By Ismaeel Ahmed
Prof. Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigeria
The greatest gift that democracy gives is the freedom of speech, choice, association and most importantly, the freedom of the people to change their government at will and at when due. That is why as much as election is not the only component of democracy that ought to be focused on, it is the most critical in ensuring the sovereignty of the people and not the powerful.
However, the incessant concentration on elections in Nigeria is worrisome, because everything always boils down to who is running for what and when. It distracts governors from governance; it confuses the electorate on the real purport of elections in the first place. And an otherwise decent conversation can easily be poisoned within the prism of political sentiments. That is why it is easy for someone with a scanty achievement record as a Governor and even a scantier record as an acting president could contest and “win” an election in a country at a precipice of economic disaster.
And maybe that is why an unconstitutional personality like the First Lady will snatch a microphone away from a constitutionally elected Governor in a middle of a policy speech. That is why all reason and rationale for decency can easily be thrown away for the expediency of political egos and selfish ambitions which could threaten to derail the very platform that affords us the freedom to bicker in the first place.
Democracy has to be more than just elections, power sharing formula or even federal character. It has to be about the liberty of a people for self determination. It has to be about the rule of law, and not the law of the ruler. It must be the common decency to do the most good for the larger portion of the population. It must be where the interest of majority will be projected, and that of the minority will be protected.
These definitions of democracy are more fanciful in theory than forceful in reality. But we must try to make it better. Nowhere in the world do must democracy work as it should, but the responsibility of inching it closer from what it is to what it should be be the job of the actors who openly call themselves “politicians”.
As citizens, our obligation does not stop at the minimal occasional voting or even the fiscal patriotism of paying taxes. It must be the constant engagement of all sectors of the society to make sure that our democracy is not only constitutionally guaranteed but functionally explicit for all to see.
We must demand the best values of democracy and issue based conversations and debates. We must also recognise the fact that in a plural society and democracy, it is okay to disagree as long as we have a consensus on how to disagree. In the end, that is the beauty of democracy and must be what we shall celebrate.
The opportunity to create a consensus on how to live without a consensus. Lifting people out of the lethargy of poverty and creating ladders of opportunity for people to have a chance at a decent life.
That is the decency of democracy!!!
Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed is a lawyer by profession and a politician by ambition. The interim Chairman of the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF). He is from Kano State and a member of the newly registered APC. Catch him on twitter @SLIMPROFILE
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