely from undue interference. One way it can be done is to look at this suggested tripartite council and fine-tune it. 
For all those aggrieved in this election, the normal course of action is to go to the tribunal to seek redress. It will be unfortunate if such people heed the advice of those who suggest that going to the tribunal is a waste of time. We all know that the judiciary of 2003 by its recent actions, especially in the adjudication of the cases brought by Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Ladoja of Oyo State and Governor Obi of Anambra State, the judiciary is establishing itself as an independent arm of government charged with the duty of interpreting the law. It is discharging this responsibility judiciously. 
Professor Lufadeju, an Agric Consultant, lives in Ibadan.

Published in Archive

Democracy in Nigeria @ ten although not a complete failure is still not out of the ICU-Intensive Care Unit. All the major and critical indicators of political transitions to a true democracy are still missing in the political landscape of Nigeria. Nigeria is like a sick child that has the attention and care of a specialist doctor but continuously and stubbornly refuses to take the prescribed medications that will see her out of the intensive care unit.

It is disheartening that Nigeria with so much capital and human resources knows the right things to do but for some personal and selfish reasons of a few elites (bigmen) have refused to implement any positive recommendations that will move her into the league of democratic nations. This elitist few for some selfish reasons and personal gains continue to refuse to carry the masses with them. That is the reason that majority of Nigerians if asked today will judge this democracy after ten years as a failed experiment because there has been virtually no positive impact in the lives of most Nigerians as only the few Elites continue to live in opulence due to corrupt practices while leaving many in abject poverty in the land of so much wealth.

Politicians continue with impunity to divert funds marked for infrastructural development into their personal accounts while many ordinary Nigerians still go to bed hungry and without clean water or electricity despite the enormous income generated from crude oil.

Nigeria after 10 years of democracy still cannot boast of a successful local government election devoid of electoral frauds such as stealing of ballot boxes and bribing electoral officers of the electoral body entrusted to conduct elections in Nigeria (INEC) while a Small country and a neighbor like Ghana has successfully conducted a national election with very minimal or zero bloodshed, also judged as free and fair by observers from all over the world.

Nigeria continues to deceive the whole world that she is fighting a war with a pervasive corrupt system that is riddled with massive corrupt practices in all facets of Government but refuses to show any credible casualties…the world knows that you cannot fight a war such as corruption in Nigeria without casualties on the ground to show. The fight of corruption has become a joke and revolving door for the very rich and powerful where many are arrested in the glare of the media and cameras only to be released through the back door to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth which they fail to realize is the sweat of the people of Nigeria!.

Almost fifty years after independence Nigeria is still fighting a war in the creeks of the Niger Delta where the black gold that sustains her gushes from. All the citizens of the land in the Delta are asking for is a fair share of the resources found on their land and control of pollution of the waters so that they can at least sustain their pre-oil way of life- which is fishing. They lack basic amenities such as roads, water, electricity, health care and schools. It is like the case of a child that cries all night thereby making it impossible for the parents to sleep. The parents know that if they feed the child and probably change the diapers the child may then be rocked to sleep thus allowing the parents a restful and blissful night of rest. Successive Nigerian Governments have had the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past but have stubbornly refused to do so hoping and wishing that, like many things in Nigeria, this will go away on its own. They have failed to see this simple logic and have decided to bomb these citizens to oblivion with their “mighty military”!!

Nigeria must realize that no amount of hollow effort to rebrand Nigeria will change the negative perception of the world on Nigeria until Nigeria begins to do right and live to its true position in the comity of Nations. Nigeria for too long has been bestowed with all the required ingredients that make a great Nation. Until all that potential is harnessed and properly harvested Nigeria will continue to be a “Big Boy” walking around in undersized shoes. It could get very painful. Nigeria’s potential remains nothing but potential until it is converted to energy or useable resources. In A SIMPLE analogy it is like uncooked meat in the freezer until it is seasoned and cooked it just uncooked meat with no nutritional value for man or woman—that is the true story of Nigeria.

The world is really disappointed on Nigeria, especially the black nations of the world who had hoped that Nigeria, being the world most popular black nation will be their shining light on the top of the hill like America is to the whole world. Nigeria continues to tell these nations to look elsewhere as they are not quite ready to take the position as the giant of Africa which may be a misnomer for Nigeria so far.

Although all is not lost as Nigeria is still blessed with abundant human capital and natural resources that if properly harnessed will make Nigeria the envy of the world. Majority of Nigeria’s ever ready human capital still  reside in the fertile laboratories scattered all over the world waiting in the wings to help Nigeria sour like the eagle which she truly can become when called upon.      This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Published in Vincent Ogboi
Thursday, 24 June 2010 20:58

NIGERIA ON THE MATCH FOR DEMOCRACY

Democracy is for the living and as a vital organic part of a social system; it should only be quantified through growth as it relates to the involvement of the people of a nation in making policy decisions or in electing their representatives in a free and fair electoral system.  Democracy as a government of the masses could be a mere usage of word to fulfill political righteousness by the ruling class or a practical application of socio-political philosophy that promotes fairness in a civil society.

