n all honesty, the political figures who took control from the Nigerian military in 1999, when democracy was restored to the country, performed well below average.
Analysts who criticized them for their poor performance at first were advised to be patient, presumably because our politicians were considered as newcomers to the scene who were still learning at the moment.
From 1999 to the present, the period has been dubbed “the era of our baby democracy.” That was 22 years ago; perhaps there has been enough time for Nigerians to notice some progress. However, a critical examination of how democracy has faired since then reveals that the country’s political system, on which the largest financial investments have been spent, has seen the most stunted growth.
This appears to explain why the legislature, the branch of government made up entirely of politicians, has been the weakest link in our democratic development. A good place to start is with lawmaking and its numerous embarrassing failures.
Quite frequently, the federal legislature, particularly the Senate, unconsciously depicts itself as a body looking for new laws to pass in the midst of multiple outdated statutes dating back to colonial times that are begging to be repealed or amended.
It is easy to see the folly in every cosmetic or anti-people bill they passionately support. They suggested clauses that mirrored existing rules under the pretense of a patriotic desire to fight fake news and hate speech, when the underlying purpose was press suppression, as in the current case of the social media bill.
Worse, our legislators are constantly pushing to enact legislation, even in areas that are clearly off-limits, such as electoral body control. They attempted to govern the order and schedule of elections during the 8th Assembly, but came to a halt.
No one denies the legislature’s omnibus constitutional ability to enact laws that, in their judgement, promote good governance, but it is irrational to believe that such omnibus powers may extend to areas expressly forbidden by the same constitution.
Last week, federal legislators apparently abandoned a provision in the new election bill that would have placed INEC under the jurisdiction of an inferior NCC (National Communications Communication) in an unconstitutional manner.
Although a few people praised their new posture for showing humility in succumbing to public criticism, I would have joined them in praising them if the initial misstep had not been intentional.
Is it fair to praise those who merely planned to rig elections? Is it those who erroneously voted in favour of the anti-people measure or those who abdicated their responsibilities when it mattered the most who deserve praise?
Regardless of the answers to these questions, it is clear that those who were hesitant to praise our legislators have been vindicated now that the legislators have replaced their opposition to electronic transfer of election results with a proposal to require political parties to hold mandatory direct primaries.
While we are clear that imposing such restrictions on political parties may temporarily lessen some unwholesome behaviour, this form of primaries has never been the true source of politicians’ incomprehensible excesses during the choosing of party flag bearers for elections.
Anyone who has followed the political culture of the average Nigerian politician knows that no system is immune to corruption or circumvention by our politicians. The ruling APC claimed to have used modernised direct primaries in the previous generation’s national elections.
Similarly, the PDP presented a case for how she had corrected her indirect primaries. But the public watched how both parties tried to defy the people’s will, confirming that Nigerian politicians, head or tail, cannot be trusted to follow even their own internal rules.
In light of this, we believe that the attempt to abolish rancorous primaries by decree is as dangerous as a military order. The judiciary had specified where and how to go when it decided that party matters should be left to the parties to manage while spelling out parameters under which such management can be brought under judicial review.
For example, the conditions under which a party can substitute the winner of a party primary are explicitly mentioned. Rather than stripping political parties of their ability to govern, dissatisfied candidates should be encouraged to seek restitution in court.
That is the best approach to allow our parties to expand; otherwise, what is the difference between Babangida’s creation of two parties, which was rejected by politicians in 1989, and legislators’ attempt to destroy political party initiative and discretion now? It is easy to see how legislators backed the measure just to limit the powers of their Governors during primary elections.
So far, it appears that only one set of legislators has been targeted. Why, some might wonder, do analysts consistently ignore state legislators’ laziness while criticizing only federal politicians? To be fair, it is not a question that can be answered by a single analyst.
A colleague recently stated on a platform his belief that there are no lawmakers at the state level; instead, we have a group of people who are largely members of the Governor’s choir in each state, according to him.
They sing when encouraged to do so on occasion, but they also engage in non-verbal singing, such as destroying chairs or abusing the Governor’s few untrustworthy colleagues.
This tends to explain why they suspend such distrusted colleagues, despite the fact that the courts have ruled on multiple occasions that legislators do not have the authority to suspend fellow members. As a result, state lawmakers are only relevant to this article in the sense that it is easy to extrapolate from them that Nigeria’s political maturity is at an all-time low.
Many other politicians have made significant contributions to our continuing political immaturity. Nigeria’s political party system is one of the most powerful in the world legally.
This is because, unlike in other nations, the Nigerian constitution stipulates that no one can run for or win an election in the country unless he or she is backed by a political party. In other words, in Nigeria, political parties, not individuals, have the ability to win elections.
This has been proven in court several times and has always been sustained. Nonetheless, some Governors in Nigeria are able to preserve their mandates after defecting from the party that won the election that gave them the mandate, demonstrating that our country does not understand that democracy is based on the rule of law, in which a game is played according to the rules.
In the state of Anambra, the next Governorship election is just around the corner. The state’s unrest is echoing across the country once more. Political violence, interlocutory injunctions, and existential threats are all occurring on a daily basis, just as they were four years ago during the last election.
Nothing new is happening, as those in the know are aware. At one point, Governorship elections were held at the famed Okija shrine in Anambra. Almost every Direct Data Capturing equipment assigned to Anambra state went into the bush when Professor Jega implemented computerised voter registration.
The current prospect of an emergency rule took on a new form. Until President Buhari intervened to preserve Governor Obiano, the then-Inspector General of Police IGP removed the security details of the incumbent who was seeking reelection. So, there is nothing new here; we are just getting evidence that Nigeria’s political maturity is still a long way off.