Whichever way you look at it, it is beginning to look like Nigeria is either not ready or not suited to democracy. At every point in the nation’s history when there was a democratic experiment, it ended up in chaos prompting the intervention or return of the military. After a vociferous campaign for independence by the nationalists, independence was granted in 1960 along with the democratic experiment of the first republic. But as soon as the politicians settled down, ‘wahala’ started first with the 1962 declaration of a state of emergency in the West, the arrest and prosecution of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other party stalwarts for alleged coup plotting, the massive rigging of elections in 1964 and the attendant violence and general insecurity (wetie) that followed which invited the intervention of the military and the consequent bloody aftermath.
One would have thought that the bloodbath and fall of the first republic would be a lesson for future politicians in averting the mistakes they made in the first republic. But as soon as the second republic commenced in 1979, it became immediately obvious that no lessons had been learnt as politicians once again embarked on a vicious battle for power. Corruption, election rigging, thuggery arson and general misrule once again became the order of the day, prompting the return of the military in 1983. The military threw most of the politicians into jail for their various excesses in corruption, violence and election rigging.
As the dust of the second republic cleared and the military consolidated power, pro-democracy groups began a ceaseless campaign for a return to democracy. They sold us the dummy that the military was the problem and that democracy once given a chance would provide solutions to critical issues of mass unemployment, poverty, absence of basic infrastructure, corruption and ethno-religious conflicts. Nigerians decided to believe and give the politicians another chance, hoping once again that lessons have been learnt from the debacles of the first and second republics. Thus after an exhaustive struggle, democracy returned in 1999 amidst much fanfare and hope.
But whatever projections and expectations with which the fourth republic was birthed has since been dashed by the reality of a democracy that has in every way and by every standard proven to be worse than all preceding regimes in Nigeria’s chequered history. The Fourth republic has ushered Nigeria into the most corrupt, poverty stricken, lawless, insecure, election rigging and self destructive epoch in history. Through corruption, insecurity and lack of basic infrastructure, the failed state long in the making has been consolidated in the fourth republic as outlined below.
The fourth republic since 1999 was fortunate to have coincided with the largest oil boom in the nation’s history thus having the advantage of an unprecedented infusion of financial resources with which to invest in critical infrastructure and other social programs to eradicate poverty, but 13 years after, Nigerians are further enmeshed in the deepest crisis of deprivation and poverty than at any other time in history. Over 80% of the population live in the most unimaginable penury, hopelessness and despair. 13 years after, there is not a single road, railway line, functional hospital, functional school, power plant , refinery, affordable low cost housing, pipe borne water scheme etc constructed as a result of the monumental corruption that has come to define governance. Thus, whereas there is an unprecedented availability of resources, most of it is looted by the criminals that constitute Nigeria’s leadership at every level in the fourth republic.
The greatest tragedy of Nigeria’s present day apocalyptic insecurity is that not only have the federal government failed to address youth unemployment but that they also directly created 90% of the security problems across the nation. It is not a secret that the Boko haram group that has now metamorphosed into terrorist mass murderers was created and armed as election rigging thugs by the former Borno state governor, after being used and dumped, they evolved and found new ideologies and uses for their guns. All across the nation it is the same trend. Politicians import weapons, distribute it to young unemployed men as election rigging thugs and abandon them after the elections leaving the young men to find new uses for their guns. This has resulted in a massive proliferation of weapons in the nation leading to the unprecedented wave of insecurity across the nation. The verdict is thus very clear that the fourth republic democracy (lootocracy) and leadership is responsible for the “volcanic” crisis of security in which the nation is trapped.
Absence of a Peoples Constitution or Covenant:
The Nigerian nation suffers a crisis of identity as a result of the insensitivity, contempt, fraud, injustice and force with which her existence was birthed and sustained without the consent of the people. This reality has created a stillborn nation which lacks definition and in which no one really belongs. Thus once you move out of your village you become a stranger and no matter how long you live outside your village and pay your taxes you remain a stranger. If your children are born elsewhere, they will also forever be strangers. This is happening not in another country but in a nation in which you are supposedly a citizen. Therein lies the paradox of Nigeria, a nation that is at best a scam for the nation in reality does not and has never existed. Under these circumstances, there is an urgent need for a sovereign national conference or genuine dialogue to address the many critical issues of nationhood, but 13 years after, the fourth republic democracy (lootocracy) has failed to actualise this very fundamental necessity. Consequently, the slide to the precipice continues unchecked.
A Failed State And The Dangers Ahead:
As I said earlier, it is fast becoming the conclusion of many that Nigeria is either not suited or ready for democracy. Since the first republic, the hopes and aspirations of the citizenry have been dashed by unscrupulous, greedy and insensitive politicians who have at every opportunity made things worse. In every democratic experiment, the same corruption, insecurity and election rigging that marred the last one is repeated. It is now obvious that no lesson has been learnt by the actors in the fourth republic who have taken misrule, corruption, election rigging and insecurity to new levels never before seen in the nation’s history. Nigeria has practically become consolidated as a failed state lacking in the rule of law and the most basic infrastructure. The whole situation is made worse by the fact that the tragedies confronting the nation are all deliberate acts of an unconscionably corrupt and insensitive leadership.
Nigerians are increasingly sick and tired of a democracy that has proven to be worse than military rule and there are implicit dangers in such a phenomena. If the political leaders continue their free ride of corruption, misrule and insecurity, the rising wave of angst and disappointment will predictably bring bloody consequences which will terminate the fourth republic. The aftermath is unpredictable but it could include the final burial of a nation that never was. In the end, the gluttonous political leaders who refused to learn from history will have only themselves to blame.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu