Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Making Democrats from Politicians
through Education in
Being a lecture delivered at the Conference on Nigeria in Bern, Switzerland on October 23, 2004 organized by the Nigerian Awareness Group.
At a time when the term politician seems or tends to convey some negative
Let me pay tribute to the organizers of this Conference for inviting me to this year’s conference. You must have found something in me from what I said last year to warrant you to invite me to this year’s conference.
Last year I devoted my presentation to the nagging problem of
I am glad that the former Chairman of the Governing Council of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule also raised the same question after the 2003 election and came to the same prognosis in November 2003. According to Alhaji Maitama Sule,
An interim Government should be set up three
months before the election so that all parties would be at par.
What Alhaji Maitama spoke
from experience especially from what the country went through in the 2003
elections. What the respected nationalist was saying is that there should be
‘a level playing field’ for all political parties and for all candidates during
the period of election. This is the “
Today I hope I would not be accused of copying from other
systems. My view is that
NIGERIAN POLITICAL CLASS MUST OVERCOME IGNORANCE
There is a display of ignorance among some members
of the political class that persisted in the country since 1989 when President
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida introduced the idea of politicians undergoing some
training program as part of the transition program of the time. This ignorance
is manifest in the thoughts and actions of some politicians. One and only
political theoretician of the extreme right in
The Centre for Democratic Studies has taken most of the functions and works of the Presidency itself like……….the supervision of elections and teaching people politics.
He further demonstrated his ignorance when he
never heard of any place in the world where politicians are called to go to
school to be politicians except here.
(The Sentinel, December 19, 1994)
I am happy that the focus of this conference is on
the present generation of Nigerian political leaders. This has nothing to do
with age. My understanding of the present generation has to do with the
Nigerian politicians who took over the governance of
When I decided to pick the title “Making Democrats from
Politicians through Education” I knew that there are some politicians
represented by Uba Ahmed who strongly believe that politicians do not need to go
to school. This is unfortunate because
The problems that the current generation has today
should be attributed to the defect in the preparation for the task that they
have been facing since 1999. Many if not all are politicians who are not
democrats. After all those who made up the five political parties that jointly
“nominated” General Sani Abacha as their sole candidate to run on the ticket of
those political parties were “democrats”. They would have continued to be
“democrats” along with the military strongman if he had not died. The likes of
Uba Ahmed who was one of the proponents of that kind of “democracy” would have
continued to mislead his fellow politicians that what existed before 1993 was no
democracy because according to the conservative theoretician, “professors,
intellectuals exploited the good nature of IBB to create works for themselves
and make money”. This view persists in certain quarters in
SOCIAL MAN; POLITICAL MAN; DEMOCRAT
Are politicians made or born? The answer lies in the distinction between a social man or a man in society and a political man or a man participating in political activities.
Another distinction is that not all people who live in a society are in politics or could be called politicians. But one could be both. This is empirically valid.
Not all people who live in a society or those who become politicians are democrats. This is also empirically valid.
DEMOCRATIC LIFE AS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR
For those who want to promote democracy in a
One would recall that those who were communists in
Those who read the debates over the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) would have noticed the different views about
the concept of democracy. There is virtually a consensus on the concept of
democracy; hence the UN Human Rights Commission resolved this as a right in
1999. Are we surprised that the Communist states had and still have to
unlearn communism based on one party and learn to be democrats based on
multipartism after the fall of the
What I am trying to demonstrate is that one would need
democrats to help those who lived too long in a non-democratic life to transit
to democracy. This is based on the assumption that only democrats can make
The political education in communist states in the past followed some rigid program that is very different from the education for democracy. This should be my second occasion to address the questions raised by those who are ignorant about political education in general and education for democracy in particular. They are many among the current politicians.
The 1999 transition to civilian rule that gave birth to the current generation of politicians could not be said to be a transition to democratic rule for obvious reasons.
