IT is no longer news that the autobiography of Chief Bisi Akande “My Participation” was glamorously presented to the public at the Eko Hotel and Suite on Thursday, December 9, 2021. The book, though a personal point of view but a fearless chronicle of the good, the bad and the ugly in Nigeria’s contemporary politics, has opened up a floodgate of responses that will keep flowing for a long time. For its critical timing ahead of the election cycle starting early next year and concluding in the presidential election of 2023, the book offers, yet again, one big lesson and reminder to the common people: the level of popular participation in democratic processes has direct, proportional consequences on the value of private/personal participations by the political elite.
According to Wikipedia, popular participation “can be defined as the process whereby the majority of the citizens in a state or country show interest in partaking in the affairs and decision making of the state.” The underlying assumptions and principles of popular participation are that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision making process. Applied to democracy [government of the people, by the people, and for the people], who else should be the major determinant of the processes and outcomes other than the people? And who are the people other than the majority of the masses of working people, students, artisans, women and youths? The extent (quantity and quality) to which they directly participate determines the value they get out of elite private participation.
Whether they admit it or not, by birth, background, training and personally adopted ideology, the elite (irrespective of and across all religions and tribes) are split basically into two: anti-masses, self-centred, conservative elite AND pro-masses, egalitarian and progressive elite. Though they may gather to make merry socially in so called “saner climes,” the elites, politically, hardly ever mix or get muddled up: from the far right to the far left, there are ranges left and right of the centre BUT you can always tell who is who and which is which, AND THEY FORM AND JOIN POLITICAL PARTIES ACCORDINGLY! The programmes and policies of these parties and how they affect the masses, and how the masses respond to them, are clear-cut.
The tragedy in Nigeria, after centuries of conquest, slavery, colonisation and military rule after independence, are: one, the majority of elite in Nigeria have abandoned commitment to noble and humanitarian ideals, especially after the aborted 3rd Republic; two, the attempt by the remnants of progressive elites to resuscitate progressive party politics in 1999 suffered consistent, unremitting setbacks and adulteration in the face of overwhelming monetisation of politics and the unabandoned ambition for the progressives to rule at the centre AT ALL COST. Rather than learn from the Awolowo adventure in power, settle and FIGHT FOR GENUINE FEDERALISM AND A TRUE REPUBLIC, they got enchanted with the ruinous lucre of the unitary monster feeding fat on oil rent money. The outcome of that reality and the power play among the majority self-centred elite and minority people-centred ones is what account for the contents of “My Participation.”
Participation by millions of youths, women, workers and the common masses cannot and must not be allowed to be limited to periodic meetings, ceremonial gatherings and election rallies and voting. Popular participation is for the people to systematically and organisationally engage every social and political institution, including institutions of government, consistently and on a daily basis from one election all the way to the next election, and forever. That is why it is said that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!”
The unruly #EndSARS movement offers an example, albeit a tainted one, of popular engagement of the powers-that-be. Government exists only on account of the people, to serve the people, and never above the people, for self and cliques. It is said that “no country can progress if its politics is more profitable than its industry.” Although that is precisely the type of country that we find ourselves in today, the challenge to popular, focussed, democratic participation is simple and clear: how the youths, as vanguards, will rise up and rally themselves to overcome today’s terrible contamination of social and human values as it impacts them; overcome the awful influences of thorough monetisation of politics and governance amidst widespread poverty and ignorance; then achieve the clear perspectives and dynamics needed to build a triumphant, unifying platform that can clean off the national Aegean’s stable, and thereby deliver the nation from stress and sorrow in the hands of depraved, bankrupt elite. It looks like a tall order today but that is it, “it always looks impossible until it is done.”