‘How democracies die’ is a new book by two respected political science scholars teaching in one of the Ivy League universities in the United States of America- Havard University, Professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblat.
A polish commentator by name Stan Tetenman did a very brief commentary on this important work of scholarship which follows the comprehensive scholarly work done earlier by Professor John Keane which he titled “the death and life of democracy”.
Tetenman whose write up featured in the www.sunjournal.com, said the book, “How Democracies Die,” is an interesting analysis of what is happening in this country (USA). The authors say norms are important to a society. Two of the most important are mutual toleration and institutional forbearance.
The reviewer reported the authors as affirming that there are “Four measures on our litmus test for autocrats 1. Weak commitment to the democratic rules of the game (claiming voter fraud, wouldn’t accept results of election); 2. Denial of the legitimacy of one’s opponents (birther problem against Obama, locking up Clinton); 3. Toleration or encouragement of violence; (embraced and encouraged violence at rallies); and 4. Readiness to curtail the civil liberties of rivals and critics (threatening media, claiming media lies).”
The reviewer quoted the duo as stating In their powerfully written book ‘How Democracies Die that President Donald Trump and many Republicans meet those four tests. How can they credibly defend this country’s democracy?, he asked rhetorically.
“Politics should not be an “I win, you lose” situation. Politics should be reaching what is the best compromise for the good of this country. Rivals in the political process should be treated with mutual toleration and respect. Those are not in the Constitution. They do set a standard for how politicians should behave to make democracy function”.
“Partisan hatred threatens the spirit of the Constitution. It can subvert the system of checks and balances. If norms of mutual toleration and respect are abandoned, this nation will cease being a democracy”.
But wait a minute! These authors could have expanded the scope of their academic enterprise to go beyond the shores of the Trump’s America and to capture the developing trends in a place like Nigeria which Donald Trump once called “a shithole country”.
Be that as it may, the writers of this scholarly work have also covered the broad representation of how Nigeria’s democracy is dying incremental death. All those four factors highlighted in the new book by the two Harvard university professors of Political Science, as significant signs of dying democracies are present in huge quantity in Nigeria as I write.
First, the fundamental indices alluded to in that book are in large supply in Nigeria of today and many more are replicated such as the persistently annoying blame game that the current government in Abuja has elevated to a statecraft.
For the better part of the last three days, Nigerians have been inundated by a government sponsored propaganda and campaign of calumny targeted at the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party which had peacefully handed over power to this administration in 2015.
Secondly, as Nigerians have been told to take a holiday on May 29th 2018 to mark the so-called democracy day, Nigerians in their millions are in total agreement that democracy is fast collapsing under the watch of the man some few percentage (15 million out of 180 million) gave the mandate in the year 2015 to run the administrative structure of the federal executive arm of government for four years.
Recently, a poll conducted by one of the respected online newspapers has it that majority of Nigerians think that corruption, has become widespread even as insecurity and unemployment have expanded in the last three years.
The popular online medium reported the majority opinions of those who participated in the opinion poll as arguing that the economy is at an all-time low. These feelings of a collapsing economy even has some semblance of official stamp going by the frightening statistics that emanated from the International Monetary fund (IMF); World Bank and the local National Bureau of Statistics(NBS).
Even by the very modest and indeed conservative estimation of the publicly funded National Bureau of statistics, the rate of poverty and unemployment amongst Nigerians have ballooned beyond control just as the stark reality of job losses in the last three years have become very disturbing. 9 million Nigerians have lost their jobs in the last one year.
By some considerable estimate, it is stated that virtually all the states but few are insolvent and can’t meet their financial obligations without federal allocations. Some States that got the so called Paris Fund refund running into billions of Naira couldn’t still pay their workers due to manifest corruption on the part of the State governors.
One of the governors who is even the Chairman of the cartel called Nigerian Governors Forum was accused of diverting billions of cash from his state’s treasury and is building a hotel in Lagos even as he had recently bought up a choice housing assets in the United States of America.
Die to the existence of section 308(1) of the Constitution which grants some 74 executive power holders in Nigeria (President; Vice president; Governors and their deputies) this indicted governor from one of the poorest states in the North is still walking around a free man. That section of the Constitution i cited is the beginning of the institutionalisation of inequity in Nigeria.
Sadly, inequalities and inequities have widened beyond control just as the rate of violent killings of the citizenry has become a common place thus negating the primary purpose of government which is the protection of lives and property.
Nigeria under the current dispensation has also become a large killing fields with crimes and criminality becoming the order of the day with the heads of the various security organizations unable and unwilling to discharge the legal functions for which they were appointed to do in the first place.
The reoccurring decimal of official corruption and the total lack of transparency in the procurement mechanisms applied by government, have led to the expanding frontiers of insecurity and collapse of good governance in all of Nigeria without exception.