One, the politicians were no democrats. Two, they did not believe in democracy. Three they were party to the backsliding of democratization in the past.
In my view, all those who are shouting democracy or 'we are in a democracy' cannot be expected to nurture what they do not believe in and what they actually did everything to undermine in the past. We can see this from the way they have been carrying on since 1999 especially from the way they organize parties, seek election and run their government.
A colleague of mine once lamented that if the
400,000 'new breed' politicians that passed through the Centre for Democracy
Studies between 1989-1992 were allowed to continue (i.e. if the democratization
process were not interrupted in June 1993),
What I want to do in this conference is deal with how to convert non-believers in democracy to believers. This is a tall order; is it possible? I’d say yes if the present generation of politicians would humble themselves and go to the first principle, education. This is my contribution.
FIX THE 'POLITICAL PATHOLOGIES' IN NIGERIAN POLITICIANS
Since 1999, it should be obvious to us that in the area of democratic rights or participatory rights we need an institution to enhance peoples’ democratic rights. It is abundantly clear that in the area of democratic governance, the current office holders ought to be going through continuous civic education.
are established anti-democratic tendencies in Nigerian
politicians that we would have to correct. These are what I called 'political
pathologies' in the past in my writings and lectures. If we are in difficulty
identifying areas that need to be corrected in the current politicians, may I
state that the Centre for Democratic Studies once identified them in the past?
They are still evident today.
I can point out some of the defects in the
Nigerian political life, the political pathologies from the anti-democratic
behavior of Nigerian politicians since 1999. Consider these:
(1) The Nigerian politicians generally do not have faith in the ballot box.
(2) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that
they could lose an election.
(3) The Nigerian politicians who glaringly lost an election or were rejected by the voters in their various communities still go to the tribunal and cry foul that their opponents or the managers of election or the government or police robbed them of victory fortheir opponents.
(4) The Nigerian politicians believe that winning
is the only option in an election even if it is very obvious that the voters do
not want them.
(5) The Nigerian politicians believe that all is
fair in elections.
(6) The Nigerian politicians believe that the
election officers are purchasable and could be bought to deliver victory to the
(7) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that
there would be another election.
(8) The Nigerian politicians believe that they are
only involved in the last election.
(9) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that
one could work for and actually earn votes in an election based on one's vision
(10) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that democracy is anchored on a series of elections.
(11) Nigerians, especially those who call on Allah
and God to show them the way do not seem to have faith in tomorrow and in
The first task of education for democracy today in
The blame game should end. We blame the Independent National Election Commission INEC; we blame the security agents; we blame the ruling political party.
We fail to blame ourselves. More critically we
fail to address the issue of incumbency during period of election where office
holders are also candidates in the election. One would recall that I first
raised this issue in 2001 at an academic conference at
Later during the crisis over the electoral law, I called the attention of the country's politicians to the political consequences of an electoral law. One would recall that at Vienna (2002) and Zurich (2003), I went so far as to dig up the unique case of Bangladesh where an office holder must vacate his office at the end of the term leaving the election of a successor to an interim government. With the best will in the world, INEC cannot be independent as long as the President that appoints it is also a candidate. So too one should not expect the police during an election to be even handed as long as the President is a candidate.
This is an opportunity to respond to the issue raised by the former Chairman of the Governing Council of CDS, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule that the current government should have no hand with the 2007 election. He, in fact, called on the use of an interim government during the election. It is too late to make this proposal; I wish he had made this point in 2002 before the commencement of the process leading to the self-succession election. In 2007, there would have been what the Americans call "open seat" in Aso Rock (Presidency). The incumbent would not be a candidate. 2007 is more open because the President and most Governors by the Constitution cannot run for the third time. Enough to this digression that should properly be a constitutional matter and we should focus on the issue of political education for politicians.
It is high time we focused on the individual candidate. Is he prepared for the election? Does he have the right democratic attitude? Is he a democratic man or just a political man? These are questions that individual candidates itching to seek political office should answer. Many of them are ill-prepared for election; many if not all of them do not possess the democratic attitude and all of them are just politicians.
