I have been especially concerned with tracking democracy’s advances and setbacks around the world and in the course of this I decided to beam my searchlights on Nigeria my homeland since the return to civil democratic rule in 1999. It is, however, surprising that criminals who overthrew civilian governments and dissolved democratic structures in our part of the globe often come back to parade themselves as ‘democrats’ vying for elective posts and sometimes aspire to occupy the highest office in the land. Tracing the viewpoints and opinions expressed over the years suggests how evaluations of and sentiments about the state of democracy have evolved since 1999 in Nigeria.
For starters, as democracy experiences a remarkable world-wide resurgence with the Africa’s biggest economy getting deeply involved in the past 15 years, the question is: have we lagged behind other democracies around the world in political ideas and organization? This is one question that agitates me terribly. It stands to reason that anything goes in Nigeria, criminals are celebrated even the ones that have committed crimes that attract capital forfeit. What is the rationale behind Buhari’s comeback this time in civilian garb to contest the highest office in the land when he ought to have stood trial for sacking a civilian regime sometimes in 1983 via coup de tat that had our sovereign wishes annulled and eventually bastardized? He went scot free without being called upon to answer for his culpable misdeeds.
In the USA, for instance, ex-servicemen often vie for elective posts. This is normal and such men are often praised for their firm resolve to serve their country in different capacities. They did not commit this crime for which the writer calls for Buhari’s immediate arrest and criminal prosecution. These are men who mean well for their country, but the reverse is the case in ours. To mastermind or take part in a violent, sudden and illegal seizure of power from an elected government is a serious crime and in most cases it is a crime that carries the death penalty and this was a crime Buhari committed on December 31, 1983 for which he ought to have stood trial and possibly sent to the guillotine had that coup de tat failed. Mamman Vatsa committed a similar crime that cost his life under the erstwhile dictator Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Could that violent seizure that took place at the tail end of 1983 not qualify as a capital crime in a country that democracy has gained enormous ground with respect to international legitimacy? Our democracy is over fifteen years old today and that is quite a number!
Nigerians must awake themselves to the fact that multilateral organizations are increasingly endorsing democratic principles, and a whole new field of international democracy assistance has emerged. Our tone have grown far more downbeat, and what this writer sees here is none other than a darkening mood among supporters of democracy. Democracy-building must be tenaciously guarded against eventual descent to authoritarianism which Mr. Buhari represents. Ay, he could never be a democrat, not by any stretch of the imagination!
However, I feel compelled to confront head-on the question of whether democracy is in decline in Nigeria. Is Nigeria among the world liberal democracies? What is the situation like with respect to such liberal-democratic features as freedom of the press, rule of law, free and fair elections, and the like? Buhari and his cabal are on the verge of repeating what he did in 1983 in collaboration with a tiny cabal following an ill-conceived plan to hijack political power yet again. 2015 presidential election, an election that is yet to take place is being rigged by massive disenfranchisement of more than 12 million voters who are yet to collect their Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) in President Jonathan’s stronghold in favour of Mr. Buhari whereas in latter’s’s stronghold virtually everyone including the under-aged have been issued PVC – a calculated attempt to edge out President Jonathan in this contest? This, if I dare say, is tantamount to high treason.
Iyoha John Darlington, aka Lington Donovan, a social activist, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.