10 Years of "Democracy" in Nigeria



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The democracy as I have been taught, as I have been opportune to see being practice universally and as backed by plethora of judicial authorities is the complete application of rule of law and human rights is any given society.

I decided to simplify the meaning of democracy because Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy at Gettysburg of “government of the people, by the people, and, for the people has for ages became obsolete, academics and of no use, as the first question that will throw this Lincoln definition into literary dustbin is which people? Is it the coup plotters parading themselves as born again politician and representatives of the people, or the rag tag militants and kidnappers, fraudulent businessmen and cultists? Who now go about with appellation of born again democrat and the 419 and corrupt government official that use ill gotten money to buy votes and bribe officials? Who are the people?

Nigeria can only have democracy when the fundamentals and variables of what makes up democracy are available and regrettably we don’t have such in Nigeria. Rule of Law is far cry in my country irrespective of the fact that President Yar’Ádua makes it his every minutes homily. And what did you expect in a country where there is not constitution.

For more than 5years now the court is yet to pronounce on the legality or otherwise of the Decree 24 of 1999 Constitution despite the fact that 9 learned counsel and my humble self filed the case in court in 2004, the case is presently in Court of Appeal, Abuja.

Although, we may be wishfully and pathetically pretending that we are celebrating 10th year Anniversary of democracy in Nigeria, the question that I am sure that will be agitating our minds is, is Nigeria being run under complete operation of Rule of Law and human rights.

Ten years ago some cabal imposed on us a decree and termed it constitution and they completed the impurity by lying and spitting on our face that we, Nigerians gave ourselves a constitution, please check it is boldly written there in the very first paragraph of the same constitution, what an impudence to over 150 million people of this country and where lies the rule of law.

The world over a constitution comes from the people who make it for the purpose of practice by their government not as we have it in Nigeria where the government make constitution for the people as the government itself is not expected to be fully involved in the formulation of the original constitution which is presume to precede government, let alone approving, enacting and adopting it for the people.

As if these impurities were not enough, the National Assembly continues the macabre dance steps by gleefully preparing to amend or review the said constitution despite three failed attempt to amend the constitution under President Obasanjo’s government.

Let me use this medium to call on the National Assembly to despite the intentional and fundamental mistake of the origin of our constitution help the country and put Nigeria on right footing doing what the Congress of the United States did when the Congress lean of the flaws and abnormalities of the Confederal Constitution which was adopted in 1778.

Nigeria National Assembly can do this by not wasting a whole 1 Billion Naira in a venture that is bound to fail but make a law that enable Nigerians to give to themselves a Constitution as what legitimizes a Constitution is never its content but the procedure of bringing it about.

When we do this then we can now start talking about rule of law which is oppose to the rule of man whims and caprices as is been presently done, where the President can suddenly formulate policy for a whole country on his feet while answering a simple questions without following the law of the land, where international agreement can be jettisoned with colossal consequences, where government agencies and functionaries brazenly flouted laws and courts orders with no consequence.

Where the legislature can with impunity proposed and created own expenditure heads, projects in the Budget against the provision of Section 81 of the (Decree 24) 1999 Constitution. The lists are endless.

Looking at operation of human rights, can we say such thing exist in Nigeria, the very pointer to this can be picked from our election as human rights guarantee freedom of choice, did average Nigerian has any choice on who leads him, for the past 10 year Nigerians have seen highest degree of subversion of their will, the process of making individual and collective decision has been completely eroded and you want us to pretend that we are celebrating democracy, celebration is showing at happiness something, are we happy, in fact Nigerians are sad of their faith why should it be us. Maybe you should rephrase the question, because the past 10 years is a year of mourning of our unfortunate and inappropriate political system.

You can see, feel and hear celebration when there is one, recent electoral process in Ghana cannot be ignored, we are living witness to emergence of President Obama and what is happening in America’s polity, Jacob Zuma just took over the mantle of leadership in South Africa without rancor, we cannot but see a Democracy at work.

Any system that holds the people in contempt cannot be a democracy, any system that makes a leader to rule depending on the side of the bed he woke up from and whether he is happy with his wife or not cannot be democracy.

Any system that subverts justice is far from democracy and mind you, subversion of justice breeds civil disobedience, the offspring of which we are quick to termed militancy in Niger-Delta region of Nigeria.

