DEMOCRATIC DIVIDENDS IN THE CONTEMPORARY NIGERIA: THE BAJJU COMMUNITY IN FOCUS.
Hon. Sunday Marshall Katung
Being a paper presented at Bajju Development Association (BADA) Zaria Branch end of year congress meeting on 3rd December, 2017.
It gives me great pleasure to present this paper at this event. In the words of Amit Ray “You are Never Alone.. You are eternally connected with everyone. ”My pleasure is even more heightened that our gatherings go beyond just seeking to bond to achieving a victory where our people win in the work place, in the nation and globally. There is no gainsaying the fact that set on this new trajectory, we will be a huge part of democracy’s victory and by extension, real depictions of our country’s feat.
The phrase “Dividend of Democracy” has always been diversely used for the different meanings it holds to different people. Oxford dictionary defined democracy as a system of government in which a country’s political leaders are chosen by the people in regular, free, and fair elections. In its street credibility worth, democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people. Dividends can simply be refers to benefit from an action or policy.
Drawing from these definitions, it is safe to say that this discourse is about the benefits derived from the action and policy of the people elected into leadership position.
“Dividends of democracy” is now a well-worn cliché especially after civil rule won its way from the military. Although some other expressions such as “accountability”, “transparency”, “integrity”, “patriotism”, “people-centred” are also being used, “dividends of democracy” seems to be the most commonly used by elected political office holders due to its ability to elevate the pitch on what the people want and the promise the system holds.
Flowing from that viewpoint, the understanding is that governance at any level and in any society is geared towards providing quality service to people. Democratic governance follows this pattern but goes a step further towards not just providing such services but also ensuring that the people are the primary actors in this process of service delivery; this is indeed the very essence of democracy. Some may understand “dividends of democracy” as meaning good roads, provision of portable water supply, making education accessible and affordable, constant power supply, accessible medical care, provision of jobs, good transport system, affordable housing, favourable economy for trade and investment, affordable food supply amongst others. However, while all of these may be accepted as what these political office holders should do, the focus is to ensure that they are effectuated by allowing the people take precedence.
2.1 UNDERSTANDING THE BASIC PRINCIPLES IN DEMOCRATIC OPERATIONS
Who then is responsible for the provision of what facilities and how best can the citizenry demand for the dividends of democracy from our mandate holders?
Nigeria is a federation and the system of government in place is the presidential system. This allows for separation of powers and responsibilities as set out by Baron de Montesquieu who believes that power sharing is the means to insulate democracy from tyranny. The Nigeria structure is made up of three tiers of government – the federal, state and local governments. The three tiers are actively involved in delivering the dividends of democracy. They each have their roles to play as entities but they also collaborate in certain respect especially when it has to do with management and financing.
At the moment the federal government controls 68 items under the exclusive legislative list which includes defence, shipping federal trunk road, aviation, rails, post, telegraph, telephone, police and other security services. They are also involved in regulating telecommunication, interstate commerce and labour. Federal government also sees to mines and mineral resources, guidelines to minimum education standard at every level education and water resources.
Both federal and state collaborate to see to antiquities and monuments, university, technological and post primary education, health and social welfare, statistics and survey, technological and research, industrial, commercial and Agricultural development and electricity. The Federal Government shares 24 of the items with the state on the concurrent list.
States and local governments collaborate on issues relating to development of Agriculture and non-mineral natural resources, health services, primary, adult and vocational education. The local government deals with street lighting, drains and other public facilities, sewages and refuge disposals, homes for destitute and infirm, cemeteries and burial grounds, economic planning and development.
Funding for the three tiers of government is done by the federal government with percentages allocated for each state on monthly basis. States and local government are operating a joint account. This means states collect allocation for local government under them and disburse as the case may be.
My view point on some of these items on the list is critical. Security for instance is the primary purpose for which any government should exist. Section 14 (2) b of the Constitution lends credence to this when it says: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” That security is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government makes rapid response to insecurity nearly impossible. Again, if security is left in the hands of the states alone, we would run the risk of abuse. It therefore, in my opinion, make sense if that item is placed in the concurrent list so we can achieve quick fixes and checks and balance of using security forces in a less than stellar manner. The outcome will be society’s inevitable win.
