Choosing Between Dr Jonathan and Gen Buhari in February 2015Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News, News Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
By Prof R.A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
A typical system of government that has been thriving in Africa, Middle East and many other parts of the world is called autocracy. This is a system of government in which a supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person or in the hands of a few persons and whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control. They are the national constitutions as it were. Any possible dissenting views come inform of threat of coup d’etat, insurrection; the system does not tolerate civil disobedience. In Africa the various military regimes, the past existence of emperors in some states, the medieval monarchs in various parts in Africa, any governmental set up without a required constitutional backup can be linked to an autocratic government.
The subject matter is under our consideration because the so called western democracy introduced to African system of government seems to have been failing either in Africa or in the Middle East. We notice that the forceful over throwing of the autocratic governments in Iraq, Libya, and other places in the Middle East has been causing more unrest, killings and displacement of citizens than the autocratic systems had created. Right now Egypt is back to the same autocratic system under Gen Assisi and back to the same Gen Mubarak autocratic regime. Syria autocratic system under previous generations of the Assad succeeded until the present Assad seemed weakening. It appears to us that Nigeria has been more progressive and more settling under some military regimes than under the democratic regimes. So it would seem that some regions of the world would be better governed by element of force rather than by freedom of choice, by cracking them down on citizens rather than by creating enabling freedom of association and freedom of speech environment. The first inference we would notice is the lack of human development for the citizenry to match the requirement of democracy which has allowed the few elites, or a combined military force and the external exploiters to grab and maintain power by force.
Democracy on the other side is a system involving distribution of political power in the hands of the public civil society, elected representatives and the electorates. The system is symbolized by freedom of speech, freedom of association and independence of the different arms of government. Any eligible citizens may participate equally in the process by standing for elective positions, voting for a candidate of their choice running for office, voting for passage of laws, or participate at ward levels or some other forms. Part of the beauty of democracy is its inclusiveness, where everyone in the society has a role to play. Unfortunately democracy in Nigeria since 1999 has brought about an empire which has been largely the affairs of elective officers alone.
Democracy contrasts autocratic form of government where power is either held by an individual, as in an absolute monarch, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy or a maximum military dictator. Democracy also contrasts autocracy, dictatorship, or tyranny, by providing opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution or a coup d’etat but through elections. The general election Nigeria is about to conduct will provide such opportunity to re-elect or oust and elected officer without the need of violence. The system also throws up a period of campaigning with the aim of selling to the electorates the positive aspects of candidates and giving the opposition the opportunity to expose the weaknesses of their opponents. When the campaigns are well conducted the system becomes more robust and better.
Generally a political campaign should have been an organized effort seeking to influence the decision making process of the individuals within the electorate class. In Nigeria the initial campaigns have produced the presidential candidates, governorship candidates and other candidates contesting for various posts. These are contests within each of the political parties, and can be said to be the results from block voting rather than individual opinions. The second face is the campaign to get the candidates to contest against each other and amongst the different political parties. The campaign style so far has centered mainly on organized state rallies, or crowd renting as it were, but we wish there could be more of the door to door campaigning styles to also build the system. Crowd renting is not a sensitive indicator to measure support for any party or the candidate because crowds and their sizes are functions of several factors; the personality of the candidates, the positions they presently hold, the pressmen and women, the security personnel and several onlookers making up the crowd.
For the survival of democracy in Nigeria, Africa or in the Middle East it seems to us that the elected candidates must not only be knowledgeable enough in all subject matters of the State but should believe in and possess some elements of domination and be an adherence to strong political will. A candidate must have the ability to push and force things through, and must been seen to be such. For example being the president of Nigeria today should no longer be regarded as an office for tea parting, spending weekends in Paris, London or New York often, pleasing one section of the society over the other, seeking office for the purpose of implementing some hidden regional or religious agenda or simply for amassing wealth for self. The arts and science of the office in the contents of development and democracy should be paramount. How could one increase the economic base and economic opportunities of the nation, how could will advance the principles and tenets of democracy, how can we better guide and guard our territorial integrity, how could we better manage the men and women of Nigeria giving the limited resources, what is our projection of Nigeria for the next 2, 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years on? Articles of this nature should be our preoccupation rather than always bringing us backward on old songs like corruption, religious intolerance, ethnicity, age differences, or non-ideological or insignificant factors of national life.
This brings us to the prevailing contentions on the 2015 February presidential election in Nigeria, where we perceive that the campaigning so far has been skewed towards religious rather than on issues, personality and nationality rather than performance and principles. The 2015 presidential election is going to be a referendum not only on the incumbent president Jonathan but also the former Head of State General Buhari. It is a referendum on their past political lives giving the prevailing circumstances around us. Fortunately for Nigerians these two candidates have very distinct personalities and come from different socio-economic and ethno-religious backgrounds. The similarities are also many, including the obvious observations that there are very little differences between PDP and the APC; both candidates have provided a national leadership platform by which they can be accessed, their regions are giving them enormous home support respectively. The election will be very keenly contested and we expect a very close result at this stage unless something unexpected happens suddenly.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi
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