The measure of how Nigeria has feared in the past 10 year under our so called 10 years of Democracy can be deduced from the decision of President Obama to visit Sudan and Ghana and living Nigeria, the giant of Africa, one time Heart of Africa and presently Good people, Great Country in the cold. How we have feared can also be seen in the ongoing arms struggle in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria which is occasioned as a result of fraudulent Decree 24 of 1999 rechristened 1999 Constitution.

The fraud that starts from the fraudulent partitioning of Africa by the British, French and the rest, it is fraud of the days of Sir Goldie and fraudulent charter that lead to the subversion of our wills, please remember the strategic killing of King Jaja of Opobo and other Nationalists and patriots.

Democracy in Nigeria strives on fraud, fraudulent constitution, fraudulent statutes, fraudulent governance, fraudulent fiscal policies, even fraudulent intelligent reports and military campaigns that the Speaker of the House of Representatives fraudulently called peace keeping operations.

All is fraud and it is the only tool used to enrich the few that hold our dear nation on ransom.

NIGERIA ELECTORAL PROCESS

Our electoral processes are not flawless, it is as a result of our Nigeria situation and the fraud I raised above, we also need to note some issue as there have been agitation to ensure a better and flawless electoral process but my fear is that this agitation has been reduced to personal issues and it is being erroneously targeted at only one individual that is the person of Maurice Iwu, as if his blood is what is needed to appease the god of credible election in Nigeria.

This is where I have problem with some respected minds in this country because great minds don’t personalize issue; however this is the order of the day.

Yes our elections leave much to be desire, yes, it is faulty, and yes it is barely credible but whose fault?

To some because of their veiled interest in the headship of the electoral agency, they wanted us to believe that the chairman of Nigeria Electoral agency is the cause but the true is that the same problems have been there time immemorial.

Please, I stand to be corrected, solution to our electoral process can only and only be found if we collectively identify the genuine problem.

I have studied and researched laws and election procedures of 12 democratic nations that include the United State, United Kingdom, France, South Africa, Ghana and even Russia, coupled with my knowledge of law, without fear of any contradiction from any quarters, there are four main active parts in the electoral process; first, the body of law and rules otherwise known as the system; second, the participants consisting of the political class, the electorate and the media; third, the election management body which not only comprise of INEC but the police and other security agencies and finally, the judiciary.

No matter what Prof Iwu and Electoral Management body do, if the other three parts of the process do not support the electoral management body, there is little it can achieve. It is dishonest to heap blames of the shortcomings of the electoral process on the Iwu when it is well known that the players in the scene do everything to undermine the process.

This country is in dire need of electoral reform, but this has no chance of happening if politicians now use the term to mask their agenda targeted at 2011.

Personalizing the issue of the electoral process and problems in Nigeria has not and will not be helpful. The INEC Chairman is not the chief returning officer in the states, the Ekiti State rerun election apparently brought this fact to the fore, the Resident Electoral Commissioners are. The commissioners and Prof. Iwu were commissioned by the President with clear terms of office.
How come nobody ever asks whether they stand by or repudiate the results in their various states in accordance to the electoral law?

The constitution and the electoral law are faulty and whose fault, I belong to the Austin school of thoughts and I will only have personal problem with Prof. Iwu or any other Nigerian government official if they flouted the law that constitute and regulate them.

We call for removal of some minister we they compromise their oath of office; our agitation against Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello came as a result of her alleged graft. The lists are endless when James Ibori allegedly used supplementary budget bills to siphoned over 1Billion US Dollars we were in Nigerian Federal High Court via Writ of mandamus to compel EFCC to prosecute the erstwhile governor, some of those sitting here this morning even join us in a court here in London to ensure that James Ibori have appointment with the law.

Again, let ask ourselves this question; what is the comparison between the 2007 elections and the local government elections held in the various states including those that term themselves progressives? What happen in Lagos state where my beloved and learned senior, Governor Raji Fashola, SAN holds sway? What happened in Shekarau’s Kano? What happened in Plateau State is still fresh in our minds. Governor Peter Obi is yet to get someone from Ghana to conduct the Anambra State Local Government election up till today few months to the expiration of his term of office.

What do we make of the situation where one man picks all the candidates in a whole state and tells those who do not accept his choice candidates to leave the party and go elsewhere?

That is why I said it sometime that if we compared the INEC conducted elections with the State conducted Local government election all of us will not know when we will take to street in agitation that that Prof. Iwu be bestowed with the highest National Honour.

