Nigeria’s Democracy Day – A Celebration of Death or Birthday of Democracy? – By Abimbola Lagunju

— The celebration of Democracy Day in Nigeria reminds me of some lines from two poems written by two different authors. Oscar Wilde in his famous Ballad of the Reading Gaol wrote,

Yet each man kills the thing he loves

By each let this be heard.

Some do it with a bitter look,

Some with a flattering word.

The coward does it with a kiss,

The brave man with a sword!

Nigeria so much loves democracy as is being practiced in other countries that we imported it (just like our elites import expensive toys from abroad) and put it into practice without adapting it to our own realities. Like all imports, which have not been reengineered (acclimatized) to work in our climate, it required expensive maintenance to make it function. We could not maintain it and it went into a permanent state of disrepair. Typical of Nigeria, the “act before and think later” approach was adopted to fix democracy and in the process, it got killed here in Nigeria. Each man kills the thing he loves! What we have now is a fake – something that looks like the original, but it is not it. It is something to appease the international community, even if it is to the detriment of Nigerian people. Nigeria, being a country where fake products abound did not surprise the world with its fake democracy. After all, this is a country of fake drugs, fake spare parts, fake doctors, fake engineers, fake men of God….. Everyone is riding along waiting for the moment when this fake ideology will fall flat on its face and Nigeria will fall will it. 

What we have in the place of democracy is an oligarchy that manipulates the people every four years to troop out to vote. And they are not bothered about the outcome of the process; they already know it, having bought it either in their party caucus or directly from the gullible electorate. The electorate is discounted in the course of governance and the system is skewed to placate and serve pockets of oligarchic interests and groups. The people cease to exist immediately after elections. 

In order to permanently shut out potential troublemakers with good intentions, the club of the Nigerian oligarchs has restricted access. Not everyone can join. The cost of a nomination form for primaries for an elective post is so prohibitive to discourage anyone of legitimate means and income. Their system of selection of party-colour bearers for any election is engineered to produce those that have many corruption skeletons in their wardrobes – the true oligarchs. And sometimes, election primaries’ process is a charade; the candidates are selected outrightly by the leaders of the oligarchy. And people ask why the Nigerian parliaments at all levels are made up of Honourables and Senators, many of whom with unknown legitimate sources of income! The Executive on its part recycles people of dubious character and questionable professional history and career paths in key posts of governance just to keep the oligarchy intact and happy. 

Ultimately, there is no difference between the political parties in Nigeria. PDP changes to APC at will and both change to whatever shape and form they fancy whenever it suits them. They are one and same, fielding and recycling the members of the Nigerian oligarchy either in the parliament, the executive or the judiciary. When you vote, you are electing one of the oligarchs, who by obligation must ensure the survival and enrichment of their group irrespective of their party. Governance is not about the citizens in Nigerian Democracy, it is about the survival and sustenance of the oligarchy. The people don’t exist.

And to delude the unsuspecting populace into believing that they have a genuine currency of ideology, Nigeria rolls out drums to celebrate Democracy Day! Although it is a historical fact that the military were sent back to the barracks and the civilians stepped in on 29th May, 1999; but democracy was absent on this day. It had been killed in negotiations prior to the elections that produced Chief Obasanjo as the president in 1999. Democracy was killed with bitter words, flattering looks and deadly kiss. And with it also died peoples’ immediate aspiration for a better Nigeria under a new governance system. Each man kills the thing he loves!

What therefore does Democracy Day mean? Is it a death anniversary of Democracy? A Rebirth? Or a Birthday? For the oligarchs it is a moment to make important speeches to make us think that democracy is alive, but among themselves, they dance on the grave of democracy which they murdered long ago. For the common man, whose hopes and aspirations for a better life have been murdered on all fronts, the day represents the mourning of a loss; the loss of Rights to live as decent human beings, the loss of Rights as citizens of a nation and the loss of rights to hold our politicians accountable. For the international community that sees through the ruse of Nigerian oligarchs, today represents another step towards the inevitable self-destruction of the oligarchs and with them, the Nigerian State. 

The second poem titled, “Strange Meeting” was written by Wilfred Owen. The famous line from the poem, which says “I am the enemy you killed, my friend” represents the ultimate lines of confrontation between the murdered peoples’ aspiration and the Nigerian oligarchy. 

When this finally happens, we will witness the rebirth of Democracy in Nigeria!

Abimbola Lagunju is a writer and author of several books.