Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Limits of Democracy
|" and also because of the rising level of impoverishment and the
widespread belief that government can do little, there is a feeling of
despondency, which then results, in political inaction and helplessness.
The opportunities for partaking in the decision -making process had
either narrowed or disappeared completely.
The scope for community action has progressively been weakened by the inexorable power of the state and bureaucracy. Associational life in those countries is yet to assume the vibrancy with which it is associated in most of Africa and other third world countries. For example how many Americans and Britons really took part in the decision to go to war in Iraq
|The weapons of mass destruction have still not been found. Just imagine the cost in human and material sense|
|What has happened to public debate, to political participation and to accountability|
|Where then lies democracy|
|What of the claim that only democracy can generate citizenship rights|
|In both America and Britain, the population of the homeless, and the
jobless is increasing. Access to schooling opportunities is closing on
some groups, particularly the blacks and the minority groups. Social
discrimination along ethnic and gender line is becoming entrenched.
Social segregation is waxing stronger and the melting pot idea has
evaporated. Though, for political considerations, issues of social
prejudice directed at the minority groups get frequently mentioned by
state actors but there has been no halt in the rate at which the blacks
and other coloured people are sinking into poverty.
Though outwardly, the West and the American societies present the image of social welfarism and hold out what others should aim at but a deepened thought would reveal that these may not be so in fundamental respects. In spite of cries of reforms and recovery, capitalism is experiencing serious problems as a main mode of organising social existence. Bourgeoisic democracy is therefore failing in fulfillment of its avowed superior claims. Profit rather than humanity remains the major impetus for social action. There is just little concern for spiritual and human happiness.
Unfortunately, Africa cannot think of anything other than the assumption, naively though that democracy is infallible and unstoppable. It is in fact zealous about the concept and subjecting it to tests that may be foreign to it in a desperate attempt to impress the pundits in the West. And herein lies the danger that democracy may become a shield for nurturing and fostering dictatorship. For over 40 years, Nigeria has failed to reflect its history of diversity in its constitutional development. This amounts to a denial of culture. And an elementary definition of culture regards it as the people's way of life.
Our practice of democracy has jettisoned the centrality of culture. Yet, in the advanced countries, democracy is often going through permutations both in practical and theoretical senses. Democracy in its raw form is simply not working in Africa. Or else how can we make sense of the direct relationship between democratisation and consistently low human development indicators or between democratisation and the rising profile of ethnic militia
|Africa has tried to ape the West and North America for too long but
it has failed to learn to be itself.
In the case of Nigeria, its political practices are simply irrelevant. The country itself is a contraption and sustainable only under conditions of continued application of force. Nigeria's failure to move from being a monoculture economy is at the root of its political failure and the increasing militarisation of the Niger Delta. Nigeria is not what it claims to be. Each time, it makes a narrow escape from crisis, it has to rely on a greater resort to force to maintain its unequal relations of dominion, oppression and tyranny. Its structure is simply inherently unstable. And its leaders essentially helpless and unpatriotic to re-discover its rich political heritage and marry this with useful ideas and values that are imported from the West. Africa cannot continue to deny its reality except at its own peril in this age of globalisation.
Olurode is Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, at the University of Lagos.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.