THE GAINS AND PERILS OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA FROM 1999 TO 2009: THE AKWA IBOM STATE EXPERIENCE
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Man is a social and political creature by his nature and necessity. This simple dictum signifies that the pattern of collective life under some form of authority or control is as old as human life itself.
Besides, as a rational and intellectual being, man has always thought in terms of improving the pattern of his collective and regulated behaviour of life. Co-operation and competition, concord and conflict, war and peace have been the twin features of man’s social and political existence.
A study of such phenomena in their past, presence and future perspectives has led to the evolution of various social sciences. Politics or political science – the ‘master science’ as designate by Aristotle is one of them that deals with the subject of man in relation to the phenomenon of rule, control, authority and power. It also involves the systems of government though which all these are practicalised. The most preferred system of government in the world today is Democracy. Hence, democracy is the subject of our major pre-occupation.
Thus, it is generally believed among scholars that democratic ideas and practice originated from Greece. This is often supported by the fact that the concept, ‘democracy’ derives its name from two Greek words demos meaning people and Kratia, meaning rule or power, which translates to the rule of (by) the people.
In the modern and contemporary times, Democracy as practiced in the United States, Britain, Nigeria et cetera, could no longer take the direct from the ancient Greek-city state of Athens. Rather, it is best practiced indirectly through the people’s elected representatives. The absence of the polis, the city-state, contributed greatly to this development. Consequently, the idea of Greek democracy is grossly disfigured.
Democracy in modern times, can be referred to as what the 16th American President, Abraham Linoclin (1986-69) thought it to be “the government of the people, by the people and for the people” (Rapheal, 1971).
In this sense, democracy refers to a system of rule in which the entire people or citizenry are assumed to have the right and opportunity to participate either directly or indirectly in governance through representatives elected by them and these representatives are in turn accountable to the electorate.
It thus appears that, the modern conception of democracy is synonymous with ‘majority’. This popular conception of modern democratic practice is not without its problems since majority does not imply absolute totality of the entire citizenry.
Nigeria’s attempted efforts towards democracy and democratic practice were pattened along the western liberal democracy which favours competitive parties, majority rule, popular sovereignty, rule of law, among others. This is not surprising as Nigeria was colonized by a western power, Britain who at independence ensured that the country inherited liberal democracy based on the Westminster parliamentary model. Even after the collapse of the first republic in January 1966, and the second in 1979, the country could not depart entirely from the liberal democratic culture hitherto inherited during colonialism, instead the military through a transition programme to civil rule in 1998 to 1999 opted for the American democratic model based on the presidential system.
In practice however, democracy has neither been fully entrenched in our body politics nor the values that go with a democratic society been fully internalized in the people’s way of life. This confirms what Professor Eme Awa (1996:3) has rightly observed when he said that “the Nigerian society and political system are not democratic in the modern sense of the term”. For him, Democracy in Nigeria can at best be described as the “government of the people, by the elites essentially in the interested of the elites (Awa, E. 1996:13).
In line with the above assertions, this work attempts a comprehensive study of both the gains and perils of democracy of Nigeria from 1999 to 2009 focusing on the Akwa Ibom State experience. Since the people’s political, economic and social cultures determines the extent of their development or underdevelopment, we will, appraise how it has affected the practice of democracy in Akwa Ibom State in terms of the gains enjoyed and the perils experienced or suffered.
This way, we will seek to unearth the variables, norms and principles which had enabled democracy to blossom into development in one state and not in another. A qualitative information about the nature of democracy in Akwa Ibom State will also be provided.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
When democracy is dressed in “people’s rule” apparel it becomes exquisitely attractive to claim numerous adherents and admirers in virtually all political systems. No political system wants to be seen as not deriving the power to govern from the people, even if it is as authoritarian as the former Soviet Union.
This is the problem of democracy: Political systems of contradictory dispositions all claim to be democratic; indeed every one claims to be more democratic than the other.
On the dawn of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Bill Clinton a former United States president in his speech in Nigeria, said that democracy is a “cherish form of government”. He started his speech with a series of questions: can a great country that is home to one in six Africans succeed in building a democracy amidst so much trouble? Can a developing country, blessed with enormous human and natural resources thrive in a global economy and lift all its people? Can a nation so blessed by the verge and vigour of countless traditions and many faiths be enriched by it? I believe the answer to all those questions can, and must be Yes”.