NEEDED, INSTITUTION FOR EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY
Nigerian politicians do not believe that the Nigerian politicians and would-be politicians should be sent to school to learn to be democrats. You train for other jobs; but in politics every Nigerian believes that it is a profession of anything goes.
Trade unionism and journalism used to be like that
in the past for misfits and school dropouts. It was fashionable that as soon as
one could be an agitator or provocative writer, he was called a trade unionist
or a journalist. Has that not changed today? Unfortunately, politics has
become one trade where politicians think that there is no need for education.
Can we use this forum to advice the Nigerian political class that they need
reorientation?. This should be obvious from what
A commentator once took me on that I should consciously search for and support a Nigerian with no military background for an elective office. I wrote back that he should show me one. He fired back that it is a tragedy of our time that no Nigerian of civilian background has faith in himself when placed side by side with a retired General.
Some would say that it is money that makes iron to float in politics. Unfortunately, no one ever mentioned “vision” as one attribute that politicians should cultivate. Maybe this is what General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was referring to when he said recently that Nigerian politicians aspiring to elective office should stop playing the ethnic card and deal with ideas and programs. Is this not a factor in the political pathology to rely solely on money and ethnic or zone as the bases of politics? Could this not be dealt with through political education?
My view is that
The issue today in an era when all politicians are all
knowing is who would push for this in
One would not expect the Nigerian politicians to be
knowledgeable in the philosophy behind political education, which is a special
field with many authorities behind it. What one would have expected of them is
to allow those who are trained in the area of political reconstruction to
ADOPT UNIVERSAL PRACTICE
There is nothing unique in my proposal. The
experiment of President Babangida that I pioneered in the past was not unique to
Some would dismiss it as a military thing; it is not. Others would dismiss it as Omo Omoruyi looking for job. And so what! I am not; but I can advise under this auspices. There are many Nigerians who can handle what I am preaching at home. Quite seriously, an institution for education in democracy really should have been embraced by a democratically elected political order since 1999.
This was the first institution that General Sani
Abacha killed as soon as he became the military strongman in 1993. He later
The CDS idea should have been the first institution that a
democratically elected President Obasanjo should have set up after May 1999. It
would have complemented his anti-corruption campaign. It should have had a
pride of place under his reform agenda on my strong belief that no meaningful
reform can take place that would not fundamentally start from the Nigerian
attitude to politics. Again we could use the examples in post WW II
If I were President Obasanjo’s adviser, I would have counseled him that the reform of the attitude to politics should have been seen as the key to other reforms. It should have commenced with the President. This was what he should have done under one term of six years and no more.
I am afraid we cannot deal with corruption in
All the mistakes we noticed in 1999 and repeated many folds in 2003 would be multiplied many times in 2007 unless we embark on fundamental reorientation of the Nigerian politician to adopt a democratic habit.
The kind of institution that I am proposing like
the CDS of the past fits into the category called, Quasi-Non-Governmental
Organization (QUANGO). This will be in the tradition of such
democracy-promoting institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
They are not non-governmental
(2) They are creations of statute.
They receive continuous government
(4) They have bi-partisan control.
They have bipartisan policy making organs,
They are committed to the twin
mission of research and training.
(7) They enjoy autonomy in the policy formulation and execution.
Those who raised questions about the use of the CDS in the democratic transition in the past ought to have taken up these points. They should have ticked each of the foregoing issues as to whether the CDS met any or all of them.
The CDS in its short life met all in varying degrees and could have done more but for the uncertainties that engulfed the transition program after 1992. One would recall that after 1992, the CDS twin mission of training and research was subordinated to a firefighting function in its attempt to rescue the democratic transition from collapse. It should be noted that rescuing the transition program was not part of the original mission of the CDS. To name a few, the CDS came to the aid of the military government in resolving the log jam in the implementation of the program of democratic transition after the botched presidential primaries in November 1992.
