Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport Or A Siddon Look Matter
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Nigerians are beleaguered, but even so, Nigerians must realize that democracy is not a spectator sport
Nigerians must support the survival, and sustenance of democracy. Any true democracy and constitutionalism is maintained through active involvement, engagement and participation by the electorate and the citizenry. All in all, the people are the true source and foundation, of political and constitutional power, hence, we the people!
Events of the preceding 100 days have been absurd, ridiculous, sublime and surreal.
Nigerians and Nigeria were subjected to bizarre and weird political and constitutional chasms, schisms and shenanigans, all of which were capable of speeding Nigeria towards unnecessary disasters, violence and total collapse as a nation.
What have been going on in Nigeria during the past 100 days is surreal, so surreal and macabre, it passes for a well crafted most hilarious movie, except that this is not a movie, and moreover, the lives of 150 million people are at stake and this is my beloved nation and so, I am unable to laugh even in the face of these absurdly funny outlandish and outrageous of power play
Certain political power mongers were engaged in power games or power plays. Power games which were wrapped in extremely unreasonable intrigues. These power mongers were so inflammatory and provocative, as such, that one more push or shove or body language, by one political actor or another, would have driven our nation closer to the precipice of apocalyptic proportions.
During all these, I feared the possibility that renegades and opportunists, foreign and domestic, would and could have, engaged in dastardly acts, which would have in turn led Nigeria backwards or even into extinction.
I feared daily, hourly and minutely, that some retrogressive persons might engage in a self-serving military coup, or some other violent acts, which would, and could have very easily led Nigeria into a state of anarchy, national instability, and perhaps a civil war and to the much predicted and much discussed disintegration.
I was fearful everyday, I was literally holding my breathe and I was almost at a point of total panic.
It was clear that many political actors were busily yanking the chain of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and as a result, I prayed that calm nerves prevailed. I worried the Acting President is, not goaded and dared, into any pronouncements or actions or even a body language, which might suggest or convey the righteous indignation. Indignation which someone in his position must rightly and justifiably feel, given the various pronouncements, sundry attempts and actions which were undertaken with intent to undermine his authority and his ability to govern Nigeria
There were all types of unpardonable snobbery which were directed at Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, for instance, the fact that he was obviously completely unaware of many of the clandestine and toxic actions which were being undertaken by those who sought to intimidate, frustrate and irritate him.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was totally unaware of the subterranean plans to evacuate Mr. Umaru Musa YarAdua from a hospital in Jeddah, even though, available information portrayed Mr. YarAdua as still unfit or even physically and mentally incapacitated, sufficiently so, to the extent that he was and is unable to manage his personal affairs on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, the acting president had, in conjunction with the Federal Executive Council, dispatched a high-powered delegation to Saudi Arabia, with instructions to visit with the government of that kingdom, as well as visit the then still hospitalized Mr. YarAdua, who for all that was publicly known, focused on post-surgical recovery, recuperation and therapy. This particular delegation, was the sixth of several, sent to Jeddah the Governor’s Forum, the People Democratic Party or PDP national executive, as well as, a delegation by the National Assembly, all these delegations were rebuffed and prevented from seeing Mr. YarAdua and therefore unable, to meet and greet or gain insights into his health condition or prognosis.
But to the chagrin, shock and utter dismay of everyone, some political actors, determined that the indecency of playing political chess games with the life of Mr. YarAdua’s life, was acceptable to them, even as Mr. YarAdua’s life remains in the balance and still apparently very precarious.
Then, like a thief, in the dead of night, Mr. YarAdua was, under most bizarre of circumstance, removed and evacuated from a hospital in Jeddah Saudi Arabia and bundled to Nigeria as if an illegally smuggled commercial goods or contraband. Mr. YarAdua was transported in secrecy as by a crime gang dealing cocaine, heroin and opium and or, other illegalities.
It is now public knowledge as to the absurdity and extreme ridiculousness of actions taken by certain persons, who shrouded Mr. YarAdua evacuation from the hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and his supposed arrival in Abuja, Nigeria, in utmost secrecy. This clandestine operations included the temerity of some persons, who, to perfect their sinister activity or enterprise in misconducts, turned off, the floodlights at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport. And in perfecting these secretive movements which were sheathed and shrouded in manners only identical with criminally minded persons, such as smugglers of narcotics and other contraband, some persons gave orders for the deployment of some 300 Nigerians troops without the knowledge and or, approval of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, who by virtue of being the person entrusted with substantive presidential powers to conduct the day-to-day presidential duties and governmental affair of the federal government of Nigeria, is as well, crucially so, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces
The singular act of ordering mass troop movements, which as a matter of course include the movement of troops and armaments, is a direct affront and therefore an attack, at and on, the authority of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. That act by a high ranking military officer of the Nigerian Army, was clearly a usurpation of presidential powers and presidential authority. And it was apparently calculated and knowingly undertaken to shake the confidence of the acting president. It was clearly intended to undermine his authority and his ability to conduct the governmental affairs of our federation.
