Love or hate the United States of America, they have come a very long way in influencing the socio-political and economic fortunes in the world, either positively or negatively. The Nigerian democracy for instance is fashioned after the American Presidential system but that seems to be at the very superficial level. The operational mechanics seem to be somewhat far apart.
While for instance they have defined two party system of the Republicans and Democrats with a sprinkle of other smaller and less influential political parties, Nigeria’s political party system seems very fluid as it has oscillated between the a handful of parties post-independence to an unwieldy multi-party system that accommodates almost a hundred political parties that were on the ballot in 2019.
The American political party system equally shows that party leadership is purely for administrative purposes while the Nigerian versions tend to be more influential and seemingly very intrusive in the operational mechanics of the political parties. Has that been the waterloo of our democracy? How does this impact on our leadership evolution processes?
The Roundtable Conversation sat with Osita Chidoka, former minister of Aviation and governorship candidate in Anambra state in 2017 to get his views about the leadership evolution processes and how it affects service delivery in Nigeria. He believes that in most cases, Nigeria has lacked the emergence of real courageous leaders who have solid convictions about leading a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria.
To him, it seems the leadership evolution processes at all levels must be redefined. Nigerians must begin to ask themselves what kind of leadership they want because as they say, each society gets the leadership it deserves. He regrets for instance a situation where governors especially in the South East influence who takes over from them whether the person is competent or not. A flashback since 1999 has shown that the South East for instance does not have a very huge record of voting out governors unlike in other regions where incumbents lose elections. He believes that governors exercise too much power in influencing who takes over from them and in most cases, their choices are often not based on competence of sense of service.
Chidoka feels that Nigerians must begin to define the type of leadership they want and work towards getting such people. People must start to look beyond selfish gains in leadership choice because very often, the richest is not always the most capable leader. But if any group of people decides to take financial benefits over competence, they must prepare to live with the consequences of their choices.
He observes that the Northern region seems to have the courage to vote out incumbents in the last election. The governors of Adamawa and Bauchi lost their re-election bids because the people rejected them. The people must be willing to let their political leaders realize that if they do not perform well, they would be rejected at the polls. U
The American election to Chidoka presents a lot of lessons about a workable democracy. First, the constitution is the grand norm and is respected. The value of a scientific approach to data is quite admirable. If the 2020 election has been said to the best and almost perfect, it is because they used a system of accountability that works and the human elements played their roles patriotically without allegiance to partisanships.
A presidential system of election requires very careful planning, data and a prepared populace ready to do all it takes to legally elect competent and ready to serve leaders .To Chidoka, at the stage Nigeria is now, Nigerians needs hope, there is a dire need for re-emergence of functionality at all tiers of government. It is not a function of what government will do or not do, there are things that need to happen for Nigeria to become proud of Nigeria in and outside the country. Nigerians seem disconnected from Nigeria and it is not just about the leadership but the people after all the leadership emerges from the people. Nigerians must begin to re-engage with Nigeria.
The next election is coming and certain pertinent questions must find answers. Does Nigeria want to renew itself as a multi-ethnic society? How can we push forward as a united country ready to harness the best of our rainbow quality? We have seen globally the failure of some multi-ethnic societies, USSR failed, Eritrea and Ethiopia seem to be on the tenterhooks, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia failed but then, there are success stories of multi-ethnic societies too.
There are still multi-ethnic societies that have thrived. The United Kingdom is, without claiming perfection a success because the people found a way to have an inclusiveness that speaks justice and equity. Our model of democracy, The United States of America as the name implies is multi-ethnic and embraces what is perhaps the best human cocktail as virtually every country is represented being a nation of mainly immigrants from various cultures and creeds.
In the UK for instance, there have been agitations for separations but in all the referendums, majority had voted to stay because somehow there has been a carefully (even if not perfect) worked out roadmap for co-existence. Switzerland is a multi-ethnic society too that has thrived. So Nigerians must be realistic and come together and work out how to maximize the multi-ethnic country by making realistic and decisive decisions about inclusiveness that breeds justice and equity.
There are lessons for Nigerians about how to build multi-ethnic societies into a viable country. There must be an inclusiveness that brings every group’s need to the table. There must be the viability of hope, there must be value for meritocracy creating an avenue for progress. A multi-ethnic country cannot survive on any lopsided plan where any group has a sense of superiority or a bullish instinct over others. It is highly unsustainable to maintain a lopsided and unjust system that leaves any segment of the country out in any way. Nigerians must continuously renegotiate the idea of a workable Nigeria. Something like the federal character issue is valid but must never be abused. It is a system that is meant to provide a balance that profits everyone in the union but must not skew to the advantage of any one side.
The coming election must re-define the Nigeria we want by the choices we make at all levels of the electoral process. Otherwise, the wobbly union we see today might continue. We must realistically continue to re-negotiate the union in ways that would ensure no group is left behind. The election would be a hallmark election that would determine what we truly want. Nothing beats the beauty of diversity. It is the reason the rainbow is such a beauty. The symmetry of the colours create the beauty and no colour displaces another.
The US election has come and gone and The Roundtable feels that there are lessons Nigerians must pick up besides the comic angle of the sitting President not conceding defeat. The constitution of the country would be invoked at the right time. The people have spoken and both sides of the aisle are seeing the transparency in the process. The states and individuals followed their electoral laws to the letter in spite of their partisan leanings. Party leaderships are not up in arms as they are not constitutionally empowered to interfer beyond their legal roles.
In a way, incumbency offered no advantage to the sitting president as the system works irrespective of personalities. No matter how much he wants to return, if the people say no at the poles, he has no choice. There have been governors and senators who have stood to defend the process with clear details and statistics.
The president-elect, Joe Biden won the election on his merit. He had built a public service legacy over decades and rose to become the Vice President for eight years and the American people had for years been scrutinizing his public service record. He might not be a saint but his integrity and sense of service is admirable. Leadership must come with certain values. Integrity, humility, empathy, patriotism, education and all other values are clear prerequisites.
The Nigerian people must be willing to elect men and women whose history gives a clear glimpse of their values. No nation seeks to elect saints seeing that is utopian but it helps to look for people whose values can be gleaned from their private and professional lives. The idea of people just jumping out to contest elections and somehow wangle their ways to victory with some opaque history must stop. History matters, pedigree matters, offices do not change people rather they bring their personalities to office.
Again the historic number of votes is a clear statement that the advocacy for voter turnout worked especially for minorities who had shown clear apathy during the past elections. Stacy Abrams of Georgia has worked herself into the history of American politics for her mobilization efforts that virtually won the state of Georgia for the Democrats. The value of data is equally glaring as all voting blocs had verifiable data. For Nigeria with one of the most litigious elections in a democracy, the handling of the complaints of the losing candidates with transparent records and numbers has seen them either lose or withdraw certain lawsuits.
It is instructive for Nigerians to note the positives in the US elections in ways that can improve Nigeria’s democracy as a multi-ethnic society practicing the finest brand of democracy. It is pure hypocrisy to just take the system without the core ingredients that marks out the process as a democracy that relies on the will of the people. There is no perfect human system but Nigerians must decide to either put pillars to the democratic house or let the house continue to stand on sand.
The dialogue continues…