The modern democracy, anchored on the principle of elective representation via multiparty political dynamism resulting in periodic election by universal adult suffrage is one of the best aspects of human civilisation.
The practice which started in ancient Greece had undergone evolutionary changes, having substantively attained its modern character as far back a 1755 with the short-lived Corsican Republic.
The modern leader in this human convention, as I have already stated is no other country than United States, thus there are many things we Nigerians can learn from the American democratic tradition.
Granted that democracy is foreign to Africa as our traditional political administration reflected principles of theocracy, gerontocracy, oligarchy and aristocracy more than those of liberal democracy, but since we inherited the democratic tradition as a legacy of colonialism and having realised that it has proved to be the durable, time-tested and the best form of government ever invented by human, nothing stops us from making same an abiding culture, progressively improved upon as we grapple with it.
Unfortunately, we have not been able, through our national character, to uphold the acceptable, not to talk of the best, tenets of democratic civilisation. Ironically we have paid lip service to the concept while basest, unwitting and primordial propensities drive our putative democratic processes.
We started active democracy through the internal self-government in 1957 using the parliamentary system of government. In 1979, we adopted the American presidential system and have operated same, (or what we pretend to be the same) till today. Yet our so-called home- grown democracy is a far cry from what is obtainable from the global leaders of democracy we claim to pattern our system after.
Prior to, during and just after elections heavily-armed soldiers and other security personnel are deployed so ubiquitously that you begin to wonder whether the nation is preparing to go to war! That explains our psychology on partisan politics.
In America, moneybags don’t install candidates in offices in defiance of the powers of the electorate. You can be sure that the results of American elections are the actual reflections of the wishes of the electorate. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many, (some people would say most) of our elections here.
Over there, power of incumbency counts but little, here it may make all the difference.
The laws are in the US to check arbitrary and unconscionable use of state resources to promote selfish political agenda; here it is considered a weakness not to employ the state apparatus to promote factional or selfish interests.
What about widespread use of money in politicking. In Nigeria if you are not very rich or sponsored by the super-rich, you would find it difficult to be nominated for political office let alone winning election into it.
The follower themselves have their own blame, there are many who would not show the slightest interest in political socialisation or electoral process unless they collect money from candidates.
Politics in America is seen as a civic duty, so people themselves are not waiting to be “mobilised” with pecuniary handouts before they could go and exercise their civic responsibility. When Americans go to the poll, we would hear of distribution of rice, garri, or recharge cards! Thus there is no room for that self-demeaning and democracy-bastardising concept recently tagged Stomach Infrastructure.
An average voter in the United States would feel insulted if you seek to buy his or her votes with a bushel or two of rice or hamburger or whatever it is they eat there!
Their democratic institutions over there are well-strengthened and vibrant. The court of law for instance is not encumbered with obsolete electoral laws that would still be interpreted by partisan judges.
The judicial officers are free and impartial and could be relied upon to intervene fairly if ever the need arises.
In the United States, over 85 per cent of all election results are not contested in courts like in our land. There is nothing wrong in going to court, but where preponderant majority of elections end up before election petitions tribunals, it speaks volume of the electoral system itself.
Ketefe may be followed on twitter @Ketesco
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