The deployment of a sizable number of Nigerians troops, can and should, only be authorized by the president and in all circumstances, the president must be aware or be clearly informed and have full knowledge of the nature and extent of any deployment or mass movement of troops and the stated purpose for such deployment, as well as the duration of the duty tour of such troops.
It is such mass movement of troops in deployments without the authority, consent and permission of the commander-in-chief, is at best or at minimum, an act of insubordination, a breach of protocols and conventions; And at worst, it is treason or treasonable felony, for anyone, to order the movement or deployment of a sizable number of troops without an approval from the Commander-in-chief.
In clear terms, a military officer who engages in these sorts of unbridled display of arrogance and total disregard for a commander-in-chief, may, quite likely, be the same sorts of officer who might and could, engage in insurrection, mutiny and even a coup d'etat. Therefore, the ordering of Nigerian troops and armament during the night of February 23rd 2010 must be seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the commander-in-chief, this is unwholesome, unwelcome and it portends evils, of which the act is a harbinger.
Many persons, Nigerians and non-Nigerians, upon becoming aware of all that have transpired during the last 100 days, have expressed amazement and astonishment as to the absurd and extremely illogical actions taken by some individuals, engaged a very sickening political power mongering games, have engaged in cynical manipulation of our national affairs and polity, for three months, ceaselessly.
It is rather astoundingly incredulous, that in all of these, the majority of Nigerians, especially, and particularly, Nigerians at home, who are eyewitnesses to all these and who are the persons directly affected by these twisted and warped political power plays, seem to be content to merely remain on the sidelines, casting glances and looking sideways, instead of a frontal attack head-on, but without violence, in efforts to awaken the Federal Executive Council and the Senate and House of Representatives or the combined National Assembly, whose Constitutional duty, responsibility and obligation is was, is, and still must be, to resolve the political and constitutional crises which Nigerians and Nigeria is facing!
If there have ever been time for Nigerians to rise up and be uproarious in unison, and acting in concert to reject and repudiate the political power plays which left a nationwide stench, it was these last 100 days!
I believe strongly, that if and when, a majority of Nigerians, political leaders and followers alike, understand, observe, follow and obey the current constitution, Nigerians and Nigerians will be better for it
Some have argued of course, that the current Constitution of Nigeria is a product of and imposed by, a former military government. This argument is worthless and specious. Our current constitution is valid, albeit imperfect, no constitution is perfect anywhere. Our current constitution is our dejure and defacto grund num and legal foundation, until is reviewed and amended piecemeal or installments and a review is presently underway. Clearly, those who chose to ignore and disregard our constitution cannot seek to throw away the baby with bathwater and defend themselves with asserting the imperfection of same. A Constituent Assembly drafted the current constitution and the Constituent Assembly were chosen from among the Nigerian people from all works of life nationwide, and a great number of them, were outstanding and experience lawyers, public policy wonks and gurus in public and private sector of Nigeria
There is simply no substitute to peoples’ power. The people or the electorate it is, from whom all powers derive, political, electoral and constitutional powers. In the current circumstances therefore, it was expected, at the very least, and at the very minimum, that the electorate, the people of Nigeria, across ethnic, regional, religious and linguistic divides, would have been stirred and corralled, and engaged in actions with the intendment of protecting and preserving the continued existence of Nigeria as one nation. Particularly, as it was clear, that our continued corporate existence as a nation depended on stamping out, the clearly idiotic and extremely dangerous power plays, in which some few persons were actively steering our ship of state toward immeasurable disaster and toward unfathomable catastrophes.
Amazingly, the political opposition, the labor unions, the professional association and all public interests groups were seemingly bereft of a plan of actions to counter the arrogant audacity and dangerous cynical manipulations which were unfolding minutely right before 24 billion eyes and ears of all humans on earth
These have been such shocks and surprises, that no person, persons or entities on ground in Nigeria could stir and awaken, at least, the concerns and consciences of 100,000 Nigerians and lead these Nigerians to the grounds of the National Assembly in a peaceful protests, daily, to express outrage, at the dangerous and utterly unreasonable power games which were being played at the expense of Nigerians and Nigeria.
