2019 Elections; Democracy, and Samuel Bagg’s Analysis

By Jerome-Mario Utomi
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Jerome-Mario Utomi
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With about nine months after the 2019 Presidential, Governorship, National and state houses of Assembly elections held in the country- a period long enough to complete a human child gestation, nobody can deny that the nation has not recorded appreciable developments.

Observably, a genuine difficulty may erupt trying to push the above notion, as many will essentially ignore it while others will view the proposition as worth not entertaining. Particularly, when one remembers the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country, a state of depression (or is it a recession) that has been designed by yet to be established architects,

Regardless of the above argument, all over Nigeria, there are ‘amazing discoveries’ being made. What cannot be said at this point is if the orchestrated impact was for the purpose of establishing laws and order or enthronement of justice.

Adding context to this piece, the relationship between leaders and the people ordinarily could, by contrast, be likened to the Christian’s holy book (the Bible) description of the union which exists between the head and the other members of the human body. Each part has its purpose and work. Some parts are noble and some are less so; but all are dependent upon the other, and the same life animates them all. All are put to loss by the failure of one, as all profits from the excellence of one.

Unmindful of this living link and crucial connection between leaders and the people, the spirit of generosity has disappeared from the public office holders, because in their estimation, with electioneering over, their influence has increased in line with their new positions.

Another significant structural change is their gradual displacement of the ordinary people who nine months ago, prior to the general election displayed extra-ordinary humanity in the politician’s hour of need-campaigning for their fortune at the polls.

Today, however, the emphasis has changed. And these Nigerians made up of organized labour-teachers market men and women, undergraduates, motorcyclists, taxi drivers and of course civil servants are presently left without assistance to search for new fields to ensure their wealth and wellbeing

The most amazing about this scenario is that within this period also, the ordinary Nigerians appear to have had a new dream on their minds and new orientation shaped by recent fiscal, sociological, political and communal happenings in the country.

Their eyes appear opened and ears cleared, opinion is now fiercely divided about the usefulness and sincerity or otherwise of these people they vigorously campaigned for. The striking twist about the narrative can be found in the difficulty in finding those that actually supported these public officials- as nearly everyone now live in denial of such role. And anyone accused of championing such campaign, not only deny vehemently but describes such claim as spurious.

This is the sad narrative of the ‘long-way’ we have come as a nation within the last nine months.

This development however should by no means come as a surprise, as what we see today, perhaps, is not a new theory, concept or framework.

But the best-known example of strategic implication, and by far the most serious endorsement of Samuel Bagg’s argument, that globally, democracy faces increasingly pressing challenges on epistemic grounds and witnesses great controversy over the ‘wisdom of the multitude’.

Apart from defining democracy, minimally as any system characterized by competitive election, universal suffrage, and substantial discretionary state powers, Samuel Bagg McGill University while writing on the topic; the Power of the multitude; answering epistemic challenges to democracy, argued that; discretionary state power disables certain potent mechanisms of elite’s entrenchment. What made the piece pivotal to this particular discourse lies in the report’s claim that the reservation of particular forms of power for ordinary citizens make democratic states more resistant to dangerous forms of capture than non-democratic alternatives.

Despite these ‘virtues and attributes’, the writer underlined; political ignorance, shortsightedness, and irrationality of the ordinary citizens as the major challenge confronting democracy; warning that, for a nation to have a responsible government, such a decision must not be left in the hands of political ignorance or the ordinary citizens or given freely to everyone. As a solution, advocated for the allocation of political powers on the basis of knowledge or merit and not principally on the ‘wisdom of the multitude.

If this line of reasoning is correct, it will necessitate the following posers; as a nation, how well have we managed these basic requirements of democracy listed above? Who will stop those that daily undermine discretionary state powers in their quest to win elective positions? How do we localize, grasp and find a solution to critical issues that impedes the full entrenchment of democracy on our political geography and creates disaffections between governors and the governed?, Or must we as a nation allow the useful and the useless like good and evil go on together allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes to grief in the nearest future?

The answers to the above question could be summed up in one. Nigerian leaders, as subsequent paragraphs will point out; know about the imperatives of substantial discretionary state powers as potent mechanisms for preventing elite entrenchment in every electoral process, but rendered it dysfunctional pecuniary reasons. As a nation, we have absorbed enough electoral lessons from previous electoral experiences but allowed it to go with political winds, and that is why we are in the historians’ phrase doomed to repeating the same mistakes.

As an illustration, since the re-emergence of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, our country has conducted different elections. But they cannot be referred to as credible because they were never organized in an atmosphere of peace, devoid of rancour and acrimony. And their outcomes particularly that of the 2019 general election has neither been adjudged as free and fair by Nigerians or by the international community.

A significant proof to the above is the recent remark credited to Professor Attahiru Jaga, immediate past chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were he thus stated; From 2011, there were incremental positive changes, but the problem is that by 2019, we were beginning to see a reversal, especially in the governorship elections where the incumbent governments influenced security agencies to manipulate the outcome of the polls.”.

This is closely followed by the 2019 preliminary report by John Campbell, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria. Where he lamented that; the latest presidential election is far from an example for those African countries consolidating their democracies or emerging from quasi-authoritarian regimes to emulate.

The implication of these findings as many other reports have noted is that the electoral process in Nigeria is rendered vulnerable to abuse, through massive rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices by political parties- especially by those in power as they seek to manipulate the system to serve their partisan interest.

Why this should be a reality for all to worry about is that if the present situation looks ugly, what it portends are all frightening except something theatrical is done to salvage the situation.

Jerome-Mario Utomi ( [email protected] ), writes from Lagos.

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