He told Nigerians not to expect that all the damage done over a generation can be undone in a year. According to him, “real change demands openness to honourable compromise and co-operation. It demands support on a constant basis from the people of Nigeria and from your friends abroad.
He continued, that does not mean be patient with corruption or injustice, but change comes slowly…”
However, to an average citizen, the task ahead of both the government and the governed in the emergent democratic government in Nigeria was how to sustain the democratic values and ensure political and economic developments.
Overtime, the country has experienced he woes of bad governance, massive corruption, human right abuses and economic deprivations from greedy civilian political leaders. The problems bedeviling democracy in Nigeria nay Akwa Ibom State is encapsulated in the words of Nnaman (2001:65) that:
“Nigeria is a country perpetually great, almost permanently in crises, regularly threatened with disintegration, prolongingly plundered and mismanaged, forever taking about democracy and development but retreating from democracy”
In the same vein, the political bureau report (1987) has summarized the views of Nigerians on the nature of Democracy and party politics practiced in Nigeria, and Akwa Ibom State in particular, thus:
“Party politics is poisonous. It is the politics of war not of peace, of acrimony and hatred and mud slinging, not of love and brotherhood, of anarchy and discord, not of orderliness and concord; it is politics of cleavages, divisions and disunity and not of co-operation, consensus and unity, it is the politics of rascality, not of maturity, of blackmail and near gangsterism, not of constructive honest contribution which can lead to the unity of the diverse people of this nation”. (Awosika, 1986).
In view of the above, it is expedient to state that the inherent problem in Nigerian democracy nay Akwa Ibom State is located in the socio-economic and political culture of the people. This is arrived at on the premise that, there is a an interlocking relationship between the evils (Perils) bedeviling democracy in Nigeria and the people’s socio-economic cum political culture.
Hence, the socio-economic and political culture of the people is the underlying factor that can best explain the inherent dilemma in Nigerian democracy.
It is in the light of these problems that this research study is undertaken in order to proffer solutions for adoption as antidotes to the current perils in our democratic system.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This research is an objective driven one. It is carried out for the purpose of establishing the workability or otherwise of Democracy in Akwa Ibom State being one of the State in the Nigerian Federation. The study also seeks to establish and appraise the following:
- The gains (dividends) of democratic practice in Akwa Ibom State from 1999 to 2009.
- The perils (pitfalls) inherent in the practice of democracy in Akwa Ibom State from 1999 to 2009.
- To examine the potency of democracy in bringing about socio-economic cum political developments in Akwa Ibom State.
- To determine the impact of the people’s political culture on democracy in Akwa Ibom State from 1999 till date.
- To establish the factors responsible for the failure of democracy in Akwa Ibom State from 1999 till date.
- To bring to limelight factors that will help to stabilize democracy in Akwa Ibom State.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The major thrust of any academic undertaking is the contribution with which such exercise will bring to the existing body of knowledge in that field of study.
In order for this research to attain that level of relevance, the following point represents the ideals of this research:
- To proffer possible solutions to the problems of democracy in Akwa Ibom State.
- To unravel the factors which has led to the success of democracy in a particular country and not in another.
- To establish the future prospect of democracy in Akwa Ibom State.
1.5 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
According to Fung Archon and Erik Olin Wright (2000) Democracy as a way of organizing the state has come to be narrowly identified with territorially based competitive elections of political leadership for legislative and executive offices.
For them, this mechanism of political representation seems ineffective in accomplishing the central ideals of democratic politics: facilitating active political involvement of the citizen, forging political consensus through dialogue, devising and implementing public policies that ground a productive economy and healthy society, and in more radical egalitarian versions of the democratic ideal, assuring that all citizens benefit from the nation’s wealth.
In line with the foregoing, since our thrust in this research in on the gains and perils of democracy in Nigeria from 1999 to 2009, The Akwa Ibom State experience, it is apparent that the underlying principle or theory that will form the basis of this work as a theoretical framework will be the political culture theory.
