You know what they say about democracy being ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people’? Where the electorates are given the ultimate choice to choose who govern over the affairs of the state; where the divine gift of freewill is laid bare without coercion or duress; where people are the architect of their fates; where the destiny of a nation’s future rest on the shoulders of the polity’s conviction in the personality, forthrightness and trust in the candidacy of an individual or the vision of a political party?
Well, it’s all lies! The power of choice so much advertised by the proponent of this system is an illusion carved out to rub the egos of the citizens as being an important element in the processes of governance. Evidently state do not exist without the people, therefore the urgent need to create a make-believe world where the citizen sees him/herself as being the prime factor as against the reality of a pawn that gave birth to this overpriced system of government.
The expression about choice is true but the question of the factor(s) that makes that decision our choice has remained historically earthed. The quick defense around this has always been the prevalent economics scale of preference, where decisions are made from the most paramount to the least important but while this may be useful in relative choices, it is not applicable in political choices.
Let me break it down. A loving but hungry husband appeals to his wife to make for him a ‘delightable’ African dish, say Eba but the wife’s desire is to have the husband eat rice, so the wife prepares two meals; rice and eba. She serves the Eba in an uninviting state without soup and roughly done while she presents the rice in a mesmerizing form with all the condiments the kitchen has to offer. The man picks rice instead of Eba. Has the man made his choice? Yes. Is it what he desires? No. Can we say democracy has been put into practice? Yes.
Public relations call it perception, Psychologists say it is persuasion but in the real sense of it, it is nothing but deception – a misrepresentation plot to give an impression of perfection. This came to bear in 2011 election when Goodluck Jonathan’s name suddenly became a point of contact between us and God. Where children birthed in that era were christened ‘Goodluck’ because people believed the name brings good fortune. In 2015, a similar narrative repeated itself, the presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari was presented to the electorates as the fictional Olivia Pope who has the answers to all of our problems and will always keep to his words. This ‘stranger’ was dressed and clothed in the best of nightgown to the gobbling eyes of ‘politically horny’ Nigerians who were hypnotized by the news of his skills. From all indications, our trusts were obtained under false pretense. This we should sue for.
The downside of hyperactivation is that it leads to the path of disappointment and betrayal. The people whose hopes have been raised to a realm far beyond reality suddenly fall face flat realizing the scam rather too late.
Today when you move around the city of Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and so on, responses from people when you ask about their opinion on the current administration has been nothing short of what Julius Ceaser felt against Brutus in his dying moment- betrayal.
But this is beyond mere receding on campaign promises or adjustment of manifesto but a rape on the political foundation on which the institutional state was created. When elected officials constantly reneges on promises and making a vocation from flip-flopping on policies and direction while ultimately toying about the well-being of the citizens, what is affected goes beyond the credibility of such individual but a break in the chain that binds the state and the citizens. It poisons the mind of the ruled against public institution thereby withdrawing the legitimacy that drives authority.
Arguments have been held back and forth on the policies of the current administration, especially those that affects the well-being of the citizens. The government on the defense has often talked about the need for us to make sacrifices, something about a good wine going through rigorous process to make. This argument is valid if only the sacrifices are mutual. There is no fairness in sacrifice being made by the citizens while public officials continue to live a life of opulence and affluence. Where the President continues to maintain ten presidential jets, ministers spend tens of millions of naira to visit China, where trusted state officials receive bribe hidden between hampers before they discharge their statutory duties, where budgets are padded with frivolous allocations in hundreds of billions, where indicted cabinet members are knighted as saints and graciously supported to rig elections.
The problem with the President is that he is rather too full of himself. One thing is to have a man who is hardhearted and determined to make change, another is to have a man who feels his views and opinions are always right and supreme where inputs from others are mostly not listened to and on the occasion that it is, not considered on any ground of merit, wisdom or pragmatism.
The art of governance on its own is not about winning election, occupying the seat of power, moving around with security details or forever mouthing sympathy to the public; rather it is a show of demonstrable compassion. Putting oneself in the shoes of the market women, artisans, students, unemployed, employed and entrepreneurs who are at the reaching end of any decisions and policies. Whoever says governance is not about welfare lies. Governance is nothing but welfare. When the well-being of the citizens is not thoroughly taken into consideration before orders are given, such is nothing but dictatorship.
Adekoya Boladale is based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a political scientist, public affairs analyst and political commentator