Like the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) that was created by the U.S. Congress and funded by the Congress annually or the Westminster Foundation for Democracy of the United Kingdom that was created by an Act of Parliament and funded by the Parliament annually, the CDS was created by a Decree and under the same Decree it was to get subvention from the annual budgetary allocation.
The first recommendation that I will propose here
is for this august body to call on the Nigerian political class to propose a
legislation like the Decree 60 that set up the CDS in the past. There is still
something else that we could learn from the CDS experiment.
SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM THE
For the mission of the CDS one should call
attention to Decree 60 of 1993. The CDS role in the area of education for
democratic political behavior can be found in Decree 26 of 1989 and Decree 52 of
1992 where CDS was specifically named as the instrument for organizing training,
workshops and seminars for politicians. We need this kind of law today in
The CDS was also assigned more roles in major
policy pronouncements by the President. As I said above, the CDS assumed new
roles after 1992 when the transition program ran into difficulty and was on the
verge of virtual collapse. The CDS had to be used to (a) ensure the take off of
the National Assembly on
On (b) here again the CDS served as the "Game
Commissioner" while the National Electoral Commission (NEC) served as the "Game
No nation leaves its election to another nation to pronounce
on after a one-day safari as international observers. Again that was what we had
in 1999 and 2003. The issue of credibility of an election is more than that.
The international observers and domestic observers or monitors only functioned
on the Election Day in 1999 and 2003. It is empirically valid that most
elections are won and lost from the pre-election day activities. International
observation should have commenced with the pre-Election Day activities and
extend to the Election Day and beyond. It had to take the
BI-PARTISAN CONTROL OF THE CENTRE
There should be a bipartisan control and policy making measure in these institutions to guarantee the support and confidence of all the parties.
Speaking seriously can we not bring some order to
the chaotic situation where political parties simply function in the living room
of some so-called politicians? One does not want to name names; those who are
functioning under the auspices of Conference or Coalition of Nigerian Political
Parties (CNPP) are not democrats. They are taking the certificate and the
initial grant given them by INEC as the means to make themselves heard in
You have cases where so-called politicians simply walked out of one party and became presidential candidates of other parties within 24 hours! Are these democrats?
TRAINING AND RESEARH AS ISSUE OF AUTONOMY
On the twin issue of research and training, like
the CDS in the past, this should not come under the control of the governing
council. From experience, the CDS did not have to go to the Government on the
method to use for its training and research. Herein lies the issue of autonomy,
which the CDS enjoyed in the past. How many Nigerians knew that it was in
furtherance of this, that the CDS entered into a link arrangement with the
The CDS sourced for funds. It did not have to rely
on subvention from Government. One still recalls how the two institutions
jointly wrote a Grant Proposal and competed for and won a Research Grant of over
a quarter million dollars from the
What is important in the episode is that the two
institutions, CDS in
This was my concept of autonomy for the Centre for Democratic Studies. The Centre did not have to seek permission from the Federal Military Government to enter into this bilateral agreement. The Centre did not have to clear with the military government on the joint research plan.
The CDS staff visited ISR and the ISR staff visited CDS
between 1991 and 1992 in preparation for the
At no time did the CDS have to seek clearance from the Federal Military Government on the implementation of the research effort. This is not to say that President Babangida did not know about the link. He encouraged it in many ways, the discussion of which I will leave to other occasions.
AREAS OF POLITICAL LIFE THAT NEED TRAINING
The political class at all levels need training program.
(1) for the party functionaries (ward local, state and national);
(2) for elected government officials (local, state and national);
(3) for the policy briefings for elected party
officials and elected government officials;
(4) for the various groups in society such as the
(5) for the political empowerment of the
marginalized groups such as the young, women.
