KNOCKS FOR NIGERIA'S DEMOCRACY
It was an unusual gathering at the Lagos Airport Hotel. Members of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) gathered to ruminate on Nigerian democracy. Tagged 2010 roundtable discussion with the theme ' A decade of democracy, the pains and challenges,' the talk shop was aimed at x-raying the problems confronting the nation's democracy and possible ways of addressing them.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Femi Adesina, Deputy Managing Director, The Sun Publishing Company Limited said one of the major challenges confronting democracy in Nigeria is its cost intensive nature. He spoke against the backdrop that so much money is spent to maintain each of the 469 members of the National Assembly. In recent times there has been so much controversies about what it cost the country to maintain the federal legislators.
The Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said that 25 per cent of the nation's overhead cost is consumed by the National Assembly. In the light of that, Adesina said the challenge before the federal lawmakers is to let the public know exactly what they earn. 'Let us know what you earn. The figures are mind-boggling. One of the pains of democracy is that it is costly,' Adesina stated.
Another discussant, Mr. Richard Akinnola of the Centre for Free Speech concurs. 'It is quite expensive. The kind of democracy we operate is damn expensive, by and large, there is no alternative to democracy,' he posited.
Akinnola said for the country to reap maximum benefit from the democracy, what the country needs is a benevolent dictator.
But the Sun Deputy Managing Director disagrees. He said it is too far in the day for the country to have a benevolent dictator. In his view that would have be desirable during the military regimes. He stated point blank that democracy and dictatorship are not compactible. 'Dictatorship and democracy do not go together. It is too late in the day for us to have a benevolent dictatorship. I believe we do no not have an alternative. But we must fine-tune democracy. What we have now is not it.'
Adesina added that another problem of Nigeria's democracy is the subversion of the democratic process. He said the political parties themselves constitute a big challenge to democracy. In his words: 'The greatest challenge of democracy are the parties themselves. The question is do we have political parties or just fiefdom. The political parties themselves must become democratic. You see the way people subvert little things like ward and Local government congresses and you feel pain; is this democracy?
Another participant, Mr. Adekeye, who stood in for former chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ), Lagos State chapter, Mrs. Funke Fadugba said political parties could afford to operate the way they do because they are bereft of ideologies. 'When you talk of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), it has ideology. The ACN is presenting hope somehow. With time, it will give us a progressive movement. The problem is PDP. They should put their house in order and remain conservative.
' The major challenge is transforming our political parties into ideologically based parties,' he added.
But Akinola said all the political parties in Nigeria are the same without any exemption. According to him, Nigerian politicians are merely seeking for platforms to pursue and realize the quest for public offices. 'The PDP and ACN are one and the same,' he stated. 'When you look at what is happening in ACN you feel embarrassed. It is a question of looking for a platform not ideology.'
Besides, the rights activist said there is so much of repression in the political scene today. He said unlike during the military era, when the enemy was known, same cannot be said of the current democratic dispensation. ' Politicians are more dangerous, because you do not know who your enemies are. The intolerance is scaring,' he enthused.
For Lagos based lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, Nigeria does not have a democracy yet.
He said there cannot be a democracy, when the economic rights of the citizens are not guaranteed. 'We are making attempts at creating a democratic society. We don't have democracy in Nigeria today. You cannot have democracy when the economic rights of the people are not guaranteed.'
Besides, Aturu said the National Assembly has not made matters easier. He would want Nigerians 'to takeover the National Assembly and seize it for one week' to teach the legislators some lessons.