Nigeria is at the Precipice of Authoritarianism – Okpe Union President General, Prof Igho Natufe

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...lists ways to good leadership

 

 …backs calls for national conference, new Constitution for Nigeria.

 

CBN

….says attempt to impose unitary socio-political structure can lead to disintegrative tendencies

 

…wants Nigeria to undertake a proper judicial reform, including its electoral process and pluralism.

 

….condemns practice of President and state Governors “gifting” vehicles to justices and judges

 

The President General, Okpe Union Worldwide, Prof Igho Natufe, on Wednesday took a hard look at democracy in Nigeria and concluded that Nigeria is at the precipice of authoritarianism as it is struggling to maintain its hybrid regime status in the global Democracy Index.

 

‘’As we venerate the 31st anniversary of June 12, 1993, and the 25th anniversary of the return to civilian government, let us remind ourselves that we are very far from attaining democracy in Nigeria. Nigeria is at the precipice of authoritarianism as it is struggling to maintain its hybrid regime status in the global Democracy Index’’

 

In a paper titled: The Problematic of Democracy and Governance in Nigeria, Natufe called on Nigerians to organize and demand for good governance, accountability and transparency from their political and traditional leaders.

 

‘’Elected representatives have proved incapable of articulating and protecting the interests of their respective constituencies as the so-called dividends of democracy elude citizens across Nigeria. Section 14 (2) (b) of Chapter ll of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which declares that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government” is a worthless declaration’’.

 

He also called for a national conference of indigenous nationalities to discuss and agree on a new Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

‘’For Nigerians, especially the indigenous ethnic nationalities, including the Okpe, the “fundamental features of a democracy”, as argued by the EIU, must “include government based on majority rule and the consent of the governed, the existence of free and fair elections, the protection of minority rights, and respect for basic human rights. We propose a Bill of Rights and Freedoms for Nigeria’s Indigenous Ethnic Nationalities, recognizing and guaranteeing their inalienable sovereignty over their respective territories, free from the imposition of the norms, values and customs of other ethnic nationalities’’.

 

The renowned political scientist expressed shock at the attempt to impose a unitary socio-cultural structure in Nigeria.

 

‘’It is vital to remember that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic country and that any attempt to impose a unitary socio-political structure will be counter-productive and can lead to disintegrative tendencies with severe consequences’’.

 

Natufe, an expert in foreign policy, dismissed the perception in several countries that the periodic holding of elections demonstrates the democratic constructs of their polities.

 

‘’This perception is being peddled, primarily, by the political leaders of respective African countries, including Nigeria. In their view, election by itself is equivalent to democracy, notwithstanding the flawed electoral processes. The history of post-colonial Africa is underlined by the struggle for democracy vis-à-vis the policies of the political leadership of African regimes across the continent, regardless of the series of elections. This is because the electoral process is riddled with anti-democratic practices that expose the hollowness of these elections’’.

 

The Okpe Union President General scolded those perceived to have been involved in the cancellation of the June 12 Presidential Election.

 

‘’Exactly 31 years ago today, on June 12, 1993, Nigerians went to the polls to elect their president in an election which was adjudged to be the best ever free and fair election conducted in Nigeria. The military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, under whose watch the unprecedentedly epoch-making elections took place, elected to annul the elections acting on the advice of his co-regime politico-military regulators who felt threatened by the democratic credentials of the presumed winner of the elections, Chief MKO Abiola. The Stalinist dictum of “who will count the votes, and how” was on public display. Thus, instead of engraving his name and that of his military regime in gold, General Babangida ushered in a dark period of military dictatorship in the annals of Nigerian History, as exemplified by the reign of military dictator General Sani Abacha from 1993 – 1998. Abiola was arrested for declaring himself the winner and subsequently died in prison, under mysterious circumstances. On June 6, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired General, declared June 12 to be the new Democracy Day, replacing May 29 which had been celebrated as Democracy Day since May 29, 1999. This was in commemoration of the election of MKO Abiola on June 12, 1993’’.

 

The author of several scientific research extolled the winner of the June 12 Presidential Election for his impact on Nigerian politics.

 

‘’Okpe Union joins fellow Nigerians around the globe in “celebrating” Democracy Day, today June 12, 2024, in remembrance of the electoral victory of MKO Abiola 31 years ago, and for subsequently paying the ultimate price’’.

 

He listed government based on majority rule and the consent of the governed, existence of free and fair elections, protection of minority rights respect for basic human rights, equality before the law, due process and political pluralism as the fundamental features of a democracy.

 

‘’But what is democracy? Every regime claims it is a democracy. Even the exponents of white racist apartheid regime of South Africa considered their regime a democracy. The United Kingdom was also a democracy when only propertied white men had the rights to vote. Similarly, the United States viewed itself a beacon of democracy when its women and Black citizens were denied the right to vote for almost two centuries. Is the right to vote a definitive measurement of democracy? From time immemorial, philosophers, academics, and politicians have grappled with the concept of democracy. As a collection of ideas on the values and customs of respective polities, there are contending views on the concept of democracy. Thus, the values and customs of each society can be said to determine its democratic construct. Expressed differently, the political party in power determines the form and content of democracy to protect given interests, whether class, religious, or ethnic’’.

 

The specialist in international relations and Soviet/Russian Foreign Policy described Nigerian politics as war with bloodshed.

 

‘’Mao Zedong once declared that: “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed”, but he never knew that in Nigeria, politics is war with bloodshed, a phenomenon which gravely compromises democratic discourse’’.

