05 June 2010

Article: Celebrating eleven years of democradura

Abba Gana Shettima's op-ed article "Celebrating eleven years of democradura" was published on 4 June in the Nigerian national daily newspaper "Daily Trust".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "A year after Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, The Economist [...] narrated, in murky details, the tribulations confronting Africa. These range from natural disasters to the social plague of 'tribalism', and the failure of democracy and leadership, all combining to produce 'shell states'. According to the magazine, 'Democracy does not have much to offer Africa. Democracies are no more stable than dictatorships ... The African ruler finds himself trapped. He wants power and control; but the outside world makes demands about democracy, human rights and good governance [...]'. What the Economist did not contemplate was that Africa, or at least some parts of Africa, such as Nigeria could have the scientific ingenuity to clone their own breed of democracy. Nigeria, 'the giant of Africa' is leading the way in this social and political revolution of the 21st century. The trade mark of the Made in Nigeria Democracy is first and foremost the negation of the very principle of democracy. [...]

"In Nigerian democracy, elections are secondary, if at all important. Elections are conducted simply to mask the political thievery with a moral garment. Since 1999, Nigerian elections at all levels have been a sham. [...] Perhaps, the root of all the election malpractice in the country can be traced to the influence of money in the whole electoral process. Beginning from the level of party primaries to the actual elections, money is the magic that buys and shifts alliances. In Nigeria's cash and carry democracy, everybody has a price – ranging from the electoral officials and security agents to highly placed party delegates and desperate blue-collar political activists and passive voters on the streets. [...] [I]t is deceptive and futile to talk about enforcing due process in the award of contracts and the general conduct of government business when the leaders did not emerge through a due electoral process. How can leaders who emerged through rigging of elections become accountable to the people?

"Nigerian politicians keep telling us that it is all part of the painful 'learning process', and that the nation must endure to 'foster its nascent democracy', as if the country is a perpetual democratic toddler. [...] Now, because the leaders are not accountable to the people, the type of democracy they have succeeded in enforcing on the nation in the last eleven years comes close to what some scholars called democradura or 'hard democracy' – a very hard one for that matter, and habitually gruesome to the core. [...] Even as hundreds of thousands of poor people continue to languish and die in droves, the profligate political class keep stealing and hoarding the resources of the nation like some army of rapacious ants. [...] Do our politicians think that they can continue to subvert democracy to serve their personal interests, and keep hoping that the institution can be maintained? This democracy, the Nigerian democracy, this democradura appears to take so much pleasure in inflicting sufferings on its people. [...] This is why we should not celebrate the so-called 'democracy day', never again [...]."

Abba Gana Shettima is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.

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