On what should be included in the program, let me use the examples from the CDS. The training program of CDS covered:
(1) The notion of democracy;
(2) The value basis of the Nigerian Constitution;
(3) The democratic features of the party
(4) The Party Finance and Accountability;
(5) The Language and Rhetoric of Political
(6) The Constraints of Party Programming.
For the competence enhancement program for
government officials elected on party platforms at the local government, state
and national levels, let me use the CDS examples from the local government
levels. The Councilors all over the country should be exposed to such issues
(1) The Meaning and Purpose of Grassroots
(2) The Status of Local Government under the
(3) The Local Government Autonomy and
(4) The Powers of Local Government;
(5) The Local Government Administrations;
(6) The Local Government Finance; and
(7) The Financial Control and Accounting Procedure.
The elected councilors today should have availed themselves
of the kind of program that the CDS did in the past. It is sad that the
constitutional position of the local government system as the basis of
grassroots democracy is dead today. Who is at fault, the President or the
Governors or the National Assembly? The three of them are. They are doing away
with the genesis of grassroots democracy in
The CDS divided training at the State level into three parts:
(1) the Governors and their Deputies;
(2) the political leaders in the State Legislatures and
(3) the State Assemblymen and women.
The state governors today like in the past should be exposed to or be briefed on such issues as
(1) National Security (internal and external)
(2) National Defense;
(4) National Economy;
(6) Social Sector (Education and Health).
The idea of Policy briefing was devised in the past as a forum for a mutually beneficial dialogue and an exchange between the current managers at the Federal level and the State level. Some may call this a form of an exercise in brain washing. It is not. But from the assessment of State Governors when the CDS ran it in 1991, some wanted the matter to be repeated on an annual basis. Many of the Governors that assumed office in 1999 did not know what they were getting into.
This is an exercise that the new President and the new Governors should have been led through by the outgoing military before they assumed office. That would have served them well in their first year.
Recently President Obasanjo told the Nigerian people that he underestimated the enormous problem that he would face in his first term. What about the Governors! Is it not sad that the President is issuing what he called the Executive Order to decide on the allocation of revenue among the three tiers of government?
President Babangida rightly diagnosed the underdevelopment of the legislature in the Presidential System caused by many years of military rule and asked the CDS to fix it. The situation has not changed since1999. In fact it is worse with the President and the Governors calling themselves EXECUTIVE this or that. Who can fix it today? A training program for both the Executive and the legislature is desirable to emphasize the power of and the relationship between the two elective arms of government.
President Babangida called the Assemblies the weakest link in the democratization program in 1992; but the situation is worse today. There is a dire need for a variety of training programs for the legislators (national and state). Let me cite what the CDS in the past that can still be done today with the legislature.
From the CDS experience, the training program
should take two forms: the political leaders of the legislatures covering the
Chief Executive of the legislative arm of the Government including other
political leaders such as the Majority and the Minority leaders and key
Committee Chairmen. We noticed in the past that most legislators were not sure
of their roles and some were scared of the enormous power of the President and
the Governors. This is still the situation today. Generally most Assemblymen
and women did not know of their powers
If democracy is to survive in
My experience in the past was that the legislative arm was
neglected in the past at all levels of government, which arose from the
interruption of democratic life in
This program should be repeated at the national level. The situation is even worse as the National Assembly men and women do not know how to deal with a President who just feels that the National Assembly is a mere debating club and nothing more.
It is a pity and a tragedy that the notion of the Presidential System of Government means that only the President or the Governor is the government since only the President or the Governor governs. The Executive arrogates to itself the power to decide on how money would be spent. What is sad in this claim of the Executive is that various Assemblies believe that to be so.