Propounded by Gabriel Almond and Bingham Powell (1966) in their book, comparative politics: A developmental approach, they conceive the political culture as the citizen’s orientations, attitudes and sentiments towards the political system and comprising the cognitive, affective and evaluative/judgmental orientations.
According to them: political culture is the pattern of individual attitudes and orientations towards politics among the members of political system. It is the subjective realm which underlies and gives meaning to political actions. In line with Eminue (2005:95) the message of the political culture approach is that in an effort to understand and explain political life, it is not enough to study the manifest political behaviour such as a court with its interrelated roles (e.g. the judge, prosecutor, Jury plaintiff, defendant, bailiff, court orderly, police etc). it is also necessary to examine the political culture of the people concerned – the underlying propensities, attitudes, values and beliefs which define the context in which political action takes places.
In this perspective, the political culture of the people of Akwa Ibom State is the center of our analysis and focus. Since every political culture according to Associate Professor Eminue (2005:96) has its own pattern of trust and distrust, its definitions of who are probably safe people and who are the most likely enemies, its expectations whether public institutions or political leaders are trustworthy, such that there should be “widespread existence of an uncritical and child like trust in rulers and in all forms of higher authority”.
The Akwa Ibom State political scene clearly reflect a pattern of political culture exhibited by its people and this has informed the level of development obtainable in the system as regards the gains of democracy maximized and the perils of the same experienced from 1999 to 2009.
In sum, all types of political culture have readily find its expression among the various people of Akwa Ibom State but the domineering culture (Parochial Political Culture) is what that conditions and paints the picture of socio-economic, religious, and political development in the State.
In line with the principles of research in the social sciences, a set of hypothesis will be formulated as a guide to our work. This will function tentatively in establishing a causal relationship or a spurious association between our research variables and also for the testing and analysis of data. Thus:
- The socio-economic and political culture of the people of Akwa Ibom State has an interlocking relationship to the gains and perils of democracy in the State from 1999 to 2009.
- The election and appointment of unqualified candidates into political offices on political patronage undermines effective democratic practice in Akwa Ibom State.
- The status given to political actors as leaders instead of servants in governance, is a negation to the true ideals of democracy in Akwa Ibom State.
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The modern practice of democracy has developed from a dialectic between the idea of absolute popular rule, with neither limits nor delegation of authority on one side, and the idea of limited government respectful of popular rights on the other. Both concepts have their roots in ancient Greece.
As a critical appraisal of the democratic government in Nigeria, the gains and perils of democracy in Nigeria will be examined from 1999 to 2009, using Akwa Ibom State experience as our level of analysis.
As researches in the Social Sciences are conducted, this research will employ and make use of the tools relevant in the Social Sciences. Firstly, this research is a survey research designed to appraise the Akwa Ibom State democratic experience from 1999 to 2009, and the will develop and make use of questionnaires, personal interviews and observations in generating our data from the sample population and our sampling technique is the Stratified Random Sampling.
Specifically, our data will come from both the primary and secondary sources through direct observation of events and responses to questionnaires, and we will employ the descriptive method of statistical analysis.
1.8 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Democracy as a system of government can be practicalised in virtually all political systems of the world. But of the purpose of this research, we shall focus and limit our concentration on the Nigerian nation with Akwa Ibom State as our unit of analysis.
Since democracy is perhaps not a new expression in the field of Political Science, the task ahead of both the government and the governed is how to sustain the democratic values and ensure political and economic development in the State. Hence, this has informed our pre-occupation on appraising the gains and perils of democracy in Akwa Ibom State.
1.9 DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS
It has become imperative to list and explain some key words frequently used in this work. The emphasis here is that it will clear the ambiguity which would have resulted from improper application of the terms used. Thus:
In this context, refers to a system of government that is organized in accordance with the principles of popular sovereignty, political and economic equality, popular consultation and majority rule (Eminue, 2002).
As used in this context, refers to an improvement, achievement, benefit and advantages recorded on socio-economic cum political sectors of the state as an outcome or dividends of democratic practice.
In this context, refers to the pitfalls, risk and jeopardy experienced in the state as a consequence of its practice of democracy.
- Political Culture:
This is the pattern of individual attitudes and orientations towards politics among t