It bears reviewing the concept of Separation of Power. Like Adam Smith’s principle of “division of labour” in Economics, the doctrine of separation of powers is geared towards efficiency but also more importantly, towards guarding against abuse of authority. Hence, it is a liberty-sensitive concept. A government of separated powers assigns different political and legal duties to the legislative, executive and judicial departments. This means that while the legislature has the power to make laws, the executive branch has the authority to administer and enforce the laws so made. The judicial division, on the other hand, tries cases brought before the courts and interprets the laws. It is this latter function that constitutes the court’s power of “judicial review”.The above system is usually described as a “horizontal” separation of powers. In a federal structure, there is yet another type called “vertical” separation of powers whereby governmental powers are shared between the central government and the fringe governments (i.e the state and the local governments).
Note: For the sake of clarity, each office holder has his/her jurisdiction enshrine in the constitution. For example, a councillor has his/her duties clearly outline and so it is with local government Chairman, House of Assembly Member, House of Representatives etc.
The most important variable in the democratic equation, as you would imagine, are the citizens. Citizens’ participation is key in any democracy. Citizens have an obligation to become informed about public issues, to monitor the conduct of their leaders and representatives, and to express their own opinions. Participation includes but is not limited to voting in elections, debating issues, attending community meetings, becoming involved in private, voluntary organizations, and even protesting. However, political participation in a democracy must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals.
2.2 AN OVER VIEW OF THE DIVIDENDS OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA: MIXED REACTION.
Let me take as given that we all concede that certain things are better now and that Nigeria is nearer democracy today than it was before May 1999. What we must be honest about is that we are yet to assume the moral and operational responsibilities of democracy and, to that extent; a lot has also gone worse since then, depending on what tangent we seek to view what.
Naturally, a shift from the worst form of government, military despotism, to the supposedly best political system, democracy, was exhilarating to most Nigerians. It elicited expectations from the people – high, but somewhat confused expectations. From democracy, they expected all that were absent from military rule. The last sets of military leaders were nauseatingly corrupt, they ran the country aground, ruined every public institution and brought untold hardship on the people. So, from democracy, the people anticipated a resuscitation of the country’s institutions which were left comatose by military rule, the revamping of the economy and a conspicuously palpable improvement in their quality of life. Normally, democracy should offer much more than these mundane deliverables.
In the early 1970s, the oil proceeds were better managed. Government policies were more generous and directed at providing for the needs of the people and raising their standard of living. To a greater degree, we had all the government is now trying to provide us as the dividend of democracy. For example, there was a general availability of pipe-borne water in the cities, and unlike now, the water was clean and unquestionably drinkable. The cities were cleaner and their infrastructures better maintained. The supply of electricity was more consistent. The schools, especially, the universities were better funded and equipped. The teachers were motivated and academic standards were higher. Paradoxically, the president then, General Yakubu Gowon, was a soldier. Were those the dividend of democracy under a military dictatorship?
It can reasonably be argued that freedom of expression is the dividend of democracy. As the saying goes, “the root of bondage is poverty and the root of poverty is ignorance”. Invariably, no one bottled up by the fetters of poverty and ignorance can exercise his right of free speech. It means nothing to a man whose self-confidence, dignity or sense of worth is so totally eroded by poverty and its attendant deprivations and humiliations or to the ignorant that can neither read nor write. Therefore, the foundation for freedom of expression is liberty from poverty and ignorance.
But a society does not need democracy to be freed from poverty and ignorance.. A benevolent dictator can allow for freedom of speech, even if he chooses to ignore the expressed public opinions. He can also institute liberal economic and social policies that engender general prosperity, improves the lot of the man at the bottom of the economic pyramid, and successfully makes education more accessible to even the very poor. Then, that will be the dividend of democracy from an undemocratic source. So, the dividend of democracy is not freedom of expression (even when it presupposes the absence of general poverty and ignorance).
The dividend of democracy is power. Max Weber, the 18th century German sociologist once defined power “as the ability to get others to act in accordance to your will”. Politics is all about power. Unlike tyrannical, dictatorial or oligarchical politics, democratic politics strives for less domination of power by an elite few, and the greater participation of the people in governing themselves. It concerns itself not with mere struggle for power, but an equitable distribution of power. An equitable distribution of power recognizes that the people are the ultimate repository of power, and the elected and government officials and every organ of government are delegated to operate solely and totally in conformity with the will of the people. Nigerians will have the dividend of democracy when this reality becomes the governing principle of Nigerian politics.