The defence sector and the police are some of the most corruptly administered agencies of federal government. Almost all of the major defence procurement are marred by massive corruption.
So it can be submitted beyond any shadow of doubt that Nigeria’s social and political manifestations of collapse have by far surpassed the estimation made by some academic scholars including the two Harvard University Political Science Professors who had affirmed that even in the developed Western societies, inequality and difference has increasingly become present.
Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler wrote in their book “media and society”, fourth edition that: “looking at the world globally, and at individual Western societies, it soon becomes evident that there are major social inequalities. Societies consist of a complex network of group with different – sometimes competing, sometimes overlapping-interests”.
Some of these groups according the aforementioned authors are advantaged (in terms of such social goods as housing, education, and life opportunities) by virtue of their birth, their wealth, their class position, their skin colour, and their gender. Consequently, there are advantaged and disadvantaged groups in society, or, to put this another way, dominant and subordinate groups.
The authors of Media and Society states that three major areas of social division are class, gender, and race, although in some contexts religion, age, sexuality, caste, and education can be equally divisive in ways that are often closely related to these three primary categories.
“Class, race and gender frequently restrict or create opportunities for individuals and groups to flourish and to attain coveted positions in society”.
“Since the beginnings of colonial explorations of the rest of the world by Europe in the sixteenth century there have been major differences in wealth between different countries and cultures.
“While you might imagine that the world is becoming more economically equal in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the opposite seems to be true, as evidenced by the data from the website of New International Magazine.”
“Inequality is on the increase. In 1976 Switzerland was 52 times richer than Mozambique; in 1997 it was 508 times richer. Two hundred and fifty years ago, the richest countries were only five times richer than the poorest, and Europe only twice as rich as China or India (New International, www.newint.org/index4.html).”
“The gap between rich and poor is also huge and increasing within Australia, the united kingdom, and the USA. It is estimated that, in Britain in the 1970’s, 7 percent of the population owned 84 percent of the wealth; currently, it is estimated that 1 percent owns 50 percent of the wealth….”
As we witness another so called democracy day, it is important to point out that inequality foisted by the distorted methods of running the departments of government in the three arms of government have made the gap between the 90 million extremely poor citizens from the extremely rich political and governmental elite and their stoves, cronies and bootlickers.
The legislators corner over 10 percent of the National budget to service their huge recurrent votes just as each of the law makers in the National Assembly corner over N200 million per annum which is 100 times higher than the salaries of President Donald Trump who leads the World’s strongest economy.
Governors corner billions of their State’s fund to their private accounts just as ministers are busy picking up bribes from ghost contractors. Income inequality in Nigeria is criminal. So the stark realities painted graphically by the aforementioned book are also in high supply in Nigeria.
Now, let’s be specific on the issue of the expanding frontiers of inequity and inequality and this brings us to the very issue of the existing polarization introduced in the body polity by the current President in such a way that he handed over the command and control strictures of all the internal security infrastructures to only Hausa/Fulani Moslems.
In fact the persons controlling the intelligence gathering communities locally and international are kinsmen of Muhammadu Buhari. The level of nepotism has never been witnesses in the political annals of Nigeria.
This is why the Fulani cattle owners Association openly threatened violence should their kinsman Muhammadu Buhari not re-elected next year and till now that man who made the threat has not been arrested by their fellow Fulani kinsmen who are in charge of national security under this dispensation.
This glaring inequity and inequality is unconstitutional because it is a direct affront to the very essence of our drive for national integration and the constitutional provisions of federal character principle.
Section 14 (3) of the constitution says: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Section 42 (1) (2) states thus: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions; (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.
Here are the current controllers of strategic national security:
- Director General of Nigerian State Security Service (DSS) – Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura;
- the Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) – Ahmed Rufai Abubakar;
- Commandant General of Defence Corps – Abdullahi Muhammadu; Minister of Defence – Dan Ali Mansur;
- Minister of Interior – Abdulrahman Dambazau;
- Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service – Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd);
- Comptroller General, Immigration – Mr. Mohammed Babandede, and,
- the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotum Idris.
- The Federal Attorney General Malam Abubakar Malami are all Hausa/Fulani Moslems.
- The men who controls the largest combat force on land and air are Moslems.
- The National Security Adviser is a Moslem and the Chairman of Police Service Commission just appointed is a Moslem.
Where is equity?
Where is the Federal Character Principle?
Where is the democracy?
We are simply fooling ourselves if we believe that what we have now is democracy rather that authoritarianism/Totalitarianism and dictatorship that it is.
When will this self-inflicted deception end? We must halt the imminent collapse of democracy.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and email@example.com;www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.huriwa.blogspot.com.