What has INEC got to do with internal democracy in the political parties? How come non of the parties respects internal democracy within its fold? Who is to blame?

I am privileged to as counsel to argue ferociously against INEC and in some instance represented INEC at the just concluded Election Tribunals in Anambra, Enugu, Kano, Delta, Yobe and Ondo State, the successful challenge of election result by various contenders is made possible today because of the greater transparency and record in INEC.

Why was it not possible in the past for people to successfully plead their case with evidence at the tribunals? Is it not a fact that the Prof. Maurice Iwu led INEC has provided a better condition of elections to the extent that the transparency now helps those with case against a declared result to challenge the result?

Now let us imagine and agree that Prof. Iwu must go, who, did you know that will be appointed, we all refer to election in Ghana but we fail to point out the fact that Kwado Afari-Gyan has been head of Ghana Electoral Commission since the presidency days of Jerry Rawlings, if such thing happen in Nigeria we will have been shouting genocide and passing fatwa on whosoever is responsible.

ON ONGOING ARMS STRUGGLED IN NIGER-DELTA

Niger Delta crisis have continued to make headlines in both local and international media, the arms struggle, restiveness and anxiety occasioned are unfortunate as these put Nigeria in bad light coupled with the sharp drop in the production of oil and revenue accruable to the Country.

But we need to tell ourselves simple truth; how come we find ourselves in this cul de sac, Nigeria is not the only oil producing country and how come the oil is turning to major source of our problems, as there is related peace in other oil producing countries. See what United Arab Emirate is doing, did you see or hear of any militants holding the country to ransom?

The answer to Niger Delta problem can be found in taking recourse to history, it dated back to the pre-colonial era that is, with Sir Goldie and Royal charter to UAC in 1886, many things have gone wrong in this country. It has been long force of arms in one form and other has been used to suppress not only people’s will and aspiration but economic development in which many of our nationalists lost their lives.

Then the European subjugated us and squandered people’s resources with highest degree of intense scorn and contempt for the people. That was over 200 years ago.

Alas this subjugation continues to this present day on the great great grand children of those that first had interaction with these European without providing any form of intervention on the environment or the people.

Subjugation itself is evil and fraud which has injustice as the end product we knew that injustice cause frustration which is the major cause of civil disobedience and when the people show any form of resistance it is termed militancy.

Solving the militancy issue is very easy as we only need to trace the cause of the malaise and find its cure.

The late Chief M.KO Abiola in his manifesto in 1992 clearly identify this and provided a clear formula to tackle the issue as he draw a beautiful plan to settle the Niger-Delta people by making them have sense of belonging with provision of equity shares in all the allocation of oil wells and joint ventures.

Tell me if you are made a co-owner of a business venture wont you be praying that your company succeed or not, this is partially what makes Dubai to move on.

Niger Delta situation therefore need a strategic solution to ensure effective social and infrastructural development and not the recent maximum military action that is going on which in my assessment will only lead to heavy innocent civilian causalities that will hardened and produce more militants.

And Joint task Force needs to be sincere with Nigeria, who are they bombing now, the militants or the innocent host communities of oil installations. Tell me despite the numbers of causalities how many of the so called militants have they killed or apprehended in relative to the thousands of innocent lives that have gone.

The military action and timing is strategically wrong as it will only create more problems, JTF only knows about conventional military warfare, it is even dishonorable to do otherwise, but these militants combats language is guerilla warfare; very unconventional and they have disappeared before the arrival of JTF.

Only strategic political solution and sincerity can solve the problem, mind you despite the JTF bombardment illegal bunkering and kidnapping still continue.

Let’s stop the killing and go back to roundtable and solve this problem once and for all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: KAYODE AJULO
Kayode Ajulo is young prodigious lawyer in Abuja in Nigeria. A socio-political activist under the auspices of Egalitarian Mission, Africa, a Non-governmental organisation which he founded based on his belief that all people are, in principle, equal and should enjoy equal social, political, and economic rights and opportunities. He shares views on 10th year Anniversary of democracy in Nigeria and other burning issues.

Kayode Ajulo is the Principal Partner of Kayode Ajulo & CO. Castle of Law, Nigeria. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2001 and had experience as Federal Attourney/State Counsel, Head of Chambers. He is a social commentator, an Honourary member of Guild of Orators. He is the Founder & Chairperson, egalitarian Mission, Africa, an non-profit/non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Nigeria.

Copyright Kayode Ajulo & Co. Castle of Law
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.