 

He declared: ‘’It is instructive to note that only 7% of Africans residing in 17% of African countries are living in Free societies, and 43% residing in 37% of African countries, including Nigeria, are living in Partly Free societies, while 50% Africans living in 46% of African countries are in Not Free societies.

 

The Nigerian-born Sovietologist said it was unfortunate that Nigeria allowed itself to get into the ugly situation that culminated in the weaponization of poverty.

 

‘’While the measures employed by both the EIU and Freedom House focus on the political angle of the struggle for power and influence, it is noteworthy that they neglect the economic aspect of the struggle. The party that captures political power invariably determines the economic constructs of the polity, as evident in the weaponization of poverty in several countries, including Nigeria’’.

 

Natufe underscored full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

 

He also classified countries based on Electoral process and pluralism; Political culture; Political participation; Functioning of government; and Civil liberties.

 

‘’Nigerian political leaders have subscribed to the doctrine of these Western elites in their conceptualization of democracy, in the words of Mill, as “a government of privilege, to the complete disfranchisement of minorities”.

 

The eminent scholar called for a proper judicial reform.

 

‘’The history of electioneering and elections in Nigeria is a battle to determine “who will count the votes, and how”. Contending party functionaries conceive of strategies to manipulate the election results by empowering their respective thugs to “grab, seize and run” with ballot boxes, and to conscript security officers and members of the electoral commission to compromise the integrity of the elections. In pre and post elections, a pluralist is considered an “enemy” of the state, and therefore he/she is exiled from the public space. The inability to tolerate divergent views in a democracy weakens social discourse and nation building in the polity. To improve its standing under this category in the Democracy Index, there is need for Nigeria to undertake a proper judicial reform, including its electoral process and pluralism. Regarding judicial reform, it is imperative to accord the Judiciary complete autonomy and not being treated as an appendage of the Executive. The three arms of government must be seen to be independent. The practice of the President and state governor gifting vehicles to justices and judges MUST stop, as it reminds us that he who pays the piper dictates the tunes of the music’’.

 

 

 

He charged the government to democratize the hierarchical constructs inherent in traditional institutions to make them to fit the demands of a modern republican polity.

 

 

 

‘’The content of political culture is informed by hierarchical or egalitarian values and beliefs prevalent in a polity. The former restricts the boundaries of free thinking while the latter espouses social equality. The pre-eminence of the former has a negative effect on the development of egalitarianism in the society. There is need to democratize the hierarchical constructs inherent in traditional institutions to make them to fit the demands of a modern republican polity’’.

 

 

 

The former university professor of political science, University of Ghana, and the University of Benin listed ways to good governance.

 

 

 

‘’First, the constitution of a political party in a federal system must be federalism compliant. That is to say, it is incongruous for a monolithic political structure to govern a federal system. Second, the principles of a free, fair and credible election must be adhered to and practised by party leaders at all levels. The practice of a governor, for instance, imposing candidates for elections in his state is hardly a way to encourage political participation in that party or state. In short, it is an assault on democracy. Third, citizens must actively participate in the political process, by demanding transparency and accountability from their elected/appointed representatives; and stop being sycophants of their representatives and political leaders’’.

 

 

 

 

He decried the enthronement of corruption as Nigeria’s national culture by political leaders across the country.

 

 

 

‘’This score is reflective of the poor governance at all levels in Nigeria, from the presidency to the office messenger in a local government office. Corruption has been enthroned as Nigeria’s national culture by political leaders across the country. In several states in Northern Nigeria, bandits have become parallel governments in those states. The inability of successive governments to provide basic amenities, for example, 24/7 electricity, good roads, healthcare, living wage, etc., is a major contributor to poor governance in Nigeria’’.

 

A former senior advisor to the Government of Canada, Natufe described the call for the federal government to create local government councils and dictate their functions.

 

 

 

‘’The ubiquitous jurisdictional tussles in the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution hamper the smooth functioning government. This is evident in the status of a local government in a federal political system. In our view, the federal government lacks the jurisdiction to create local government councils and dictate their functions. We endorse the view of the Movement for National Reform (MNR) expressed in its Memorandum to the House of Representatives Constitution Review Committee that “Provisions about Local Government, and Local Government autonomy should be yanked off the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to enable the States create their own internal administrative structures and systems”. Each federating unit (a state or a region) is to determine the number of administrative districts or local government councils its resources can afford’’.

 

 

 

He stressed on the amounts being paid to Senators in the 10th National Assembly.

 

 

 

‘’It buttresses the sad reality of Mill’s lamentable concept of democracy as “a government of privilege to the complete disfranchisement of minorities” on whose behalf they speak in the Senate. For example, what “hardship” does a Senator face in Abuja that warrants him/her to collect 50% of his/her monthly basis salary? What is the difference between “recess allowance” and “leave allowance”? Multiply these monthly allowances by 109 Senators and corresponding figures by 360 members of the House of Representatives, plus the number of SUVs that the impoverished taxpayers have to bear to sustain the exploitative tastes of our so-called “distinguished” and “honourable” members of the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. This wasteful expenditure is replicated at the states and local government councils across Nigeria. Recently, very recently, a state governor purchased vehicles for all members representing his state in the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is preposterous for the federal and state governments to say they cannot pay a living wage to Nigerian workers, while billions of Naira are provided monthly as allowances to the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors and legislators. This is clearly a despicable way to demonstrate leadership by a reckless use of public funds’’

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