Consolidating liberal, secular democracy in Nigeria - By: . . | Dailytrust

Consolidating liberal, secular democracy in Nigeria

National Assembly
National Assembly

By Ayuba Buba Kinafa

 

Past governments have made attempts to improve the quality of democratic practice and governance in Nigeria. None holds the promise of liberal democracy and good governance to give the citizens the right to choose their leaders and remove bad leaders than the efforts by the present administration.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent executive orders, unifying comments and decisions by prominent Nigerians, mark the beginning of a new dawn on the practice of democracy in Nigeria. Mr. President has signed executive orders that grant autonomy to the states’ legislatures, local government councils and the judiciary. The amended electoral bill is expected to be signed into law. The bill permits direct primary elections only in the selection of candidates to vie for political offices. The 1999 Constitution as amended is being reviewed. 

The joint decision of South East governors dissociating themselves from violent activities of agitators signals an end to the wanton killings and destruction of property in the South East. The calls by some governors, former governors and other influential persons from the North for power rotation and calls by some prominent politicians from the South calling for the president to come from the North indicate that Nigeria’s democracy is maturing. Regionalism is disappearing. Meritocracy is on the rise.

Hope is reborn. Hope releases psychological freedom within each and every citizen to compete in the economic, social, cultural, political and other spaces. Hope will further be incited when we conduct direct primaries and remove term-limits for holding elected political offices in the executive branch of government. I strongly feel term-limit is a bridle for progress. Creative, innovative and pragmatic leaders need adequate time, orderliness, stability and continuity for implementation of policies. Without term-limits the national debate would have been on unifying issues like security, economic, social and political matters, policy, continuity or change and challenges rather than on which part of the country a president should come from. We have had successful and peaceful transition from one leader to another in the same party and from one party to another. Impressively, our leaders now concede defeat and congratulate each other. Fear and suspicion of “Third-term agenda” has been allayed by PMB. Then why retain this undemocratic, discriminatory and unfashionable provision in our constitution? Removal of term-limits should not be scary. Nigeria and Nigerians have zero tolerance for tyranny and dictatorship. 

Inept leaders have been shown their way out. The executive orders and other existing laws will strengthen mechanism to check excesses. History has shown that the longer you stay in office the larger the number of pitfalls and the more likely to end up in prison. Fear of pitfalls, corruption charges, prison cell and the Shakespeare’s advice for one to leave the stage when the ovation is loudest should be the deterrence not term-limits. 

A secular and liberal democracy is one with the ability, capacity and capability to contain the citizens and peacefully elect and remove its leaders through the ballot boxes. Nigeria has come of age. We are now eclipsed by the “can do spirit” and the“No victor, no vanquished spirit”.

 Direct primaries releases liberty and freedom. It is the beginning of popular consent. Late US President Abraham Lincoln said “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent”. Deeper and wider consent of the majority starts at Direct Primaries before the general elections. Opponents of direct primaries cite cost. Let us borrow from educationists who always say “If education is expensive try ignorance”. By the same token, proponents of direct primaries are free to say “If democracy is expensive try dictatorship or tyranny”. The security concerns are exaggerated and destroys the “Can do” spirit. The exigency in direct primaries is not as difficult and complex as in general elections. 

Direct primaries conducted for PMB and those in Osun and Lagos were shining examples of Nigerians’ willingness and readiness for direct primaries. It is one of the reasons why the title “Mr. President” seats on PMB with honour, dignity and integrity. Experience and practice have proven beyond reasonable doubt that indirect primary elections are cruel and wicked. Excellent candidates are priced out giving out room for Lowest- Common-Denominator candidates to emerge, leading to defection and factionalism. Indirect Primary election is the beginning of corruption in the election process. Mr. President won the election to keep and fulfill three major promises. One of them is to fight corruption. Direct primary election is one way of eliminating corruption. Nigerians should give this administration the required support, cooperation and encouragement to conduct direct primaries and expunge the provisions for term limits from the constitution. And as one of its legacies, deliver a secured, liberal, secular and free democratic nation.

 Kinafa, a management consultant, resides in Gombe

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