The adoption of democracy all over the world is hinged on its potentials to drive development and propel social, economic and political advancement of the people, as well as ensure inclusive governance. These are the expected outcomes of any democratic nation.
Where this becomes a mirage, it casts doubts on the experiment and people begin to think otherwise about the concept of democracy.
Nigeria has enjoyed 20 years of uninterrupted democracy and if truly democracy is the magic and true elixir for development, many people expected a better and more prosperous country where citizens enjoy every good thing of life.
Is this however the case in Nigeria? This is a poser which Dr. Omano Edigheji unravelled in his newly presented 197-page book titled, “Nigeria Democracy Without Development: How to fix it” published by A’lime Media Limited.
The author who is a renowned political economist, development practitioner and governance expert is concerned that democracy has only survived for over two decades without commensurate developmental trajectory.
“This book makes a worthy argument for a democracy of purpose. It is a timely call for democracy to propel institutions and measures that substantially improve the lives of citizens, develop the economy and improve the processes for selecting and electing leaders,” said Mallam Nasir El-Rufai in praising the book.
On his part, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim said, “I commend Dr. Omano Edigheji’s book for its passionate plea to Nigerians to ensure democracy does not fail.”
According to the author who is also a Special Adviser on Research and Documentation to Governor El-Rufai, in the two decades of democracy, 1999 – 2019, there has been a paradoxical relationship between democracy and development.
He said, “During the period under review, Nigeria’s experience has been marked by increased poverty, inequality, unemployment, underemployment, insecurity, ethno-religious divisions, increased corruption and, continued dependence on oil as the major source of government revenue and foreign exchange.”
The five- chapter book published by A’Lime Media Limited argued that it’s apparent that not much has changed in development terms since two decades ago when Nigeria became a democratic country with the military handing over the reins of command to an elected civilian leader. This he attributed to several factors which he attempted to explain in the five chapters.
Chapter two examines the development deficits of Nigerian democracy, analyzing “the developmentalist project of democracy” anchored on the assumption that “democracy must focus on nation-building and development” and at the same time “prioritize human security with the involvement of an active and informed citizenry.
Another key observation as the author pointed out is the need for democracy to enable people engage in productive economic activities in order to create wealth.
Achieving this, he argued, “will require that democracy create the conditions for citizens not only to increase their incomes but their asset base.”
While there is no doubt that there has been some progress over the two decades that the country experiments with democracy. The author points out that the economic growth has “neither been sufficient or inclusive” more so when it was driven largely by the rise in global oil prices.
He also provides illustration and relevant data to drive home his argument about democracy without economic growth.
Based on his conclusion in the chapter two of the book, he tagged Nigeria democracy as “exclusionary” and “fragile.”
Chapter three however dwells on the Nigerian Political Leadership and what the author calls “the lack of ideology of Development Nationalism and Valueless Politics” where he argued that the absence of “transformational” political leadership has contributed in no small measure to the current challenges.
He observed that nations develop because patriotic individuals come together to transform their societies based on an objective assessment of the material conditions of such a country in an effort at national survival.
Basically he relates that leadership is sine qua non to development in all ramifications. It is the leadership that is expected to drive the process of development and tackling underdevelopment. Even with the existence of bureaucrats, their success according to him, largely depends on the political leadership “supporting the strategic policy choices” they take.
One of the major hindrance to having an effective political leadership, as Dr. Edigheji pointed out is also the kind of dirty party politics the various actors play in an attempt to get the tickets.
“Democracy in the fourth republic is undermined partly by an absence of internal democracy within political parties. Party primaries for elective positions are routinely hijacked by the highest bidders and party tickets are handed to the favourites of party leaders,” he writes.
This however comes with its consequences – looting of the commonwealth, neglect of various sectors and politics of rent-seeking and poor governance.
According to him, in the absence of a dominant coalition of developmentalists with a shared national vision and consensus, rent-seeking and its associated patronages have become the primary purpose of politics and an emphasis of what divides rather than unite the nations and its people.
The book in chapter four examines the institutional deficits of Nigerian democracy pointing at how absence of strong institutions has been a clog in the wheel of progress. He said people should not only be concerned about how the political leaders emerge, rather “we should broaden our enquiries to the administrative structures of the state.”
The author stated that for Nigerian democracy to be developmental, there is the need for “organizational structures of the state and the consultative mechanisms between the state and societal investors.”
It is in Chapter Five, the last chapter, that the author envisions a democratic developmental state in Nigeria which would bring about “shared and prosperous future.” The author listed the factors mitigating against Nigeria’s development to include but no limited lack of political and administrative capacity; untransformed structure of the Nigerian Economy and continued dependence on oil; underinvestment in Human Capital and Exclusionary Economic Outcomes; ideological poverty of the political elites and exclusionary socio-economic outcomes.
According to him, majority of Nigerian politicians are unprincipled and indisciplined. He said, “For Nigeria to overcome these development and institutional deficits, it is proposed that democratic governments embrace developmentalism as an overarching national development agenda.”