LAWLESS DEMOCRACY AND THE LOOMING ANARCHY BY UGOCHUKWU RAYMOND
To any clear-headed observer, the character of unfolding events in Nigeria's political arena has become particularly gruesome and hugely ominous as to elicit a feeling of disillusionment and a deep sense of soberness. In recent times - and in very quick succession - the Nigerian polity has been convulsed with two related and mutually-reinforcing absurdities which can rightly be described as a foretaste of a decaying, endangered polity and a harbinger of an impending political catastrophe.
The latest of these inglorious events relates to the maddening crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly. Only some days back, Nigerians were besieged with a bewildering spectacle of orchestrated parliamentary militancy in the Rivers State legislature in which supposed “Honourable” members of the House threw decorum to the winds and descended to the abyss of compulsive brigandage and downright bestiality. The gory tales of dislodged teeth, smashed skulls, broken limbs, dislocated waists, bedridden fugitives, and the complicity of security officials as well as the menacing presence of a brigade of thugs are all too familiar to warrant a repetition.
A major anti-climax of the crisis that bedevilled the Rivers State Assembly was the purported impeachment of the Speaker by an infinitesimal minority that comprised only five disgruntled members. The audacity and rapidity with which this aberration was enacted would seem to have been inspired by the tolerability and success of another related misstep which took place some months earlier, namely, the election of the Nigerian Governors' Forum, NGF.
That particular election which was meant to elect a new chairman for the highly politicized body turned out to be a very huge comedy of mindless mischief. Contrary to the familiar tenet of democratic voting which confers victory on the contestant with the majority of the votes cast, the Jonah Jang-led faction of the NGF lost a clear-cut ballot by 16 to 19 votes and proceeded to contrive a staggering claim to victory and to insist that 16 is both numerically and politically superior to 19.
In any society where decency is held in high esteem and insanity is considered abhorrent, the events that played out during and after the NGF election would have earned the likes of Jonah Jang and his fellow choreographers a referral in a psychiatric unit. Alas, the perpetrators of that electoral perfidy have since received presidential embrace and have succeeded in foisting their heist on the consciousness of the Nigerian people, creating the impression that electoral victory was more a matter of what the Leviathan says and how he feels than what the law and reality itself project. Basking in the euphoria of this obnoxious triumph, the five Assemblymen in Rivers State became emboldened to replicate the mischief and in the state legislature and to take it a notch higher by orchestrating a phantom impeachment exercise against the de-facto leadership of the legislature. Indeed, there can be no better characterization of these serial, political misadventures than to describe them as a mindless rape of democracy in Nigeria.
It is understandable that the simmering crisis rocking Rivers State is multi-faceted, even though driven largely by calculations and interests that are essentially divorced from and clearly tangential to the overriding interest of Rivers people and Nigerians at large. As an example, it will be implausible – if not unthinkable - to suggest that the war of mutual annihilation which broke out on the floor of the Assembly was catalyzed by a desire to secure the interest and wellbeing of the Rivers people.
For the governor, Rotimi Amaechi, his penchant for tyrannous meddling and unwholesome interposition in the affairs of local governments in the state remains strikingly indefensible. Indeed, it is as subversive as his ordeal in the illiberal hands of Jonah Jang. For the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, she has acquired profound notoriety as a loose cannon whose fondness for fishing in troubled waters had become both ineradicable and inextinguishable. Worse, the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, has become intensely obsessed by the politics of Rivers State that one wonders if the Minister still remembers the direction and address of the Education Ministry building at Abuja. It is particularly distressing that the Honourable Minister has found the moral poise and the swagger to wage political war in Rivers State even when tertiary educational institutions in the country (and their respective unions) are in limbo. Yet, in the midst of these ruinous, unbridled, conflicting struggles for power by these diverse protagonists, the democratic podium upon which everybody is standing is being systematically defaced and dangerously torpedoed.
Unwittingly, Nigerians appear to be blinded by the expediency of lining up behind these iconoclastic combatants and to justify their primordial positions and their narrow-minded, power-driven interests; unmindful of the fact that these politicians are dragging the country's tottering democracy into a very dangerous and highly precarious precipice. Historically, Nigerians are inclined to blame past military regimes for virtually every ill bedevilling the country in present times and to affirm the illegitimacy of military incursion in politics. This argument is undeniably powerful. However, what we so often ignore – to our collective detriment – is the incorrigible willingness of our supposed elected leaderships to betray democracy, annul the supremacy of lawful competition, plunge the polity into needless turmoil, and, thus, propel the specialists of violence - the military - to assume full command of a war-prone society.
In the aftermath of the recent Egyptian upheaval, the Nigerian Senate President, David Mark, quibbled that “the Nigerian military should not give us ultimatum.” In reality, it is doubtful whether a country like ours can escape the inevitability of an ultimatum, especially, when contestants who are clearly in the minority appropriate victory over those in the majority during elections. It is uncertain whether Nigeria, as presently configured and operationalized, can sustain the illusion that the worst civilian regime is better than the best military rule when we persist in the scandal of sacking democratically elected bodies like local government chairmen and councillors and replacing them with illegitimate minions selected by state governors. In a country where state parliaments are besieged and desecrated by the encircling presence of hired thugs and where a handful of irate militants dressed up as “Honourable lawmakers” overthrow elected leadership of the legislature, we can neither deny nor pretend that such acts of “democratic coup d'état” is less repugnant that military suzerainty.
Its high time Nigerians woke up to the sombre reality that their so-called democratic leaders are steadily blowing the country's democratic fortunes away. Like the biblical Judas Iscariot, these mis-leaders are gradually handing us over to our sordid past for a fresh round of authoritarian crucifixion. There is nothing in the horizon to suggest that our prevailing political experiment is truly democratic; not even to affirm that it is imbued with the redeeming features of basic civility. What obtains is rule of the jungle and what predominates is triumph of the strongest. In a state of jungle, democracy is gravely imperilled. And that is the sad reality about our present-day flirtation with democracy.