The Beauty of Democracy

The past eight weeks have seen me defend my President against all odds. I try to see the best in people, that is my flaw; and i have learnt to ignore flaws, since I see them so easily. I have campaigned for Jonathan, not because he is the best, not because he is excellent, and definitely not because I have been paid to do so. I have voted for the status quo simply because I believe in improvement through democracy, not aristocracy or technocracy; and that is where Jonathan shines.

Democracy is slow, democracy is cumbersome, democracy is imperfect, and it is apparent that the Opposition will, in their present stride, taint our budding democracy in a bid to satiate the lust for blood that the gaping mouth of our populace desires.

In these eight weeks I have realised that most of the Opposition are not democrats. If you are in doubt, say something nice about Jonathan, and not necessarily unsavory to them and their messiah, and watch them devour you!

Yet, the beauty of democracy is that each of us, however small, weak, or eccentric, is entitled to his choice of candidate, however clueless or inhuman the candidate seems, or is deemed to be.

Do not misunderstand me. Jonathan is not perfect. But then, who is? When I see Jonathan, I see Obama: a man with his country's best interests at heart, but who would have lost his bid for second term because his countrymen doubted him in a stint of fugacity, because his countrymen forgot, transitorily, that things get worse before they get better. I see a man who was touted to lose the election. I see a man who won when hope was gone.

And I stick by him. I vote Jonathan. I vote Freedom.

The supporters of the Opposition have taken it upon themselves to be plaintiff, judge and jury; to label every dissenter as cheap, corruptible, and shameless; to gang up and degrade the humanity of anyone speaking in defence of the defendant. They condescend, they insult; to them only the dumb and clueless will support his President.

Yet, the beauty of democracy is that defence is a fundamental human right, even to the accused, even to the allegedly guilty; and remains so, even in Nigeria, even now!

We can all be misunderstood; I usually am, and nothing hurts more than the hypocrisy and sanctimony, the judging gazes and condemning sneers, the preemptive guilty-as-charged attitude and misplaced condescension.

I have thus stood by the weaker, more aggrieved side, even against Jonathan, especially against Jonathan: ASUU easily comes to mind, as do OccupyNigeria, My Oga at the Top, NMA, and SLS; the Nigerian masses!

You may pyschoanalyse me as much as you want, only, I have done so for balance, I have done so for fairness, i have done so despite enormous pressure and grave threats. And I yet do.

For, the beauty of democracy is that however wrong, guilty, or clueless the defendant is, he must not stand alone. And whoever chooses to stand by him, pardon his misdemeanor, and believe in him, must not be ostracized, not for his humanity.

But in the past weeks, I have watched comrades booed, and taunted, and, as if matters could not be worse, unfriended, not because they are criminals or corruptionists, but because they have chosen a candidate of their liking in a democracy. Especially in a democracy!

Their assailants go about the tents of democracy, with shrouds ostentatiously bearing the insignia of Change!, and with vengeance in their proud stride. And as they do, they look down upon, and alienate, those of us preaching caution lest we find ourselves right where we are four years hence!

I never loved Jonathan, until now: insult a man till death, call him the most hideous of names, denude the pride of his office; if he doesn't summon his might to crush you, then he is a Democrat, and he deserves your support, and vote!

For, the beauty of democracy is that the leader be tolerant, father to all, and compassionate; that his followers be empathetic, accepting of others, and friendly to dissenters; that people are not maltreated in their own land because they disagree with popular opinion.

As we vote on Saturday, I pray thee: Do not vote for those who will run our democracy off, or over, in their quest for applause, do not vote in those whose supporters have little regard for democratic freedoms, do not vote intolerant folk.

Only vote those who have preserved our right to stand for what we believe in, those who have allowed democracy to thrive, those who have given us the freedom to choose.

For if we vote the inquisitors and the chips fall, there will be little tolerance for sympathizers, for due process, for proper defence; those of us who are apt to stand for the Constitutional Way will become targets, those who habitually dwell on the fence will become collateral damage, and no one will be safe. There will be no room for neutrality, caution or commonsense. And there will be no room for friends.

Yet, everyone needs a friend at least; no one deserves to stand alone. For, that is the beauty of democracy: the right to the freedom to opine, decide, associate, disassociate; to live, and let live!

If we keep quiet, if we hide our heads, if we vote the coercionists, then not only will our democracy lose its lustre, then not only will autocracy take over, and dictatorship in his wake, then not only will we suffer for our gullibility, but we will leave Nigeria worse that we found it: bound.

I have thus and since taken it upon myself to defend the defenceless. For I am not a populist, and someday, it shall be me in the dock, and I shall hope to be shown the same mercy I have shown those before me: a laudable defence, and a fair trial.

Ayokunle Ayk Fowosire.

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Articles by Ayokunle Ayk Fowosire