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Democracy Without Democrats

It is only in Nigeria that some characters are making the mad magic of believing that there can ever be democracy without the presence of democrats. It does appear that the Army Generals and their allies who gave birth to civil rule in Nigeria are quite desperate to eviscerate the normal rule of law that ought to be the hallmark of a true democracy. Nobody, no matter how highly placed, should be allowed the impunity of suborning the due process. The current issue of President Muhammadu Buhari running a one-man democracy, a sort of sole administrator of civil rule takes the cake. It is even celebrated in certain quarters that the newly-minted president in a democracy is snubbing the leaders of the parliament. It has to be stressed that the only difference between military rule and democracy is the presence of the legislative arm. After every coup, what the military sacks is the parliament. Now the parliament is nowhere to be found. Of course this serves the intents and purposes of the authors of democracy without democrats.

There are some commentators who aver that attention should be paid to pressing issues in the country such as corruption instead of wasting time on insisting on the proper conduct of democracy. For me, the crucial issue is that there can be no greater corruption than the compromising of democracy. The ground rules of democracy ought to be in place for this country to ever crow in the comity of nations about being democratic.

The sad matter is that our Generals are exempt from the rules of mere mortals, and we claim to be practicing democracy. It’s an act of shamelessness to break the rules simply because one is beholden to the sacred cow syndrome that is known as the Nigerian Factor. There appears to be no endfrom a very dark tunnel. It did not of course start with Buhari. When General Ibrahim Babangida and his fellow arrangers in the military decided to draft General Olusegun Obasanjo into the presidential contest at the inception of civil rule in 1999, all the ground rules were broken with impunity so as to have their way. The drive obviously was to ensure that no law should stand in the way of Obasanjo becoming the president. In the Democracy of Generals, impunity is law.

Let’s take some words from former Vice-President Dr Alex Ekwueme: “If I am a troublemaker, Obasanjo would not have been civilian President because that Jos convention where he was elected, after the returning officer announced the results, I had in my pocket a copy of the NEC decision of November 1998 showing that to qualify you must win your local government. All I needed to say after the candidates’ result was announced is ‘I’m sorry, this election which we just finished there is supposed to be seven candidates but in fact only six, the person whom you said had won is not a candidate and cannot be because the NEC has taken a decision and only a convention can change that decision and no convention has been called to change that decision, so I expect that of the six candidates left, Don Etiebet, Francis Ola, Philip Asiodu, Jim Nwobodo, myself and Douglas, of these candidates left I scored the highest votes; so I expect the party to forward my name to INEC as the candidate of the party and Secretary of the party then was Dr. Okwy Nwodo and the constitution which the party was operating at that time for the administration of the party, the secretary of the party is the chief executive of the party, the chairman was just like the chairman of a board of a company.

“It was later that we changed it and made the chairman chief executive of the party. And if I had done that, Nwodo would have been bound to forward my name to INEC. And Solomon Lar who was instrumental in Obasanjo running in the first place by asking the screening committee to give him provisional clearance, which was never substantive before the election, would have forwarded Obasanjo’s name to INEC, so PDP, which was a frontline party would have had two candidates and there might have been crisis and the military might have postponed exit for us to resolve.”

The attitude of the military to our democracy can be decoded from General TY Danjuma’s statement that he would go into exile if Obasanjo was defeated in the 1999 contest! Curiously, when Obasanjo undertook his Third Term plot to perpetuate his tenancy as Nigeria’s democratic president, the selfsame General Danjuma thundered: “We did not fight the Nigerian Civil War for one man!” Talk of Nigeria’s democratic presidency as war booty… Of course we do get to learn every day. The “Army Arrangement” which ace musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang about is still very much in place even as the country claims to be in the groove of democracy. It conduces to the phantasmagoria known as democracy without democrats.

At the rate we are going, the so-called democracy without democrats may someday for sure be jolted by the like of the following damning words of Oliver Cromwell that sacked the Rump Parliament of England on April 20, 1653: “It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice. Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. “Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do. I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble (mace) there, and lock up the doors. “In the name of God, go!”

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