It must be clear to all by now, that the business of the people of Nigeria was not being done, as the power vacuum and void created by the illness and absence of Mr. YarAdua have persisted for more than 100 days, counting from November 23rd 2009, when Mr. YarAdua first left for an overseas medical treatment.
Nigeria’s health care system remain decrepit, and Mr. YarAdua overseas medical treatment is metaphorically illustrative in that respect, as it bespeaks of the poor state of our health care system, requiring the nation’s supposedly number one citizen, and many other political helmsmen, having to scurry abroad for every affliction and every ailments. The bad news is not limited to the health sector. It is the same with the education sector, and Nigeria’s national public infrastructure, roads and bridges etc.
Mr. YarAdua departure in a medical emergency, foisted upon Nigerians and Nigeria, these manipulations and dangerous power games ,which I have exampled above. And yet, the electorate were not participating in real terms, in the political and constitutional crises which had immediate and long term direct impact on our ability to create good health, wealth and happiness in Nigeria. The electorate, and or the people of Nigeria were left in a lurch. The Nigerian public looked aloof , askance and completely detached with seeming comfort with political stampede, which rendered governmental affairs grounded and brought the people’s business to a halt
There were of course groups such as Enough Is Enough, and others such as Good Governance Group and the Save Nigeria Group etc with occasional protests and marches, mainly and mostly organized in Abuja and Lagos and worse, for a very limited period. These groups and others, such as the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Medical Association and the Nigerian Labor Congress, should have ensured that these protests were more organized and grassroots.
There should have been protest marches in all the 774 Local Government Areas and in all the 36 federating states, as well as in the Federal Capital Territory. There should have been protest and marches nationwide demanding and insisting that the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly immediately resolve constitutionally, the political constitutional crises or face a national economic and political paralysis brought upon by the people
Such grassroots protest marches should have been on, and remained sustained for the better part of the preceding 100 days, until the political crises was amicably and constitutionally resolved.
Were it the case, that there was an organized and vibrant and vigorous electorate or Nigerian public, which is keenly aware of its right and power; and were it the case, that Nigerian people, the Nigerian electorate, were therefore organized and stirred and corralled by the political opposition, the labor unions, the intelligentsia and or, the professional associations etc already aforementioned, the inaction, the timidity and the timorousness engaged in, by members of the Federal Executive Council on the one hand and the National Assembly, on the other hand, would have been clearly impossible for them to contemplate. It would have been clear to them, that, their primary and paramount duty is to the people and to the constitution and not their secondary allegiance to the PDP or Mr. YarAdua or other parochial interests.
Were it the case, that, the members of Federal Executive Council or FEC and the National Assembly were certain of the ire and the wrath of the electorate and the people, as unwilling to accept inaction, and the conflict of interests or self-dealing self-serving antics, the FEC and the National Assembly would have been more alive to their responsibilities. They would have acted in trepidations of the peoples’ power, in fear and foreboding of the consequences of not carry forth, the peoples’ wishes
What Nigerians and the world have witnessed in the past 100 plus days, is the complete and total disregard of the electorate and the concept of political and constitutional power arising and derived from the citizens. We know of course, that there have been flaws and imperfections in Nigerian elections, such that some of the so-called representative of the people actually do not account or feel accountable to them.
This current crises and incidents, perhaps therefore has unfurled unintended consequences, to wit, the needful thing, the urgency it presents, is an opportunity to co-opt the Nigerian electorate, and this should make immediate electoral reforms front and center as Nigeria march towards new general elections in 2011.
The Nigerian electorate should be socialized and informed of their enlightened self-interests and the importance of becoming alive politically, and living to their civic responsibilities. The Nigerian electorate or public should become invested and vested in the political processes with the knowledge that they the voters, the electorate, the citizens are the true source of political and constitutional power. And besides, that they should become thoroughly aware, that there are direct and dire consequences to them, the electorate, citizens and public, when political and constitutional powers are misused, misdirected or corruptly employed for a few.
But instead, too many Nigerians resorted to the worse than useless exercise of discussing the nonexistent constitutional powers, nonexistent constitutional roles and the equally nonexistent authority or place and position of presidential spouse.
