Hold it, which region practises true democracy?

NATIONAL-ASSEMBLY-CopyNATIONAL philosophies alone do not develop countries but transformed action – the will of citizens and the political class in that country.
But for a strong political system and culture, Barack Obama might not have been elected President of the United States of America.

In saner climes, elected executives are judged by their performance and demonstrated leadership over time using many metrics such as: Promotion of security, creation of employment opportunities, the way they live their lives either positively or negatively, how they uplift the public school system so that pupils, students can go on to compete and surpass those in private institutions etc.

Most leaders in those societies stand up for something, make tough decisions no matter how unpleasant for the growth of their country but within the ambit of reasonableness and sound judgment.

Most of these political figures do not use every opportunity to big-note themselves. No! They allow posterity to judge them by their actions and not intentions. They fight shy of autocratic leadership style, avoid abrasive manoeuvres in communication, do not skirt around sensitive issues, but face them head-on without creating red herrings. They shirt-front people who try to heat up the polity unnecessarily, and are tactful.

Which region truly practices real democracy in Nigeria? Many pundits are beginning to question if Nigeria qualifies to be called a democratic state.

The northern part of Nigeria (east and west of it), these experts opine is the most politically conscious region of this country. Political awareness comes to them as a matter of course, and they do not have to be coerced, coached, encouraged and sanctioned to vote. This they say reflects in the way the northern people come out in droves to vote in any election. What’s more, they are also very good at keeping party agreements and playing concessional politics? Politics is a call to duty for northerners.

The outstanding evaluation notwithstanding, they surmise that the North (east and west) is not truly a democratic region and can only be, when religious tenets are separated from politics. Painfully, they assert that religion defines the politics of the North and as such it can be argued that the North (west and east) does not practice true democracy.

The North Central region of Nigeria, these observers, say is the most liberal and open minded and has produced ideology over time that have shaped the politics of that region and Nigeria. Joseph S Tarka, despite affiliations to the northern region supported the Action Group party in the First Republic under the leadership of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo on principle and later became a chieftain of the NPN, also on principle before he died in 1980. So open minded was Solomon Lar, even though a northerner, he campaigned vigorously against the neglect and subjugation of the North Central (Middle Belt), by the North (east and west) “despite the great contributions it made to national unity.”

But, observers wonder why today’s politicians in the North Central region in states of Kogi and Benue, the Igala and the Tiv love to subjugate all other ethnic nationalities in the sharing of political offices. They wonder why State of Kwara is run by a dynasty and politicians in Nassarawa State disgustingly subjugate the Eggon ethnic group (enlightened, liberal and the largest of the ethnic groups in the state). The spiritual card comes to reckoning in the politics of State of Niger.  A far cry from the stances of politicians from this region in the past who went on a crying jag to  campaign against hate, oppression, ill-treatment, abuse, discrimination of the people in that region.

The South Easterners, without doubt, believe in Nigeria more than any other ethnic group in this country. Only a group who believes in unity can be found all around Nigeria, many settle in some remote part of this country: many others in inhospitable places so noxious today. But observers have accused the east for its “sleep walking complacency,” in the politics of Nigeria.

Even a country with a history of bowdlerization like Cuba, they say, has only recently loosened up its belligerent stance with the United States which is the reason why diplomatic embargo between her and the United States of America has been lifted. Why has the east not allowed herself to be main streamed in national politics?

The certainty of block-votes by the South East in elections wouldn’t help the people of that region. The major reason they find themselves today in a democratic mire is the fact that they do not have a Winston Churchill to speak for and guide their political future properly, and I am knocked for six to see how easy it is for the elite there to compromise, weaken the general interests of the Igbo, instead of winning friendships without one-sidedness, and negotiate the interests of the Igbo across board.

No region in Nigeria is democratically behind like the south-southern region. To think that this region has produced so many adroit and sophisticated people of repute such as Kenule Saro-Wiwa, Graham-Douglas etc., leaves observers in doubt at the kind of crude politics of the region nowadays. Lives are lost in unprecedented ways for just being a member of the opposition party. Many are slain for holding differing political views and houses burnt in ways that pyromaniacs will envy. Some have put a name to what happens in the region: monocracy and not democracy.

Credit must be given to the South-Western people. A second look at the results from that part of Nigeria in the last general elections clearly shows a great number of ideologues there.

How else can you explain the neck-to-neck battle in the South West in all but one of the states that were won for the dominant party in that region? Regardless of  the high value for culture,  tradition and, respect for elders in the South West, elders do not influence the votes of a rational South-Westerner because most are open-minded on issues, consider same, on ideological grounds without daggers drawn.

It can be argued that the South-West is the only region that practices true democracy in Nigeria. Theirs are always issue-based politics. The only challenge the region faces is the violence that goes with the announcement of election results: especially if they get a whiff that the election was rigged.

It is argued further that democracy can thrive well in the North Central region just as in the south west, especially if they banish the quirks mentioned earlier.

It is hoped that the wind of change blowing through our land today will bring real change in the nation – the promotion of true and real democracy and that Nigerians courtesy of this ‘change,’ will learn not to take the back seats cerebrally, and begin to challenge the status quo.

Wouldn’t that be good for our democracy?
• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt. abah_s@yahoo.com 08023792604, 07035017922.

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