DEMOCRACY AT THE CROSS ROAD

The rise of cynicism, white supremacy, autocratic leadership around the world exposes the revisionist push by some leaders of the so called free society to change the world order. The notion that democracy is the best form of government ever created by Man is being challenged by dictators from within using the process of election to establish themselves in governance.

Aristotle, once said Democracy arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.” Democracy creates harmony and reduces the conflicts in the state to a larger extent. A democratically elected government is the consequence of the majority’s opinion and thus it implies that most of the citizens along the state share similar views about the leadership.

Karl Marx, the founder of Communism, believed that equality is key to a strong governmental system. He also believed money, and the power that came with it, would only draw people, communities and citizens, apart. Money “appears as a distorting power both against the individual and the bonds of society, etc., which claim to be entities in themselves… it transforms fidelity into infidelity, loves into hate, hates into love, virtue into vice, vice into virtue, servant into master, master into servant, idiocy into intelligence, and intelligence into idiocy” (Marx, 1844).

The 40th US President Ronald Reagan once said Democracy is more than just a government; it’s honour, freedom and hope. “Democracy is worth dying for” whether or not this is a truism in the America of Donald Trump is a matter of debate in the future.

Conversely, Churchill argued that although there are many virtues to enjoy about democracy and democratic forms of government and political systems, this form of government has still many impending challenges yet to be accomplished. In that sense, I agree with Winston Churchill, on the grounds that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried” (Churchill). Looking at democracy through both its weaknesses and strengths in comparison to other forms of government makes it evident that it is the best form of political system we have, democracy has been subject to problems with, tyranny of the minority, and collective action.

It is within these praxis, I would like to address my concerns regarding the threat to democracy in Nigeria focussing on the emerging melodrama being played by leaders of the so called “free world”.

With the emergence of China as the second largest economy of the world and it’s push to become a dominant actor in world politics, the world may be heading for the re-enactment of the antagonism that characterised the period, capitalism and communism were at each other fighting for dominance.

Another interesting drama playing in the political world are the lies, the stonewalling, the conspiracy theory the America, Donald Trump is pushing in order to justify his Americas first model of leading the free world, that is unfortunately becoming normative in the conduct of world affairs.

The UK’s Boris Johnson drive for no-deal Brit exit from EU, is causing a great dislocations in the political landscape of Western Europe. It also raises the question whether the hegemony can hold after the Brit exit?
The China – America trade war impacting negatively on the world trading systems and economy, threatening to plunge the global economy into recession deepens the fears of what may be the end result of the tit for tat sanctions being imposed by the world two dominant economies.

The Putin’s cyberwar aimed at manipulating and controlling the electoral processes of the Western democracies is another major issues shaking the base of western liberal democracy in this century.
Be it what it may, the intention of discourse is to examine the fragility of a western type of democracy in Nigeria the leading black democracy in the world.

Justice Niki Tobi, regarding the interplay between Politics, Politician, the Judiciary and the consequences of the adjudicatory functions of the judiciary in Nigeria, in a landmark judgement advised judges thus;

I see from Exhibit EP2/34 the need Nigerian Judges maintain a very big distance from politics and politicians. Our Constitution forbids any mingling. As Judges, the two professions do not meet and will never meet at all in our democracy in the discharge of their function. While politics as a profession is fully and totally based on partiality, most of the time, judgeship as a profession is fully and totally based on impartiality, the opposite of partiality.
Bias is the trademark of politicians. Non-bias is the trademark of the Judge. That again creates a scenario of superlatives in the realm of opposites. Therefore the expressions, “politician” and “Judge” are opposites, so to say, in their functional contents as above; though not in their ordinary dictionary meaning.

Their waters never meet in the same way Rivers Niger and Benue meet at the confluence near Lokoja. If they meet, the victim will be democracy most of the time and that will be bad for sovereign Nigeria. And so Judges should, on no account, dance to the music played by politicians because that will completely destroy their role as independent umpires in the judicial process.

Let no Judge flirt with politicians in the performance of their adjudicatory functions. When I say this, I must also say that I have nothing against politicians. They are our brothers and sisters in our homes. One can hardly find in any Nigerian community or family without them.

There cannot be democracy without them and we need democracy; not despotism, oligarchy and totalitarianism. They are jolly good fellows.

The only points I am making is that their professional tools are different from ours and the Nigerian Judge should know this before he finds himself or falls into a mirage where he cannot retrace his steps to administer justice.

That type of misfortune can fall on him if the National Judicial Council gets annoyed of his conduct. Ours are not theirs. Theirs are not ours. I will not say more. I will not say less too. So be it.” (Niki Tobi, JSC).

