ELECTIONS are an integral component of democracy. The best legal brains are nominated, confirmed and appointed to leadership positions in the judiciary at local, state and federal levels but the legislatures and executives must be periodically elected by the consent of the majority adult population in a democracy.
Democracy is not all about elections. Democracy packs a lot, including separations of powers among the judiciary, executive and legislature; political party formations; internal party democratic processes; political campaigns; equality of citizens and the rule of law; presumption of innocence, free hearing and trial; the freedom of the press and fundamental human rights of citizens; and so on. However, election into public offices is a fundamental necessity of democracy, and is usually, for good reasons, more attended to than other issues; perhaps because once the people in public offices do not get their mandate through the consent of the people, all other critical expectations are mortgaged ab initio.
Democratic governance is about popular participation in how the people are governed, in their best interest. It is assumed therefore that those who seek to enter politics and get into public offices – elected or appointed by those elected – should be keen to listen to the people, fathom their yearnings and aspirations, and ready to serve to deliver dividends that meet those yearnings and aspirations. In Nigeria, it has turned out largely, except for a few exceptions in personality and places, to be a sadly wrong assumption.
Public offices are sought, desperately and violently, for all sorts of reasons except for the public good to the extent that a former president declared elections as a do-or-die affair! How, for the sake of God, can any man/woman wish to better the lots of his/her community and people so desperately as to not mind killing and maiming as many persons as he/she perceives as standing in the way? There are unnumbered unresolved cases of high profile political assassinations and brigandage, the most lamentable and painfully ironic being the killing of a sitting Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation! Not to mention death and maiming of many “unknown civilians” and loss of properties in nameless billions of naira.
President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have once said he will keep the identity of his preferred successor close to his chest as he does not want him to be eliminated before his time. What a damning indictment to a deadly politics and dispiriting pointers to the fact that our elites and politicians have not learnt much either from the past, or of democracy itself. The terrible hangover of protracted military rule – brutal and authoritarian – and the history of monarchy and colonialism combined still weigh heavily on their mentality!
With the unprecedented level of insecurity in the nation, it is no time to add political and electoral violence, which are alien to true democracy. Of course, Fela has characterised ours as demon-crazy (demonstration of craze) with all the toxic meaning anyone is free to read into that. However, time is now for the youth and women, who are the majority players in politics, to have a rethink on the role imposed on them and redefine their own place, goals and actions by themselves. Such paradigm shift and actions are the only hope for a new “politics without bitterness” where elections will not be “a do-or-die affair.”