Nigeria Needs a Fearsome Electorate

Nigeria has path-dependently or even habitually allowed bad leaders and kakistocrats to enter positions of power and govern it either by means of coup d’etas or fraudulent ballots with relative ease and the resultant dissatisfaction is left to be managed by even worse leaders. The cycle of bad leader to bad leader to worse leader has thus become a solidly stable equilibrium in the nation, escaping it seems unlikely. Most Nigerians wonder endlessly how this habit can be broken or bad elections ended in order for good leaders to come into power and 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, the German philosopher Karl Popper provides some perspicacious practical advice. In the Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper is disappointed that people often ask the question, how can citizens get good leaders to elect into power. Popper unequivocally counsels that that is the wrong question. The citizens sell themselves short with such a question. Why? People who aspire to power are either as a rule venal (Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha and Atiku) or mediocre (Buhari [democrat], Gowon, Jonathan, and Shagari). Murtala Mohammed and Muhammadu Buhari [stratocrat] are approximately the only exception. The right question is how does the electorate get those in office to be afraid of the electorate to the extent the leaders seriously fear to misbehave or misgovern while in power.

Many say “democracy takes time to mature”. This statement is only true if the electorate becomes matured enough to perpetually pose the potential threat of fearsome opposition to politicians who act “as they like”. When the potential threats to politicians are existential they will start working very 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 do not usually govern well because of the kindness of their heart, their political convictions, moral principles or their campaign promises. The elected politicians only govern well or as promised if doing the contrary invariably presents them with existential threats to the continuation of their tenures in office. In many advanced countries the biggest threats to elected officials comes from corporate behemoths courtesy of “Big Money” in a neoliberally governed globe; in Nigeria such threats are presented to those in power by the “Owner of Nigeria Technostructure” (ONT).

If we assume or can prove absolute power corrupts absolutely then saints, the honest and the hitherto incorruptible can somehow be corrupted 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 and protects the leaders in power from the wrath of an ever-dissatisfied electorate.

As such Nigeria’s challenge is doubled by the fact that if the electorate wants those in power to be afraid governing “as they like” because of the existentially threatening reactions, they would have to make themselves become a bigger threat than the ONT and / 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? Nigerians lack clean water, electricity, good roads, guaranteed salaries, security and health care only because the ONT want 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 decisively. They are now too reliant on “mumu citizens” that the mere plural existence of a “wisened up citizens”will dislodge and decimate them out with certainty.

Many may be persuaded that violence, sabotage and destruction is the only thing that citizens could do could make those power listen to the electorate and govern their jurisdictions responsibly. 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 usually an overly extreme reaction and mostly a last resort in the face over-saturated hopelessness. Violence and its allies are not the first-lines or second-lines of action to ensuring those power govern well. 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 do not create much 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, simply put, 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 has been stolen.

Those who want corruption to end in Nigeria should start with stopping politicians from stealing their vote. Thinking seriously about it is a fine beginning; self-persuasion gives more voter satisfaction than slavishly adhering 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 that its realities are not in the psyche of the nation despite its enabling and indispensable usefulness for citizens and their futures.

We need it hear it all again.

Grimot Nane

4 responses

  1. insightful. Some contend that it will only take a bunch of good leaders to turn the political fortunes of Nigeria vis a vis the vicious cycle of social and economic failures and hopelessness which has become a norm. I am of the opinion that it will take a citizenry with a completely re-programmed mindset to save Nigeria from the so-called ONT and their surrogates.
    Dr Jane is suggesting here that the ordinary Nigerian is just the long suffering bystander to the impunity with which these politicians go about their business of plundering the economy of the country putting the 99.9% of the country on a cliffhanger of total destruction. There’s an element of reality here but the question is; can a bad seed produce a good harvest?
    Let me sign off with this quote (Biblical but don’t know the verse): “God gives to the people the type of leaders they deserve”


    • Saki, how do you claim credit for an idea I have written clearly in the article then suggest I said something I never said. You quote,

      “I am of the opinion that it will take a citizenry with a completely re-programmed mindset to save Nigeria from the so-called ONT and their surrogates. Dr Jane is suggesting here that the ordinary Nigerian is just the long suffering bystander to the impunity with which these politicians go about their business of plundering the economy of the country putting the 99.9% of the country on a cliffhanger of total destruction.”

      My article simply and competently explains the title, “Nigeria Needs A Fearsome Electorate”, which will actively force leaders to govern well and decimate the ONT.

      “God gives to the people the type of leaders they deserve” – if that quote comes from the Bible then the Lord God Almighty is a thoroughly corrupt God. If it were true, no population on earth deserves a good leader. There are many cases of an infamous rotten school being taken over by a competent head teacher and within two years transforms it into one of the best schools in the country. Is it because the notoriously bad students deserved it? In the 1960s and 1970s Ghana, Singapore and South Korea were atrociously corrupt nations. Was it not national leaders that transformed these countries for the better or did the market women do it? If someone argues that the cashiers in bank are more responsible for the performance of that bank than its CEO and Broad of Directors, such reasoning speaks for itself.

      I now ask you, who is going to re-programme the minds of citizens and how will they do it?


      •, please accept my apologies, again, for the typo which translated Dr Nane as Dr Jane – my error.
        I make no claim to your idea or what you wrote; I made a comment in which I stated that your article is suggesting (NOT QUOTING YOU OR LAYING CLAIM TO YOUR GRAND IDEA) that the Nigerian citizenry are innocent bystanders as the country is being destroyed. It appears here that my suggestion is wrong or has been taken out of context; either way I apologise. My take, perhaps not eloquently put, is that the citizenry is as bad as the politicians and the civil servants who are destroying the country.
        I wrote that “it will take a citizenry with a completely reprogrammed mindset to save the country”. This complements your “idea” that, “Nigeria needs a fearsome electorate”. The question on my mind when I commented on your article was; tame and gullible as they are now, what is likely to change to create a fearsome electorate in Nigeria? The answer to this question that came to my mind was, reprogramming of the mindset of the electorate to be resolute and therefore, fearsome. I am quite open to discussing what reprogramming will entail but by reprogramming I meant a change of beliefs and values systems that created the environment in which bad leadership, corruption and mediocrity thrives. No one can make this change other than Nigerians.
        The example of Ghana, Singapore and South Korea are well documented but I don’t have enough knowledge to be able to speak on that. However, siting how a bank is run on the issue of how we expect Nigeria to be better managed is an apple to orange benchmarking with all due respect. Putting Nigeria’s problem only down to bad leadership is only halfway down the stretch in my opinion.
        It would be interesting to learn how a “fearsome electorate” will emerge in Nigeria to stop politicians from “stealing their” votes in the medium-to-long term. Let’s not forget that the destroyers of Nigeria are not just politicians.
        Again, I apologise for appearing to have claimed your idea. We have the same problem but with different approaches to finding a solution, therefore, please don’t take my opinions and suggestions too seriously – am learning.
        Thanks for your wisdom and persistence in highlighting the problem of corruption and bad management in Nigeria.


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