If the legislature suffers from status insecurity, it is
suffering from serious procedural problems arising from the grafting of the
Standing Order of the
The Assemblies at all levels need to revert to the
Committee System. Who can tell them to discard the Standing Order that is a
carryover from the House of Representatives of the
It should be noted that the Committees in the National
Assembly since 1999 only function in name. They have no power to summon the
Ministers to answer to questions about their Ministries. The situation is even
worse during the confirmation of Ministers and Ambassadors. Here the Senate had
since 1999 not been able to adopt a procedure that would subject the nominees to
rigorous questions as to their suitability in respect of their assignment. How
can they do this anyway when the President is never asked to name Ministers to
offices and Ambassadors to countries? It is sad that the Senate only approves a
list of nominees and the President does what he likes with the list. On what
basis do the Senators adjudge the nominees suitable? This is the same practice
at the State level where the Assembly only approves a list sent to it by the
Governor. This practice should change. They go to the
The Assemblies ought to be educated on the status of the State/national finances and the bill submitted by the Governors/President. This is one area where the legislators need a thorough understanding of their powers. One would not be surprised that the President and the Governors would consider such training program as subversive so it would seem. Both elective arms should be brought together and educated on their respective roles
There should be a training program geared to the understanding of the complex issues of (a) the separation of powers and (b) the divided government. Where the voters exercise their right and give power to different parties at the executive and legislative arms, the voters expect the two elective arms to compromise. What that shows is that the voters are not comfortable handing over power to one party. This is what is called a ‘divided government’.
How the CDS dealt with this case in
One would recall that the only known case of a divided
The operation of 'a divided government' requires
the highest form of democratic behavior that was absent in the conduct of the
various actors during the
What should be noted is that the NPC-NCNC alliance was possible under a system of government where the Executive and Legislative arms of government were fused. But under the Presidential System where both elective arms were separated, different parties could control the two elective arms. This was what happened after the 1979 election. Shagari's party (NPN) won the Presidential election and a combination of four parties (UPN, NPP, GNPP and PRP) had a majority in the National Assembly. They could control the National Assembly if they had chosen to work together. In my view, President-elect Shagari did not need a formal accord of the NPN-NPP type in order to function, if he properly understood the Presidential System of Government.
But for the NPN-NPP Accord that was brought about by forces outside the two parties in the accord, the beginning of the Second Republic was in trouble if the four-party plan of the 12 Governors had materialized. How the Accord came about was discussed in my book, Beyond the Tripod and in Shagari's memoirs, Beckoned to Serve.
Another area requiring some education has to do with the nagging issue of oversight and investigative powers of the legislatures. If the President really wants a solution to all cases of corruption the power of the National Assembly with respect to the power of oversight should be emphasized. Oversight is part of the notion of checks and balances. This is a unique characteristic of the system. This still remains the least understood by the legislatures and the Executive today.
Again the legislators need a lot of support from varieties of workshops to give them the confidence and knowledge to enable them to check the excesses of the executive. The legislators need to be prodded to be bold enough to implement the relevant section of the Constitution, which gives the Assemblymen and women power to conduct investigation on:
Any matter or thing which it has power to make laws; and the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, Ministry or Government Department charged, or intended to be charged with the duty of or responsibility for executing for administering laws enacted by that House of Assembly, and disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by such House.
This is the least developed aspect of the function
of the Legislature in
CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT IS NEEDED
The last and certainly not the least is how to make the candidates adopt modern campaign techniques. This was an area that CDS pioneered in the past. I strongly recommend it to this audience.
On the influx of retired military officers into politics, we
need to revive the program I called from Khaki to Agbada that I commenced in
1991. That program was meant to serve as the conversion program for the
retiring military officers who were planning to go into partisan politics. It is
obvious that the many retired generals jumping into politics in
Finally one would like to end this short presentation with what I kept telling the new breed politicians between 1989 and 1993 during the various training sessions that "no one is born a democrat; only learning makes one a democrat". It should have been obvious by now that democracy being an acquired or learned behavior should have been amenable to the rules governing learning.
One hopes that this Conference would be able to
prevail on the President of
I rest my case and thank you for giving me the
opportunity to make my case for how to make democrats from the politicians
through education in
Thanks for listening to me.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.