Responsive Ad Slot

Latest

Sports

Relationship Matters

Opinion

Mbeki’s damning verdict on Nigerians

Thabo Mbeki
Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki’s contention that ordinary Nigerians deserve as much blame as the politicians for the leadership failure in the country provides a valid platform for the re-evaluation of citizens’ role in governance in Nigeria. According to the man who took over the mantle of leadership from the great Nelson Mandela, it is only the citizens themselves that can put a stop to bad leadership. We agree.

Democracy’s efficacy and legitimacy are predicated on an informed citizenry; without active and knowledgeable citizens, democratic representation remains empty; without vigilant, informed citizens, there is no check on potential tyranny. Mbeki’s position quickly brings to mind the statement credited to a French historian and political thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville, that “in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” Given his background as an activist and freedom fighter, whose struggles helped to bring down the obnoxious apartheid system in his country, Mbeki certainly knows what it takes to put a government under pressure and compel it to do the bidding of the people, in whom lies ultimate sovereignty. This civic political culture is lacking in Nigeria at present.

But recent events in the Arab world, known as the Arab Spring, have clearly demonstrated what the people can do with power when they realise that it belongs to them, and is only held in trust on their behalf by politicians. Once the Arabs lost faith in the way they were being governed, they expressed their views very strongly and forced changes. The change of government that took place in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt was an inevitable capitulation to the will of the people, just in the same manner as the reforms that were introduced in Morocco.

This point has been made even more pointedly in Egypt where, after three decades of authoritarian rule, the government of Hosni Mubarak was unceremoniously brought to an end. Notably too, even his successor, Mohammed Morsi, was swept away in a gale of protests, barely a year after assuming office as the first democratically elected president of the country. To achieve this, the people were ready to put their lives on the line, confronting security agents and defying live bullets.

Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, nobody wants to put his life on the line. Apathy by the civil populace has meekly handed politicians and political office holders the freedom to steal the country blind and squander its resources in a manner, perhaps, unheard of in the annals of the country. It is difficult to think of a country where over N2 trillion spent in the name of subsidy has not been properly accounted for; yet, nobody is behind bars two years after. It is unimaginable that in a country that professes the rule of law, billions of naira belonging to pensioners could vanish into thin air and nobody is made to account for it.

Indeed, it is still difficult to fathom how over 100 security agents could be murdered in cold blood while on official duty and the killers still prance around unmolested. It is perhaps only in Nigeria that a minister would authorise the purchase of two extra cars, apart from her other official vehicles, for N255 million. To think that this is happening at a time when a minister was given the boot in Ghana for merely expressing her desire to acquire up to $1 million through politics only reinforces the extent to which Nigerians are docile and satisfied with the kind of government that they have. The Nigerian minister in question is still in office.

It is not just under the current government, governments in Nigeria have always acted as if they exist in a different planet and owe the electorate neither explanations for their actions, nor effective service delivery. Yet, when the time comes to make a change through the ballot box, it is either the same villains are returned to power or they rig themselves back, regardless of what the ballot says.

In Nigeria, it appears nothing can provoke the people into demanding accountability from political office holders. Things that would jolt a government in any other clime go unnoticed in the country. For instance, how does one explain the continued deterioration in the quality of infrastructure amidst an endless flow of money from the sale of crude oil? How can the decline in the quality of education and health care delivery be explained in view of the amount that accrues to the country from the crude oil sale? It is in this same country that a government came to office when the price of oil was $18 per barrel was able to pay off the country’s debt of over $30 billion and saved over $50 billion in foreign reserves and more than $20 billion in Excess Crude Account. But the country is now accumulating debts, even when the price of oil in the international market has remained largely above $100 pb in the past six years. Yet, Nigerians are not asking questions and are so enfeebled that their views, when expressed, don’t count.

A major factor has been the role of ethnicity and religion in the way people perceive issues in the country. Once a person offends the law and is about to be brought to justice, there will be shameless protests from his kith and kin, claiming victimisation on account of the person’s ethnic origin. This blackmail has worked in many cases, including the corruption case of a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, and it is currently being put to test in the ongoing bulletproof cars purchase scandal involving the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah.

Making democracy work, says the National Democratic Institute, a United States-based non-profit organisation, requires informed and active citizens who understand how to voice their interests, act collectively and hold public officials accountable. Democracy’s credibility and sustainability depends, to an important degree, on how it works in practice, and on what it delivers. As Mbeki puts it, bad governments thrive in Nigeria, or elsewhere for that matter, because “the leadership does not feel pressure from the people.” It therefore follows that if Nigerians desire the dividends of democracy, they will have to fight for it. They must decide whether to continue with the way they are being governed or become active in demanding transparency and accountability from government.











Source - The Punch

If you like what we post here, and you want more... Add us to your Circles, like our Facebook Page, Follow us on Twitter, follow us on google friend connect, or Subscribe to our RSS feed for our latest posts.

Share this post with your friends and also feel free to add your comments below.

No comments

Post a Comment