Democracy In Nigeria, Our Bone Of Contention

Talking about Democracy Day celebration in Nigeria, it is a day set
aside to commemorate the restoration of democracy in the Federal
Republic of Nigeria. Initially, May 29 was the official democracy day
as it marks the date when civilian rule re-emerged in 1999 on the
political surface called Nigeria after a protracted period of military
rule.

Indeed, as a country, Nigeria and Nigerians have gone through
different phases of government, from colonialism to military rule and
from military to that of civilians. Democracy as a system of
government is typically exercised through elected representatives.
Now, if truly Democracy is concerned with equal representation of the
citizens of a country, why is it that the political appointments at
the centre are presently dominated by men and not just men but men
from a particular tribe?

As we know, a citizen means a native or naturalized member of a state
or other  political community and this includes women, men and
children whether young or old. Unfortunately, most African countries
do not regard the real essence of Democracy, which is ‘equal
representation’.

Let’s take Nigeria as an illustration, it is evident that our
political foundation was destroyed right from the period Sir Lord
Lugard amalgamated the Northern and the southern protectorates.

To add context to the discourse, Frederick John Dealty Lugard was a
soldier around 1901-1928. He was an explorer of Africa and colonial
administrator.  On January 1, 1914, Lord Fredrick Lugard , the
governor of both Northern Nigeria protectorate and the colony  and
protectorate of southern Nigeria, signed a document consolidating the
two, thereby creating the colony and protectorate of Nigeria. 46 years
later in 1960, Nigeria became an independent state.

Amalgamation is the process of uniting or merging two or more things.
Lord Lugard   did not seek the consent of the concerned tribes to know
whether they would like to be merged or not, due to his selfish
reasons but got them merged and only spent 4 years with them. The
unification was done for economic reasons rather than political. The
Northern Nigeria protectorate had a budget deficit and the colonial
administration sought to use the budget surpluses in Southern Nigeria
to offset this deficit.

A source reported that in 1913, Lord Harcourt claimed, “we have
released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the treasury.
The promising and well-conducted youth is now on an allowance on his
own and is about to effect an alliance with a southern lady of means.
I have issued the special license and Sir Frederic Lugard will perform
the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant”.

Also,  it has been discovered that  in the handover notes that Lord
Lugard wrote on September 25, 1918, to his colleague Walter H. Lang,
he stated hyperbolically that among other things, the Hausa-Fulani has
no ideal, no ambitions save as  such is sensual in character. He is a
fatalist, spendthrift and a gambler. He is gravely immoral and is so
seriously diseased that he is a menace to any community to which he
seeks to attach himself.

He also described the westerners as the lowest. The most seditious and
disloyal, the most purely prompted by self seeking money motives of
any people he had ever met while referring to the Igbo people as
fiercely rebellious with no regard for authority. Though industrious
and religious, in deference to the objectives of her majesty the
crown, they are highly dangerous to be trusted with power. These
selfish colonial masters, despite realizing these, went ahead to
amalgamate these different tribes while ignoring the outcome.

Now, in a nation with different people and different tribes that have
different cultures but united merely by name, how far has the nation
being able to observe equal representation in relation to democracy?

Dr. Margaret Nasha, former speaker of the parliament of Botswana
says”democracy to me, means government of the people by the people and
not government of the people by men. Democracy by nature should be
inclusive with proportionate representation of most if not all
sections of the population of a Country”.

Surprisingly, the issue of discriminated representation is not limited
to women in Nigeria due to the domination of a particular tribe in the
core governing positions in the country and this in turn is the root
of the upheaval in the country.

 Unity means an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with
nothing wanting. People can only be united if people who speak their
language who know exactly where their feet are itching are given the
chance to represent them and their opinion. This will also help to
prevent secession of any part of the country.

A situation whereby the people are not evenly or equally represented
can lead to disunity among the citizens of a country especially a
country like Nigeria where different tribes are merged together. The
United Nations (UN) and the Declaration of Human Rights posits that
everyone has the right to take part in the government of his /her
country. In respect to this, it is not just a matter of favor but also
that of ‘right’ for every citizen, tribe or gender to be equally
represented in matters relating to the governance of their country or
countries.

True democracy has deteriorated in Nigeria to the extent that another
civil war is looming over the country every day and this is
precipitated by the favoritism displayed by the current government
towards a particular tribe to the extent that this  particular tribe
now claims to own the Nigerian land.

Also, history has it that the Ijaw ethnic nationality is the oldest
tribe in Nigeria. They are also known as the sub groups ’ijo’ or ‘
izon’. They are a collection of indigenous peoples mostly to the
forest regions of the Bayelsa , Delta and Rivers state within the
Niger Delta in Nigeria but then, there is no need for any tribe to lay
claim to  the ownership of the  Nigerian land.  How do we manage the
situation on ground?

At this point, there is a need for the leaders of each tribe in
Nigeria to discuss on the way forward in the country. There is no
reason to keep deceiving ourselves about being one nation when we are
actually divided in all ways. Yet no matter the decision taken among
our leaders, no life is worth taking. Give no chance for war because
in war, we can only know the beginning, no one knows where it can end.

The nation is on the brink of collapse and for the nation to celebrate
another democracy day, there is a need for the tribes to come together
to find a lasting solution to the already created problems by the
selfish colonial masters.  There is also a need for our leaders to
know that the nation is not one in relation to the matters pertaining
to the people’s views and opinion, therefore, one tribe can never
dominate our nation peacefully. Let there be equal representation and
give no room for favoritism so as to prevent the secession of any part
of the country because if not, it will take the intervention of the
Supreme Being to prolong the existence of the nation.  Happy Democracy
day to every Nigerian.

Adeparua Damilola is the Programme Officer (Women/Youth Affairs),
Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), SEJA is a Lagos-based Non
Government Organization. For official purposes only, Adeparua can be
reached via: [email protected]/08144147369

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