By Damilola Adeparua
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: firstname.lastname@example.org