First of all, I am going to readily admit that I am no political expert. I’m just a little boy with a brain that happens to work (at least, most of the time). So these are not necessarily the opinions of an expert or someone who even claims to be even slightly knowledgeable in the area of political science. However, the important thing is that I have an opinion and even more important is the fact that I have the right to have one.
Nigeria has had a democratic government for almost 12 years. Arriving at democracy definitely did not happen easily. The country had to go through many military dictatorships typically characterized by brutality and utter disregard for the opinions of the Nigerian people. Finally, we were able to wiggle our way to democracy. But is the system of democracy being practiced in the country actually working? How did we arrive at the kind of system we currently run?
Nigeria is the fourth largest democracy in the world. A VOLUNTARY handover of government from military to civilian rulers is quite unusual in an African setting similar to Nigeria’s. The change in government was quite smooth. Also, Nigeria was brave enough to break away from their colonial constitutional heritage, rejecting Britain’s parliamentary form of democracy and modeling the nation’s democracy after the American model instead.
Just like the United States of America, the Nigerian president has a four-year term, with the possibility of a second term thereafter, the national assembly is bicameral (composed of two chambers) with a Senate and a House of Representatives distributed among the states of the population, the independent judiciary has at the apex of its federal structure a supreme court, each state has a governor and a deputy-governor, a unicameral House of Assembly and an independent judiciary. Certain procedures are also similar to the American model.
For instance, appointments to the cabinet, the Supreme Court, and ambassadorial posts require Senate confirmation. So, fundamentally, the Nigerian democratic government system can be said to be a copy of the American system albeit with a few very slight differences.
It is said that the choice to follow the American model was basically because, just like Nigeria, America is large, complex and heterogeneous. However, is it safe to say that America and Nigeria are similar enough to share the same type of government structure? Frankly, I believe Nigeria is a much more complex nation both in terms of the kinds of humans that form its population as well as the myriad of sociocultural challenges the nation faces. It is easy to see that most of the “well-to-do” nations of the world have their own unique forms of government that seem to work, at least to a certain appreciable extent. Examples include Germany, China, Britain and Japan. Of course, we have to admit that they also have their own unique problems as well.
But, this is where the issue lies. As a nation that had been independent since 1960, why did Nigeria not just come up with its own UNIQUE democratic system based on about 39 years of experience as an independent nation? It is no news that Nigeria and Nigerians are quite unique in almost every way and usually cannot be said to be exactly like any other nation on the planet. For instance, the vast majority of Nigerians would vote according to ethnicity and religion rather than according to party ideology or individual principles. This can hardly be said of the Americans we so gallantly copied. Americans are known to be quite individualistic in their decisions, especially those that have to do with politics.
Wouldn’t it be logical to have a governmental system that is just as unique as the people it is formulated to govern rather than just a copy of some other model? Unfortunately, Nigeria has not even been successful in copying the American model. Instead, the democratic system we now practice seems to be a poor copy much like a poor Chinese imitation of an American product. This is obvious from the many problems the country is currently grappling with.
I know there would be some people out there who have been able to come up with their own ideas of a unique governmental system for Nigeria. However, it is pretty obvious that such things have been ignored, especially considering the fact that the present system seems to be working for some very few people who have been able to enrich themselves through the present system. Am I alone in thinking that the present political system makes it quite easy to find a large chunk of the national cake to steal? So many possible political appointments to clinch both necessary and unnecessary… Just a thought.
These are the kinds of things I believe our universities are meant for. Universities that have political science departments need to make a significant impact on the country’s politics. Novel political theories and systems that work, and are specifically tailored to the unique complexities of Nigeria are to be found in our universities’ political science departments. If these are not found there, then these departments probably do not deserve to exist. However, there is no denying the fact that even if all this resarch is done and put forward, it is likely to be ignored. This is just simply unfortunate.
During the military era, which many would agree was a terrible time for the country, democracy was touted as the magic solution to the country’s problems. Finally, we found democracy where we had hidden it. But from what we can now see, democracy is not, in and of itself, a solution to a nation’s problems but a mere stride towards possible solutions, and the present form of democracy we practice in Nigeria does not seem to work effectively. This is not to say that making adjustments to the democratic system would be another magic solution, but it might help.
I strongly believe Nigeria needs to restructure its governmental system to more accurately reflect the complex nature of the Nigerian people rather than copy some foreign system that happens to work for some other nation. Of course, this can only be done after a comprehensive study of the things that make us unique as a nation as well as the many challenges we face as a result of our complex nature. The resulting system of government emanating from such a study and a consequent revamp might not be deemed absolutely palatable by the globalization-crazy international community but it might go a long way in helping.
Nigeria make giant strides towards being a nation that would be a model for others rather than a hapless copycat.
Editor’s Note: Of course if the democracy has not worked well, technocracy will just do. Thanks David for bringing this political commentary on Tekedia. Few will not know that there is no technology without government policy.