Too many Nigerians in Nigeria, instead of besieging the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly, with demands that these constitutional and duly constituted bodies, live, singularly and or simultaneously, to their constitutionally mandated duties, obligations and responsibilities; many Nigerians were instead ignorantly discussing Mrs. Turai YarAdua as the epitome and sanctuary of constitutional powers, and as a lady of substance, as if, she were a reincarnation of the arrogant Marie Antoinette of Queen of medieval France or Aisha Hamani Diori wife of former head of state of Niger Republic as referenced by a Nigerian columnist, or perhaps Turai morphed into, and became the unelected Margaret Thatcher the former prime minister of Britain?
There is no constitutional role, constitutional powers there are no constitutional provisions regarding so-called First Ladies... whether in Nigeria or here in the United States, not in the past, not now and most probably, not even in the future. The attention being squandered and wasted on Mrs. YarAdua is just that, squander and wastes. She is a mere puppet on a string for those who want to control power through proxies. And some usually reasonable Nigerians are in reactions, even suggesting an open confrontation with Mrs. YarAdua. Demanding erroneously, for instance, that the acting president call her bluff and push and shove her aside, in order to see Mr. YarAdua whatever his condition or state, and it is argued, that there should be no citizen the acting president cannot see. Again, I defer and urge and implore the acting president to similarly defer to the constitution of Nigeria. There is no need stir the hornet’s nest or go into the eye of the storm. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan must not be goaded into taking the bait.
Some Nigerians wanted the acting president to confront and take up the laid gauntlet as the only way he can prove his manhood and establish that he is in-charge and thereby dispel the challenge posed by some persons who are obviously obsessed, deranged, in their idiotic and irrational threat to national unity. Too many Nigerians wanted the acting president to meet gra~gra with equal gra~gra and gidi~gidi. The acting president was being accused of temporizing and weak or fearful
But in a democracy, she who defers to the rule of law, and constitutionalism laughs last. Lets wait. The truth will tumble out and be revealed.
Time is on the side of Nigerians and Nigeria
Too many Nigerians gave Mrs. Turai YarAdua some inexplicable magical powers, flying carpet and all, instead of seeing her a front, a façade and as a proxy for behind the scenes power mongers engaged in sinister power tussle, with the acting president. Mrs. First Lady’s supernatural powers and fake political savvy, became the reason for intelligent Nigerians not to act in demanding that the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly carry out and implement constitutionally stipulated mandated duties in matter of peaceful constitutional power succession in the face of power vacuum and void which subsisted in Nigeria.
During the past 100 days, since November 23rd 2009, when Mr. YarAdua’s health debacle foisted political power schemers and power mongers upon Nigerians and Nigeria, something additional have since become clear. It is that a majority of Nigerians, even among those with college degrees and hence, high literacy in the western education sense, are, unfortunately ignorant, totally, of the contents of the Constitution of Nigeria. This is similar to a so-called good Christian or good Muslim, with complete and total ignorance of the contents of the Bible and the Koran respectively, and that is clearly astoundingly shocking! The Constitution of Nigeria is available for free on the internet! Nigerians should read it and become familiar and conversant with its provisions.
How be it, that a majority of Nigerians want democracy, claim they prefer the ideals, the tenets and worthiness of the rule of law, democratic norms and constitutional government, and yet, they are splendidly uninterested and unaware of the rules of the road or the guidebook, which is what the constitution is to a democracy, including ones, such as ours!
If one can excuse Nigerian citizens who cannot read or write, the citizens who are not lettered, so to speak, what then, can be said in favor or in the defense of those who are college education and even the professionals and middle-class cadre, who frequently approached the issues and the crises since November 23rd 2009, from the prism and paradigm of ethnic, regional, religious and linguistic affiliations and loyalties instead of a sanguine, slow but steady constitutional processes?
Nigeria’s political antecedents of course, includes decades of military government, properly referred to as dictatorship and tyranny. During a mere 50 years post flag political independence, it is the case that a majority or the bulk of those fifty years, have been dominated by the military intervention in government administration, from one interregnum to another. Still, it is quite difficult to understand and let alone explain these permeating political and constitutional willful ignorance and apathy, as being a mere fallout, from the inertia imbued in military governments in which the average citizen is without a role similar to voting or such other active engagement in policy debates and public policy formulations and implementations?
Surely, it can be said rightly, that Nigerian democracy is still young and that it is still work in progress. But, very assuredly, it must be said as well, the seeds of democratic ideals, the rule of law and constitutionalism, must be planted, learned and imbibed now, and done in the most robust and most vigorous manner, for after all, it must be realized, that there are profound effects and impacts, in the survival, support-structures and sustenance of democracy and constitutionalism, through active involvement, engagement and participation by the electorate and the citizenry.
All in all, the people are the true source of political and constitutional power, we the people!