Nigeria Needs a Fearsome Electorate
Nigerians have, with habitual ease, allowed corrupt leaders and kakistocrats to enter positions of power and govern them. Either through coup d’état or fraudulent ballots. Then the resultant dissatisfaction they leave for even worse leaders to manage next time around. The cycle of corrupt leader to bad leader to worse leader has thus become a solid and stable equilibrium in the nation. Escaping, it seems unlikely. Most Nigerians wonder without end how to break the habit. Or bad elections end in order for good leaders to come into power. Then leaeders can foster best governance possible in the society. All by itself, this is a very mistaken expectation.
For the guaranteed realisation of good governance and good politics in Nigeria there is a solution. The German philosopher Karl Popper provides some perspicacious practical advice. In the Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper’s disappointment is clear. People often ask, how can citizens get good leaders to elect into power? Popper is unequivocal in his counsels that such is the wrong question. The citizens sell themselves short with such a question. Why? People who aspire to power are venal (Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha and Atiku). Or mediocre (Buhari [democrat], Gowon, Jonathan, and Shagari). Murtala Mohammed and Muhammadu Buhari [stratocrats] are approximate as the only exceptions. The right question is how does the electorate get those in office afraid of the electorate to the extent the leaders fear misbehaving or misgovern while in power. Oyesio!
Many say “democracy takes time to mature”. This statement is only true if the electorate becomes matured. Matured enough to pose the potential threat of fearsome opposition to politicians who act “as they like”. When the potential threats to politicians are existential, they will work quickly. Right now the politicians feel they can use political ricism to buy votes the spit on the destiny of voters. What a very cheap citizenry.
Individuals in power never govern well because of the kindness of their heart. Or their political convictions, moral principles, or campaign promises. The elected politicians only govern well or, as promised if doing the contrary, with certainty presents them with existential threats to continuing their tenures in office. In many advanced countries, the biggest threats to elected officials come from corporate behemoths courtesy of “Big Money” in a neoliberal governed globe. in Nigeria, the “Owner of Nigeria Technostructure” (ONT) presented such threats to those in power.
If we assume or can prove absolute power corrupts absolutely. Then saints, the honest and the hitherto incorruptible, can somehow be corrupt. By the paraphernalia and pomp of power once in office. The ONT has no greater job than to co-opt, compromise and corrupt those elected and appointed to power. If necessary, the ONT would even corrupt office clerks, accounts clerks, drivers, messengers and other auxiliary staff to achieve their ends. The ONT is the biggest challenge to the maturation of democracy in Nigeria. Itprotects the leaders in power from the wrath of an ever-dissatisfied electorate.
Accordingly, Nigeria’s challenge doubles because if the electorate wants those in power to be afraid governing “as they like.” They would have to make themselves become a bigger threat than the ONT by presenting existential threats of disobedience. Or even decimate the power of the ONT itself. Of what use has the ONT been to Nigeria? Other than steal the wealth of the nation, stagnate real growth and rendering it poor? And decivilise a whole nation with great potential. Nigerians lack clean water, electricity, good roads, guaranteed salaries, security and health care. Only because the ONT wants the money for themselves.
The ONT is so used to taking Nigerian citizens for granted in the extreme that even with warning, it will not be too difficult to surprise it with decisiveness. Without warning it could be so easy. They are now too reliant on “mumu citizens” that the mere plural existence of “wised up citizens” will dislodge and decimate them out with certainty.
Some may persuade a good deal of people that violence, sabotage and destruction are the only thing that citizens could do could to make those powers listen to the electorate. And govern their jurisdictions with decency. And who can be more violent and bloodthirsty than elected politicians and security forces in Nigeria defending their personal interests? Though it has worked sometimes in the past, it is an extreme reaction and a usual last resort in the face of over-saturated hopelessness. Violence and its allies are not the first-lines or second-lines of action to ensure those in power govern well.
Notwithstanding, the primary solution is the ballot box. A mix of coups, unfree and unfair elections and the power of high court judges who put the highest bidders in office create little hope in the ballot box. A thoroughgoing transformation in voter attitudes towards voting, voting coordination and voting results is the “Big Advocacy“ needed.
Those who are in power administer with downward causation is top-down command or coordination mechanisms. In a democracy, the vote of citizens counters the instruments of power through upward causation. Put otherwise, the votes of the electorate can remove those in power through elections. When Nigerians continue to accept “bought and sold elections,” their most important and rightful capability within the democracy, they lose too.
Those who want corruption to end in Nigeria should start with stopping politicians from stealing their vote. Thinking with clarity about it is a fine beginning. Self-persuasion gives more voter satisfaction than slavish adherence to the sweeties of political public relations or tribal and religious sentiments.
To those who say “we have heard this all before.” It is because you have heard too few times its realities are not in the nation’s psyche. Despite its enabling and indispensable usefulness for citizens and their futures.
We need it hear it all again. And again.