In my article of the 26th of August 2019 on my blog and this page, I posted the above judgement as a remainder to those that may find the judgement meaningful in light of what played out during the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.

I did so believing that the courts handling petitions arising from the conduct of the 2019 Nigerian general elections would reflect on what one of their own has said.

I also deliberately avoided taking a position on what Justice Niki Tobi wrote because it was meant to be advisory. Now that most of the courts have spoken, what will be the consequences of their rulings on future elections in Nigeria given the general dissatisfaction with the performance of INEC and rulings of the Lower Courts.

As the process is now moving to the senior and apex courts of the land, regardless of what may be the final outcome, my worry is whether the courts can stand to defend democracy as envisaged by the crafters of the Constitution.

The framers of the Nigerian Constitution deliberately divided authority into three distinct spheres of powers, the Executive, the Legislature and Judiciary so that power is not concentrated in one arm of government. The reason for doing so, was to ensure there are checks and balances in governance, to avoid the system drifting into autocracy and dictatorship.

The question to ask, are the courts taking into account the advice offered by Justice Niki Tobi? Your guess is as good as mine. However, if they are, I want to be convinced how can one tell me the Gubernatorial elections that took place in a Kano during the 2019 general election meets the standard of a free and fair election in any civilised society?

But here we are that election affirmed by a court of competent jurisdiction in spite of the empirical shortcomings of the conduct of the election. Does the judgement therefore follow the dictum that “ the law is an ass”?

Just recently the British Prime, Boris Johnson in an effort to get the UK out the European Union on or before the 31st of October 2019, with deal or no deal convinced Her Majesty the Queen to Prorogue the British Parliament
Prorogation is the formal term for the end of a parliamentary session, is marked with a ceremony in the House of Lords. It is the official term of shutting Parliament during the period, there are no sitting in House of commons or House of Lords. That means MPs and peers do not hold debates or vote on laws.

The decision to prologue rests with Queen, done on the advice of the Prime Minister. But because of the ongoing raging debate in Parliament on Brit exit. The pro remain MPS felt the Prime Minister is using the opportunity provided by law to shut MPs from having a say on Brit Exit

The case ended at the Supreme Court after legal challenges were launched in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the courts government argued that the suspension was necessary to allow the white hall to prepare for the Queen’s speech.

But arguing on behalf of anti Brit exit campaigners Gina Miller, Lord Pannick QC told the court that parliament has not been suspended for so long before a Queen’ speech in more than 40 years. He suggested the Prime Minister’s real motive was to “ silence parliament” and stop it interfering with Brit exit plan.

The Supreme court ruled “the decision to advise Her Majesty to prologue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing Parliament, to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, democracy is going through another meltdown. The decision by the House Speaker to launch impeachment enquiry against the government of Donald Trump is overheating the polity. Secondly, the decision by US President to withdraw American soldiers from Syria also added another impetus causing the discomfort within the ruling cabal and House leadership. This led the Speaker and Senate minority leader and some caucus of democratic leadership to walk out from a meeting chaired by the President in the White House.

These two incidences represent the working of democracy as a system and perhaps explains the reason why democracy is the best form of government. It also emboldened the concept of separation of powers envisioned by political thinkers who developed Democratic principles.

In retrospect, learning from these examples, how many of the judges who adjudicated on the petitions arising from 2019 Nigerian general election stood up to the requirements of law and decide as Justice Hale did in defence of democracy? How many of them can be impartial like Justice Niki Tobi, when he advocated that “judgeship as a profession is fully and totally based on impartiality, the opposite of partiality”.

We have also heard from some quarters that the former Senate President of Nigeria sabotaged the activities of government during the life of the 8th senate. I do support the argument there should be an understanding between the executive and the legislature. However, I do not support the legislature being a rubber stamp of the executive. They were both created as one among equals. The framers of the constitution never intended them to be coalesced under the executive, doing so would mean the end of democracy.

Finally, the import of this discourse is not to just to raise issues regarding who occupies what office, under which political party or circumstance, rather the concern is how do we correct the flaws in our electoral process that give rise unnecessary litigations that consume precious time and a waste of the tax payer’s money?

If through technical judgements we condone and legitimise the improprieties of the umpires who prosecute our elections, any envisaged reforms no matter how excellent it can be on paper without the courts being bold to adjudicate on the merits of the elections petitions, it would be an exercise in futility.

The whole circle will continue from one election to another as the umpire will always feel the needful has been done. There must be consequences otherwise our democracy will remain chaotic.

And the sad aspect of all this our leaders will continue exploiting us as they would come to believe, they do not need the ballot box to win elections. May God give us the wisdom to do the right things.

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