Take for example, the $16billion earmarked for revamping the energy sector and boosting its power generation capacities was stolen by the ruling elite and shared between themselves and their business and political associates. The Railway contract of $8.3 billion reportedly was inflated by $5.8 billion. Undoubtedly, that excess of $5.8billion is for the pockets of some members of the political class and their cronies. They steal funds budgeted for improving health services in the country, and then, jet away to hospitals in Western countries to treat even minor ailments.
Millions of Naira are used to cut grasses in refugees camps, Billions meant for pensioners have been squandered by very few, there is little or no respect for rule of law and human dignity. Heads of agencies have exceeded their approval limit with no consequences; federal agencies have been operating for over two years with no board of directors to management their activities. Security of lives and properties is at citizen purview, illegality and recklessness can no longer be controlled. Some set of people in the country are more Nigerians than others. Are these and other countless acts of excesses and arrogance, lawlessness and profligacy, greed and corruption, etc of the ruling class not in defiance of the public will?
2.3 KAJJU IN VIEW
Kajju as the second largest ethnic group in Kaduna state, aside Hausa-Fulani put together deserves better. The return of democracy in the past Eighteen years has not favoured the Kajju people as expected. I am not saying we were better off during the military era but as a matter of fact, we should have felt government presence more because of the population and human and material resources in Kajju. This did not happen by chance but certain factors may have robbed us of those leverages (Lack of political education, disunity amongst stakeholders, greed, etc).
Be that as it may, we have experience development in our various communities and linkages through the provision of road networks like never before. For example, Madakiya-Kafanchan road, Ung Rimi-Abet- Gidan Mana road, Kpunyai- Marsa and Zuturung-Abet roads. Recently, the Zonkwa- Ayagan- Kurdan – Kafanchan road under construction. We had so many electrification projects in various communities in Kajju and water projects. Schools construction and renovations, primary health centres etc.
While we applaud the above, I make bold to say the challenges faced by other climes in the nation are the same with ours (Corruption, kidnapping, sectionalism, insecurity, mismanagement etc). More worrisome is the ease calmness of some people who evidently are supposes to be speaking for the communities. It is no longer news that the Zango Kataf communities with much concentration only in Zonkwa were caged for 17 days with no word from those whose responsibility it was to serve as a voice for the people. Where and how did we lose it? This was the same land that produced a Senator and member Federal House of Representatives at one time representing the largest local GOVT in the country. Have self serving motives and interest taken over? We need to do some soul searching.
Freedom of speech is no longer invoked as the rights of citizens have effectively been muzzled. Southern Kaduna sons have been threatened and some imprison for exercising their fundamental rights. The security of lives and properties is a mere illusion in southern Kaduna and those responsible are keeping mute. Educational Institutions around southern Kaduna was closed for a year plus yet some elected representatives were cool with government stance for personal gains. Our state own hospitals have not been working effectively. Unemployment and drugs is our communities’ albatross yet not much is done to salvage the helpless youth.
We have no access to information about government programs and policies around southern Kaduna because the government is yet to link our areas with communication gadgets that will avail easy access to media frequencies. It is sad that even at this time, telecommunication services have not reached some areas in southern Kaduna. Even area with telecommunication network can barely enjoy interrupted services.
2. 4 THE CRUX ABOUT DEMOCRATIC DIVIDENDS.
People expect democracy to translate to instant wellbeing. Politicians egg them on in their desires for a better life, which politicians paint in rosy strokes during electioneering campaigns, but often do not deliver. Where people expect employment, health services, rural development, education, governments point to peace and unity (currently eluding many parts) as dividends of democracy. More dividends of democracy manifest in renovated schools, repainted hospitals, more vehicles for the judiciary and security agencies. These are celebrated as if their impacts would in a wave wipe out the deep-seated issues distracting the country. One of them is the tendency to deny the people their rights to choose, especially their leaders.
Choice as a foundation of democracy is reflected in the importance and regularity of elections. That local government elections have not held is enough evidence of democracy on a limb. It must be said that democracy is not democracy until the people have the right to choose their leaders in all electoral tiers. The decisions about leaders must be made in fairer setting and in ways that produce leaders whose acceptability derives from the processes. Equating physical developments with dividends of democracy could result in disregarding the more important aspects of democracy and by extension accepting any form of rule, as long as it builds better roads and bridges.
