Motion without movement in Nigerian democracy
Researchers have developed a technique such that when the colours of a static image are togged together on a screen, the illusion of continuous movement in a certain direction is produced.
We see this type of apparent moments on our computer screen often. Politicians worldwide have mastered and extended this phenomenon in their attempts to keep us busy while they leave all our problems unsolved. They only engage us in oratories and speech deliveries, but beyond that they are empty. The phenomenon has found comfortable homes in African democracies and other places where accountability is low and where people worship their leaders. The Arab uprising is attempting to change that but they are building with pillars erected by those who perpetuated pseudo-democracy that produces no positive effects on the lives of its citizens. We all queue patiently on the long lines. Even when our choices are elected there is no guarantee that its effects will trickle down enough. How long should this no-movement continue?
This opens a fresh argument, especially after the Middle-East Uprising episode. Do we need a people friendly constitution or just the elections? It is our view that a good constitution for the citizenry is to be preferred to just any election. The constitution is a better guarantee of fairness and level playing ground for all. Elections are beautiful but any set of damn candidates can emerge as winner-team. Once they are elected their election manifestoes are thrown away until another round of elections.
Egypt is an example where the Brotherhood, expected to win, also won. It has proved that managing people and meeting their expectations is a greater art than winning their votes. If only the constitution had been written, and written to protect both the rights of the majority and also the rights of the minorities, and protect the right of the youth and every other sector. One general election cannot restore over 30 years of anarchy and a no-constitution regime. Each community should protect its own peculiar rights, but do so under the constitution. Results of elections are often very disappointing whereas the constitution remains a source of consolation and providing strength for a redress, if necessary. Efforts devoted to writing a working national constitution is beyond a crop of elected officers there in Abuja, or any capital city.
It is illogical for one to write a constitution about oneself while in government. This was clear in the Obasanjo regime’s attempt at constitution reform. So far it has proved that Obasanjo’s regimes in Nigeria are still the most preferred over time, in my own opinion. The constitution reform embarked on during his second term almost rubbished all his very good work because people suspected he wanted a third term. A constitution is a guarantor over and above elections. In fact the constitution details how and when elections are to be held in addition to who could contest and who to be regarded as winners.
To move our society forward we need a great constitution. I travelled the other day from Ilorin to Abuja through Lokoja. On the way, I came across a co-traveller between Kabba and Okene; his car had developed some problems. He was a well known face and I stopped over to greet him and also to offer some assistance. The second day I returned from Abuja only to still find him there. He had been moving around and spending his way out. The car was not repaired and the correct diagnosis had not been ascertained. It is one of these newly imported second-handle vehicles imported to the country from only God-knows-where. He was exhausted and had taken advantage of his ATM cards to the limits. This is typically motion without movement.
In a similar fashion the federal government claims it is intensifying effort to generate and distribute energy to the entire Nigeria community. Through the annual budgetary allocations a lot must have gone to that sector since 1999 and to date. Its impact is yet to be felt within the country. Only those who got the contracts may be smiling to their banks, but the amount of dark period in Nigeria is still more than the light period, if we are to depend on Nigeria Power Holding Company alone. However their tariffs have gone up in multiples since 1999 more that the rate of inflation.
Another sector taking the attention of the three levels of government in terms of monetary allocation is our roads. The roads are now extremely bad. For example, before 1999 it was possible for me to use Ilorin-Egbe-Kabba-Lokoja road, about 320 km, and arrive in four hours. Today many parts of that same road can sink several trailers and tankers. Travellers going to Lokoja from Ilorin now have devised several strategies to bye-pass the usual and expected routes.
Wherever one may choose to go through is wrought with potholes and outright dangerous spots. To be fair to these governments their annual budgetary allocations on paper can defend them but the results in the life of the people bring them condemnations and curses. To cap it up, several investigative and prosecution organs have been set up to ensure that government policies, especially on funds are well accounted for. However opposition parties often cry out that the ruling party is using selective arraignment in court of those allegedly involved in corruption. Meanwhile we wish that these organs evolved independently from the constitution and are not overlapping or duplicating in effort and funding. They must show that they are friends of the nation and justify their existence from thence. In particular they must not confuse anyone on whose side they are by staying completely apolitical. Still there is motion but no movement.
What will it take a nation like Nigeria to move forward? China is an example of a growing economy in a period of global economic recession. After years of state control of the economy’s commanding heights, the government embarked on a major programme of economic reform in 1978. The effort was to awaken a dormant economic giant and it resulted in the formation of rural enterprises and private businesses, liberalized foreign trade and investment, relaxed state control over prices, and investment in industrial production and the education of its workforce.
Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi can be reached on email@example.com