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The place of choice in democracy

One thing which stands democracy out is that it guarantees the right to free expression of political preference through peaceful competition.  There is a popular…

One thing which stands democracy out is that it guarantees the right to free expression of political preference through peaceful competition. 

There is a popular Yoruba maxim that “gbogbo wa a ò lè sùn kí a kọrí sí ibi kan náà” which means that we cannot all head in the same direction. What this means is that people should be given the freedom to choose their leaders. Freedom of choice is a prerequisite for democracy.  

Individuals support candidates for different reasons, and we have seen situations whereby people openly declare their support for people they think will make them better off. We have also seen people strategically cast their votes for a less-preferred candidate to block ‘worse’ outcome. It is still democracy.  

Nigerians must understand that coercion and intimidation of people with dissenting opinions undermines democracy and puts it under threat. 

The people have spoken through the ballots. Though the majority rules, the president-elect must understand that the interests of the minority must be protected. There should be no vindictiveness. The majority does not have the right to oppress the minority, so people should not be categorised based on their political decisions.  

We must avoid creating stereotypes from one dimension of people’s political lives – knowing fully well that politics itself is just one dimension of our overall lives. Your neighbour is still your neighbour, your sibling is still your sibling, and your friend is still your friend no matter who they voted for. They are multidimensional entities that you relate with, and there are many other dimensions of them that you agree with asides their political views.  

Politics is mainly about institutional and ideological change, so we should all try to see other people and the effect of institutions, structures and ideological systems on their worldview. As elections head to a close, let us all depolarise our relations. 

 

Kazeem Olalekan Israel (GANI) resides in Ibadan

 

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