BY PHILIP BRANDFORD ADAMS
It is an acceptable fact that Nigeria problems are linked to elections and leadership failure. What is called economy and systemic failure can best be called leadership failure. No Democratic society that survives on emergency relief from a government. There are some administrations, indeed, renowned for their expertise in coining slogans for improving the life of their people and unfortunately, everything begins and ends with the slogan as the citizens do not witness any transformation of the economic or their wellbeing
As 2019 general elections draws nearer, there is every need for the true leadership and good governance in some states which is presently lacking.
In a democracy, the first step towards good governance is the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. This is even most compelling in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society like Nigeria, in which people in their various socio-cultural groupings are very sensitive to participation and representation. Since Nigeria adopted the presidential system in 1979, aside probably the first election, which saw Shagari as the first Executive President, all other elections were marred by rigging. Most of the time candidates were either selected or appointed or even anointed, but never elected in a free and fair election environment. The only exception was probably the June 12, 1993 presidential election resulting in the election of Abiola in what was popularly acclaimed as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria since independence, but unfortunately the military annulled it before the actual results were even announced. All subsequent elections in Nigeria cannot be said to be anything free and fair, and that is why today, various governments have been battling for legitimacy. Without free and fair elections, there can be no political, social and economic stability. Due to rigged elections, the people consider a government illegitimate and therefore it lacks the appropriate mandate to rule. On the other hand, the government does not feel obligated to exercise powers and use available resources for the benefit of the people.
Elections in Nigeria are becoming a “do or die” affair, with most politicians becoming very militant in their approach. It has reached a stage where those seeking political offices, especially the governorship and senatorial candidates, create armies of political thugs whom they not only arm with dangerous weapons, but also provide with illicit drugs (obviously for “Dutch Courage”) in order to protect the politicians’ interests even if it requires using violence. It is a well-known fact that the formation of the militant groups in the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram sect in the northeast were at one time or another part of the army of political thugs formed by certain gubernatorial candidates in the Niger Delta and the Borno State, respectively.
At the presidential level, incumbents use national security resources, including security agencies and money, to force, intimidate (especially to reduce voter turn-out and scare the opposition), manipulate, and bribe their way to “winning” elections. In general however, most Nigerian politicians are comfortable using religion and ethnicity to appeal to peoples’ sentiments, which also gives room for ethno-religious hatred and violence as was witnessed in the post-election violence and hate speeches in 2011/2015.
With the 2019 elections around the corner, it is the duty of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to operate as truly independent and ensures that a level playing field is provided for all stakeholders.
The major personal security challenge for Nigeria is not in the prevalence of crime, because as Emile Durkheim, the 19th century French philosopher, argued in his famous book The Division of Labor in Society, crime is a normal phenomenon in all societies. The main concern is the perception of the general public towards Nigeria’s police, which has undoubtedly earned the reputation of being a brutal, corrupt, and inefficient law enforcement institution. The security of any nation cannot be guaranteed without a strong law enforcement institution with high level of professionalism. Nigeria’s police and the military has been accused at various times of extrajudicial killings, and as a matter of fact, it was the single act of the extrajudicial killings of the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf and many of his followers in 2009, that became the major driver of the current insurgency in the northeast. For the Nigerian police, it is not a case of a few rotten apples, but that almost all the apples are rotten. As far as corruption is concerned, this leads to public distrust. Aside from the poor relationships between the public and the police, the quality of police personnel, equipment, and facilities is extremely poor, and the combination of these factors makes it impossible to rely on police services in enforcing law and order. How can the police be efficient in a situation of public distrust and lack of confidence? Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), a former British Prime Minister, whom as the Home Secretary founded the Metropolitan Police Service, emphasized that the real key to policing was based on the idea that “the police are the people and the people are the police”. It was for this reason that he embraced the concept of community policing, which we find difficult to adopt in Nigeria because of the strained relationship between the public and the police. While not much effort is being made to correct the lapses in Nigeria’s police, the military has been overburdened with routine police duties, things that they are neither trained for nor fall within their constitutional responsibility.
The key to tackling Nigeria’s security challenges rests on finding the right leadership that would demonstrate good governance: that would tackle corruption as a matter of priority; that would be transparent and accountable; that would recognize the need to ensure inclusive and participatory governance as a reflection of the multi-religious and multi-ethnic composition of the Nigerian society; that would strengthen the key institutions of governance, especially those within the criminal justice system; that would improve the socio-economic well-being of her citizens, especially in education, health, employment, food, and shelter; that would reinvigorate Nigeria’s foreign policy focus; that would emphasize unity even in cultural diversity to ensure stability; that would find solutions to the current insurgency, militancy, incessant violent protest on marginalization (IPO/MASSOB), cross-borders trafficking in arms, drugs and humans, maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, and violent crimes; that would develop Nigeria’s critical infrastructures in transportation, water systems, and energy; that would develop the non-oil sector, especially agriculture and solid minerals; that would tackle environmental issues, especially desertification and erosion; and that would give assurance and confidence to every citizen that his or her fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution are guaranteed and protected. With the incessant present chronic hardship everywhere in the country, one cannot deny the fact that the endogenous Nigerian Military bravery and altruistic war against the phantom dreaded Boko Haram which stymied the continuity of the gory and cataclysm in the North eastern Nigeria is indeed a great achievement to this present administration. But the question begging for an answer is that, Can the Nigerian’s continue to celebrate personalities without any positive impact in their lives? It is not the personality, but the ability to carry out and fulfill party’s promises which is to change the Nigerian’s lives for better.
Nigeria needs 21st leaders who can exhibit overarching tendencies by carrying everybody alone, a leader who can forgive and forget about all forms of vendetta against his old foes, and a leader who will not allow any member of his family to dictate his leadership affairs.
A good government is not one that would just have the banner of democratically elected, but the one that will resolve the economic woes and actively contribute to the people’s everyday life for the better.
I believe that the present government can do more to enhance democracy through rule of law and improving the economy of the nation.