The concept “Democracy” has variations of meanings, ranging from Electoral process, to a liberal democratic system subject to its operational pattern of a given society.
Conceptualizations of the concept democracy with the upholding events here and there remain problematic. Although there are variants forms of definition of the concept as viewed by various schools of thought, simply because democracy as perceived in the west may not necessarily have the same perception in the Eastern World. Just as the Russian President in his reaction to Western critiques on the Russian conduct of election that “if the international system have found a wrong doing is another thing but, the issue of Russian political system is non of their business” (Euro News hourly 7th, 12 2011). This is quite true as the world is composed of variations of cultures and religion, thus the way democracy is practiced in United Kingdom may not necessarily be the same in Iran, India or Malaysia. In the case of Nigeria, Democratic transition to the consolidation of Democracy has remained a myth, with a share-blamed on both the Electorates and the ruling elites. However, we set out to look at different perceptions of democracy both from the ideological and political point of view.
Democracy is about local people in an acceptable and coordinated effort looking after their day-to-day activities, and of their lives and resources, with established rules and regulations. While Obasanjo (in IDEA, 2001:4) look at democracy as a process and that elections are just an important event in that process. Buhari (1999) is of the view that democracy emerges through consensus as the choice of the people worldwide provided there would be a credible free and fair election. Although, according to him democracy is full of shortcomings, yet it remains the least evil of many forms of government (Adamu, 1999:260).
My own conception of democracy from the political angle has to do with the institutional strength for the establishments of a just stable political and a socio-economic society, while from the ideological point of view, democracy should be how the people of a given society agreed upon on how this institutions should operate. The basic idea of democracy should be based on popular consensus as such; the system or procedural pattern of governance in a given state does not necessarily have to be the same as in another. This is purely due to ideological, cultural and possibly religious differences and even variation in economic capability and class differences of the various nations.
However, the most common and acceptable form of democracy world over is the Liberal type of Democracy. The idea of liberal democracy seems to suggest that democracy being the end of history (Fukuyama, 1993) has been achieved in current pioneer Liberal societies. However, it can be argued that the liberal societies of today are still democratizing. In essence this form of democracy is becoming hard to achieve among many of the bottom billion societies like Nigeria including the many acclaimed practicing democratic state, and if I may argue, the term Liberal democracy is only applicable to the comforting democracy of the Western World, as many scholars have argued that for democracy to be liberal, it has to attain some minimal decimal standard. Larry Diamond (2008:23) for example refuse to accept democracy in states like Iran calling such societies illiberal, forgetting the fact that democratic ethics in one country may not exactly be the same or even operate perfectly like the others, simply due to historical and cultural differences. Thus, democratic operational process in United State does not necessarily have to be the same with that of Islamic Republic of Iran or Nigeria. However, the most important aspect of democracy to be given due consideration and to be referred as Liberal is the level or degree of consensus.
This liberal representative democracy which is achieved through credible, free and fair elections and which in turn brings about accountability and good governance, remains problematic to many nations states. In Nigeria, the very process that qualifies an electoral democracy and liberal democracy has remained a myth, right from independence to date Because, the main soul and characteristic qualifying a democracy i.e. Election are characterized by many shortcomings.
Election is the process of choosing individual and or groups of people to represent a larger population in managing the affairs of a given society, community or a nation, most commonly through voting. However, this process requires a given standard of acceptability in terms of credibility, freeness and fairness of the conduct because, for democracy to succeed these prerequisites are rightly considered as significant hallmark of a democratic system. And coincidentally election rigging has triggered the demise of Nigeria’s attempt to democracy since independence (Herskovits in foreign Affairs, 2007:15). In other words, a credibly free and fair election remains the main soul of a liberally representative democratic system, with a periodic process that allows citizens to review the contract of those to represent them or to replace them, usually through voting process. Thus, election is a central key to a democratic system.
Democratic process in Nigeria since independence has witnessed many obstacles with no sincere effort by the dominant faction of the ruling elites and the so-call promoters (Western World) of democracy to ensuring a successful established democracy, not only in Nigeria, but across the globe among many bottom billions trying to reach a stage of democratic maturity. In the case of Nigeria, few among the many constraints are variation of interest associated with the struggle to gain political and economic power through ethno-religious and cultural differences. These have resulted in generating an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and thereby creating system despair in the mind of many as to the true essence of democracy. This has been the case because since independence and after the civil war, the country has never witnessed the spate of violence that it is witnessing now since the return to democracy and of ‘Democratization Process’ from 1999 to date. Touts who make up the majority in the nation affairs were virtually hijacked the system. Oppenheimer (2012:1) described this kind of democracy as rife with stories of inept, corrupts, unqualified, or just plain bizarre politicians.
Nigeria’s democratization process has cost the country so much in terms of material and human life. The system is very expensive that virtually more than 70% of the nation economy is been wasted on servicing the few ruling elites with corruption almost crippling the entire political process and system of the country. The fight and struggle for political authority has generated violent conflicts leading to loses of lives and property beyond estimation, creating enmity across religious and ethnic lines with many ethnic nationalities clamoring for secession. The June 12th, crisis of 1993 was a case in point that almost returned Nigeria to the levels of 1966 and 1967 crises. Yet the dominant elite and their followers have no scruples as the nation almost slides severally on the precipice.
The major obstacles hampering Nigeria’s democratic processes and political stability, is basically a problem of the nations electoral system. The country has never witnessed a credible, free and fair election, which remains the main soul of a democratic system. However, various literatures have relate electoral irregularities and the Nigerian malfunctioning democracy to the nationality question, a minor but very important part of the national question involving elites interest, religious and ethnic sentiments, while others look at it from the struggle for political authority and competition for the accumulation of wealth. It has never been taken from the position of the national question, which is developmental beyond ethnic question. However, the issue of electoral irregularities and Nigeria’s democratic failures has not been impressively problematize let alone juxtaposed within the historicity of issues as it relates to the failure of democracy and threat to the nations corporate existence and national security.
Since the return to civil rule in 1999, subsequent elections rating have been in decline with a possible rating of 2007-2011 as the most expensive and worst election ever conducted. While the late Yar’adua admitted a (high) degree of fraud in an election that brought him to power in 2007, even Morris Iwu the Chairman of the electoral body in the 2007 General elections, doubted the credibility of the 2011 general elections. An election that cost the nations treasury over 100 billion in Naira as demanded by the electoral body yielded relatively nothing to be impressed about other than the cost in loses of thousands of lives and billions of properties worth in naira in the post election violence that follows. The election was characterized by many shortcomings among which are involvement of electoral officials, ad-hoc staffs, and security agents in favor of either the status quo or the highest bidder. The voting pattern was itself across the religious, ethnic and sectional divide as reported by some local medias and political analysts. Subsequent re-elections in states of Kogi, Adamawa and Kebbi spelled the inability of the EMB in conducting credibly transparent election in Nigeria. There is also a clear absence of internal democracy in party politics across all the political parties, as primaries and selection of aspirants were not done on the basis of party constitutions and democratic ideal. Thus hindering the major steps to a successful democratic system.
Ideally, Democracy is about peaceful coexistence among the people of the various societies, but in the case of Nigeria Democracy is nothing but “war in peace” a terminology that best explain Nigeria’s democratic reality because, since the return of civilian rule the country has witness more violence and killings worst than the civil war. And unless we change our mindset for the better, Nigeria will remain with the characteristic of the dark ages.
In essence, democratization (world over) is in serious dilemma facing major difficulties and various challenges with a great deal of disappointments despite all promises for the earlier anticipation toward bringing about peace and stability as against other systems of governance.
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