Therefore, democracy can only be alive when it is practiced with the involvement of the masses, respect of the power of the people, and with due recognition of their desire. Democracy is silenced and killed when the people’s wishes are forsaken or their consent never sought in the governing of their nation. However, a people on a start to grasp and put democracy in motion could be said to be on a match. Nigeria’s democracy is still at a juvenile stage as this most populous African nation, and OPEC 6th top producer of oil thrives in her 10th year as a democratic nation. At the age of ten, a child is undergoing growth and developmental processes. The child is not mature enough to be judged strictly on the strength and content of his decisions. Likewise, Nigeria’s democracy at this stage is on a developmental phase and a work in progress.

Democracy did not come to the nation of Nigeria on a platter of gold. Right from the vagaries of struggle that proceeded Nigeria’s attainment of independence in October 1, 1960 and the various autocratic military regimes that ruled the nation, the journey to be initiated into the league of democratic nations have been a mix of pain and hope.  Pain in the sense  that the people of Nigeria have through turmoil under many regimes that ruled that nation and have not fully began to reap the harvest of democracy. And it is a blend of hope by every stretch of imagination because Nigerians are hanging in there believing strongly that the wind of change is on the way to ensure total transformation of the nation’s political landscape to a land of freedom, equal opportunities and where power should belong to the people. Figuratively speaking, Nigerians are holding the tail of the cow, instead of allowing the cow to run away in its entirety.

Democracy in its true form should be government of the people, by the people for the people. This means that the people have the right to choose, to annul and revoke any power. Contrary to the real meaning of true democracy, in Nigeria power has been hijacked by the few nouveau riche who use the wealth of the nation to deprive the masses of their political right, intimidate and silence them. However, as Nigeria’s political metamorphosis is going on there are visible signs of change and transformations in the electoral system of this frontline African nation of 130 million people. These visible changes  was orchestrated by the Nigerian Judiciary  which picked up strength; became more independent in rendering its functions of  interpreting the constitution, turning to the golden temple of justice and the hope of the common man. The nation’s judiciary was able to handle many election cases without fear of favor to the chagrin and joy of the people of Nigeria and the international community. Elections that were found fraudulent and questionable which were challenged before the nation’s judiciary saw many of the mighty falling and loosing their political hold on power. The new life that manifested in Nigeria’s judiciary was the beacon of hope for the emergence of a viable democracy. This single act of bravery by the judiciary built up a good level of national confidence.

Although the regime of Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria besmeared the transparency of democracy, showcased an epic of political witch – hunting, and built-up a massive range of corruption among the ruling class, however, kudos should be given to some members of the National Assembly and those executives who with the rallying support of the masses ensured the survival of the nation’s democratic trend by opposing Obasanjo’s inordinate ambition for a third term. It was a shocking aberration that Obasanjo – the man who received the baton of democracy without a drop of sweat was the one who the devil wanted to use to put Nigeria’s democracy in topsy turvy.

Nigeria’s democracy must not have attained the height and sophistication obtainable in the western world for diverse reasons. The sophistication and quality of operational democracy in the west could be attributed to its level of political development as a result of the good foundations led by their founding fathers. For example, the foundation of United States was led by a people who were determined to be free and live together for a common motive. And it was on the same premise that the founding fathers   constructed the constitution of United States on the platform that those things that motivated the people to live together, for example, freedom and equality should also be their guiding principle.  Nigeria is a case of a multi- tribal group with diversified interest that is now learning how to become a nation. The concept of Nigeria as a nation was forced upon the people by Britain who was her colonial master. Now, Nigerians are beginning to accept and understand the reality of working together to live as a nation. In  the same vein they are striving to comprehend the modus operandi of a true democracy.

Political development goes parri passua with quality education. The level of literacy in Nigeria is still a far cry from what it is in the western world. Nigeria may have crop of reputable professionals in all corners of the globe, but a total percentage of its human capital like most Sub-Saharan African nations is still a far cry from what is obtainable in developed nations. Therefore, the high population of uneducated voters in Nigeria is another acute barrier to her political development.

It is not a hidden fact that lack of innovative, transparent and service-oriented leadership has always been a cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s democratic progress.  While leadership should be blamed as one of the reasons of the stymied growth of democracy in this nation, the people of Nigeria should also be awakened to the consciousness that all hands should be on deck for the survival and acceleration of quality democracy in their country. Like Hillary Clinton said in her popular usage of an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. It will take the total commitment and sacrifice of the people of Nigeria to give democracy uplift and for her to occupy an enviable position among the league of democratic nations.                                                                                                                Sunny Oputa is senior fellow and political analyst at Afripol. He is also the publisher/CEO of Energy & Corporate Africa www.energycoporateafrica.com. He could be reached at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


 

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