Dividends of democracy are deeper. Civil rule and the liberties it has brought since 1999 are reminders of the unexplored possibilities of democratic governance. Democracy awards us vast liberties which our Constitution enunciates. We must expand our peoples’ rights to life, to ownership of property, to participation in the economy and most importantly, their participation in politics. The rights to security of lives and property are facing challenges; they should be tackled more decisively.The right to quality education and affordable healthcare are so fundamental that a breach will amount to stagnation in society. Education makes it impossible for citizens to be manipulated and health they say is wealth. Thus a society where people are healthy leads to growth, development and social well being.
Rights have prospered or withered in various measures in the past 18 years. Nigerians like to be heard, they have been talking. Is anyone listening? More people are agitating for rights to participate in their governments. Others want re-structuring/ devolution of powers to award the States and local governments more powers.Would Nigerians be free to live wherever they wish? What is the significance of indigeneship , settler and Federal character to the country today and our state? These concepts impede on equity and fairness in the quest for achieving or realising dividends of democracy. Democracy should induce more economic competition among Nigeria’s federating units and improve lives. Who is willing to address these beyond speeches? Democracy is about the people.
The consistent exclusion of the people in decisions about them is undemocratic. It is at the centre of agitations that question the relevance of democracy and minimise people’s stake in Nigeria. Our governments cannot be democratic, if they are not about the people or for the people. The entire idea of “dividends of democracy” will be useless if it is concerned only with the provision of all the structures listed above.
The crux is to have a people-involved process. So it seems funny when political office holders and electorates alike construe “dividends of democracy” as what they are able to provide and even more worrisome when the governed see it as physical structures built by their representatives in government.
In some sense it can be said that the use of the expression is a deliberate mockery or even insult on the people’s knowledge of governance and administration, now this is because nobody gives and/or provides “dividends of democracy”, it comes just as natural as air would to man for the simple reason that democratic governance should involve the people and what is referred to as “dividends of democracy” should be the people’s absolute involvement in running the affairs that concern them. Therefore individuals should see the expression as meaning something else but not just the physical manifestations provided.
2.5 THE MISSING LINK.
Like a jigsaw puzzle, it behooves us to find the missing links and here I proceed in bullet points for the purpose of clarity and conviction:
1. Every elected officer is saddle with certain responsibilities. Therefore it will be pertinent we channel our energies in asking the relevant offices where we feel not readily represented the dividends of democracy.
2. Government cannot solve all our community needs. Therefore, in order to enjoy some beautiful things of life, community development initiative is very vital in meeting our dare needs.Lets learn from the people of the South west and South East in terms of industry , independence and self development.
3. The electorates often underrate their power there by serving as stooges to the elected representatives.
4. The elected representatives have always been burden with personal needs from electorates who are supposed to be helping with ideas to meet the needs of the constituents. (Most criticism you get from some electorates who supposedly claimed to be speaking for the people are as a result of unmated personal demands)
5. It is often difficult to have a healthy debate or complain about government inability to provide certain amenities in our constituencies. The constituents immediately after the election chosen to desert elected office holders with ideas and suggestions making it somewhat challenging to have a participatory leadership. The constituency office which is closer to the people has always been deserted.
6. There are a lot of corrupt practices going on and the communities have aided the government officials to scorn our communities unabated. We often see footages of projects claimed to have been done in our communities on pages of news papers and other media yet we remain quiet.
7. Our votes must make a statement to enable us make a proclamation in determining what happens in the polity. A lot of people do not have voters cards and for those that have barely vote and that will have a negative turn on us.
8. We often go into politics blindly with no clear cut demands from our various political parties. They give us little attention after elections because we probably have asked for nothing. Therefore, we must go into every electioneering period with a clear demand and agreement must be reached to that effect.
9. Quality representation will enhance our chances of getting more of government projects and presence. Therefore, we must shop for the best and also encourage and support them to do more.
Nigerians will earn the dividends of democracy when the power elite become completely subject to the powers of the electorate, and consequently, act only in accordance to their will. Then, it will be impossible for them to rig elections, steal public funds, or engage in any act that is contrary to the legitimate aspirations of the people. Nigerian citizens will rise from pawns and stooges in the elite power game to become the focus of the interest, concern and actions of their elected and government officials and every institution of government.
And on that note, I thank you for this opportunity which I do not take for granted. May we continue in the spirit of our ancestors who would say to us: Zhi Yachat, zhi tung ndung zhi ya gwai. God bless Kajju land.God bless Southern Kaduna, God bless Kaduna and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thank you once again.