Global Democracy Index: Does Nigeria Deserved To Be Placed On 110thposition?

Since the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) just released its 2020 Democracy Index where Nigeria was 110th, it has been difficult for me to pretend that it is not worrisome.

For the sake of clarity, “The EIU Unit’s Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide in 165 independent states and two territories. This covers almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states (microstates are excluded). The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. Based on its scores on a range of indicators within these categories, each country is then classified as one of four types of regime: “full democracy”, “flawed democracy”, “hybrid regime” or “authoritarian regime”. As explained in the foregoing, Nigeria is categorized under “hybrid regime”, which when explanatorily put to the understanding of an average student is like what would be derogatorily called, “Promotion on Trial”.

According to the EIU, which is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper in the Report, the current rating is the 13th edition of the Democracy Index, which began in 2006, and records how global democracy fared in 2020. It added that the main focus of the current report is the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on democracy and freedom around the world. It looks at how the pandemic resulted in the withdrawal of civil liberties on a massive scale and fueled an existing trend of intolerance and censorship of dissenting opinion. This could have compelled EIU in its current Report to include USA despite a tumultuous year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and a hotly contested presidential election.

Be that as it may, in the expression of my personal view on this issue, I am worried that Nigeria is yet to proceed to any of the top categories, like “flawed democracy” or “full democracy” but rather has remained under the “hybrid category” where she was in the 2019 rating, and I am also worried that she is on 110thposition on the latest democracy index on chart.

Be that as it may, sequel to the report, all democratic-minded Nigerians have every reason to “chop-knuckle” as Nigeria did not fall like Mali, in West Africa, which declined in its score, and was the worst-performing country in the 2020 Democracy Index, being downgraded from a “hybrid regime” to an “authoritarian regime”. According to EIU, Mali does not have full control over its territory, and rampant insecurity precipitated a coup in August 2020 by military officers aggrieved by a lack of progress against jihadist insurgents. A military junta has since established a transitional government, nullifying the outcome of parliamentary elections held in March 2020, which were broadly free and fair. Against the foregoing has every reason to thank God in the manner those in the Christendom would say “Thank God I’m alive, I am not in the mortuary”. Because of this, Mali has dropped 11 places globally, the second-biggest fall in rank in Sub-Saharan Africa behind Togo, which fell 15 places, further down the ranks of “authoritarian regimes”. Overall it was a terrible year for democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 31 countries were downgraded, eight stagnated and only five improved their scores. Burkina Faso, which, like Mali, faces a jihadist insurgency and does not have full control of its territory, was also downgraded from a “hybrid regime” to an “authoritarian regime”.

To my view, the measures applied to rank Nigeria on the position are not in any way elements of rocket science considering the fact that Nigeria has since 1999 embraced democratic leadership. If Nigeria was placed on such position, say in 2005 or thereabout, one would have concluded that the democracy was nascent. Unfortunately, it would be demeaning for Nigeria, with few months away, to 22 years of full-fledged democratic practice to be seeing herself as being ranked on 110th position among 165 independent states and two territories worldwide that have embraced democracy.

As an African proverb said, “If a man is always beaten by the rain each time he goes to the palace for council meeting, he has no excuse to go to council meeting next time without an umbrella”. Given the wisdom that is inherent in the foregoing wise saying, it is expedient that our leaders need to improve in the areas of electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, Political participation, Political culture and Civil liberties since they formed the basis of the ranking.

Just as EIU noted in its Report, I personally do not think that it takes a rocket science to deliver a flawless democratic governance that Nigerians would be proud of. EIU stated, “Democracy is ultimately about an attitude towards people. Democratic systems are supposed to be attuned to the needs of people through the existence of representative political parties and a culture of robust debate about the issues that matter to people. The populist revolt of recent years, discussed at length in recent editions of the Democracy Index, confirms that democratic institutions and the rule of law alone are not enough to sustain a thriving democracy. The involvement of people in democratic and accountable decision-making is a prerequisite of a truly vibrant democracy, whose ultimate goal should be the creation of a community of active citizens. This demands in the first instance that the people be consulted and that questions of the first order are referred to them for consideration and debate. For this to happen, democracies need leadership, representative political organizations and clear alternatives to choose from. If the political enterprise atrophies and becomes non-competitive, as has arguably been the case in many Western democracies in recent decades, popular sovereignty will mean nothing.

The question of how power is exercised in a democracy is a crucial one for our time. It is one that has already been highlighted by the populist upsurge of the past five years. The pandemic has simply shone a spotlight on it”.

Against the foregoing background, permit me to opinionate in this context that Nigeria does not deserve to be ranked on 110th position as it has every opportunity to improve to the admiration of other democratic countries across the world.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor