by Atiku Nafisa Emmanuela
Democracy as a concept is not unchanging neither is it immutable. It’s fragility is dependent on the society in which it is developed in. it is notable to point out that, strong democracies take time, strong institutions and effort to build; but can be compromised in a second. See for instance the 2016 United States presidential elections wherein it was stated that Russia interfered with the election results. This has led to less confidence in the electoral system of America by its citizens.
With the advent of our first democratic election in 1999, it paved way for a reprieve from the oppressive military government, which had stifled our development as a nation and it transitioned us to a more transparent, accountable and expressive system of government. It was therefore reliant on our newly elected officials to play by the rules and deliver to us a government we deserve.
The present Nigerian democracy can best be described as one of the most fragile and undeveloped democracies that exist in the world. It is at its best description, ‘primal’ in nature. It is continually characterized by the themes of religion and tribal sentiments as against the principles upon which it was founded upon such as political equality, inclusiveness, and most importantly individual freedom which can be equated to human rights. For it to be sustainable; that is able to produce satisfactory long-term positive results in the society; two prominent factors are indispensable. They are; “Transparency” and “Participation.” Transparency refers to an electoral system in which the process is free, fair, and not hindered or affected by third party intruders, or not open to malicious intervention. Participation refers to inclusiveness and more citizens partaking in the art of governance in their country. When there is reduced participation, the quality of policy and political decisions decline. The nature of democracy depicts that it is the popular vote that wins. In other words, the majority always carries the vote. When there is reduced participation, it slowly metamorphoses into an Oligarchic government with a few people speaking for the welfare of many. Participation is cardinal to democracy, and must be sustained at all costs. Transparency and participation work hand in hand to produce a sustainable democratic system and when the process is transparent, more people are motivated to participate. None can do without the other.
The question we must then ask ourselves is how do we get our system of government to be more inclusive and transparent? Let us examine one of the most prominent engines for social change within the political sphere; political parties. In Great Britain, financial accounts and their accounting units are published by the Electoral Commission. Many may argue about such a novelty in our system but legal control and access to information about party finances would be a welcome development since their operations are to an increasing extent financed by public appropriation. It would make the system transparent by showing exactly who is donating what and in a sense curbing corruption from public officials who then divert the wealth of the nation into the coffers of their parties for their various activities. When these parties know they are accountable, then they would do better.
Information technology has a very pivotal role to play in making policy decisions accessible to all thereby entrenching the principle of political equality. This can work in two ways, by giving the public access to several government information such as budget figures and their appropriations.
A vibrant civil society is also an indispensable factor in encouraging inclusiveness and participation. Through the persistent efforts of the civil society on issues such as civic education, youth inclusiveness in the political terrain and budget transparency, progressive policies are continually made in such areas; a case in point is “The Not Too Young To Run Bill.” These hubs serve as the groups, which protect the institutions and values of society, they keep the government on its toes to perform its own side of the social contract it signed with its citizens. It could also be referred to as “Service Democracy”
The truth is, if we continue functioning with this faulty system of democracy, we deny ourselves quality and more accountable leadership in the nation. The time has come for a change and we must push for it at the 2019 elections if we truly want to cause a systematic change which would result in a more evolved system of democracy which can respond to the needs of an extremely dynamic society.