Diana-Abasi Udoh: Is Nigeria A Democracy Or An Ethnicracy?

Diana-Abasi Udoh: Is Nigeria A Democracy Or An Ethnicracy? [The Trent Voices]

governorship, Osun, Rerun, Adeleke, INEC
File: Elections on-going in Nigeria

Is democracy overrated? Yours truly personally thinks so, but it still remains to a large extent the best of extremely poor choices. Nigerian elections have come and gone, but the echoes of the Presidential elections remains. The first Presidential elections in Nigeria to make history were an incumbent will be defeated.

History where the incumbent will immediately call his opponent and concede defeat once it was projected that he has lost. A truly remarkable feat in its own right as well, although many have attempted to play down the heroism attached to the concession of defeat on President Jonathan’s part.

But the peculiarity of African democracy makes President Jonathan’s concession of defeat an heroic feat irrespective of how skewed or twisted your opinion of him.

 A Dutch friend recently asked what happened in Nigeria, that the world was expecting crises immediately after the elections. Yours truly simply looked at him and smiled then responded “the man who truly wanted and pursued peace lost”.

It wasn’t wrong projection on the part of the international community or media that Nigeria was going to descend into anarchy during or after the elections, it was rather the efforts, commitment and assurances of one man who kept insisting that his ambition wasn’t worth the blood of any Nigerian.

Call this a sign of weakness if you care because power is always retained in the hands of strong men, but his sacrifices will be appreciated and celebrated at a later date if not today. Current events in Burundi that has triggered displacement crises and past events in Cote D’Ivoire (the Gbagbo events) underline the importance and commitment to respect the sanity of the electoral process on the part of the incumbent.

The main thrust of the article rather seeks to mirror our democratic experience as it stands as of today. Are we practising democracy here in Nigeria or ethnicracy?

Some data gives a pointer to the answer. Aside 1999 where the powers that be ensured that the two candidates on the Presidential tickets were from the South West hence making it difficult to gauge the national voting temperature, subsequent Presidential voting patterns have exposed our narrow mindedness in Presidential elections.

From 2003 when the coast was clear, Nigerians have convincingly proven that our politics and democracy is all about interest not progress. The voting patterns enumerates this clearly, and every  single Presidential elections since 2003 showed that the so-called core Northerners prefer to go with their own no matter the years of underdevelopment suffered from the hands of leaders from that region.

It is therefore not out of place to suggest that the weight of expectations on President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari is quite enormous and primarily from Non-Muslims, Middle Belt and southerners who truly wanted change and effected this with their votes.

This is so because Buhari’s core supporters have traditionally been Muslim core northerners who supports him because he is their “brother” and they have maintained this support since 2003 with over 12 million votes against the Christian Southerner former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election and the northern votes for Buhari in 2007 went down (or split?) to just 6 million which many can argue was because the PDP candidate was equally a “brother” Fulani core Muslim northerner in late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

But things went back to “normal” in 2011 Presidential elections with over 12 million votes for Buhari again when the main candidate was a Christian Southerner (President Goodluck Jonathan).  It is not out of sort to safely assume that the real debate for true transformation is predominately raging down south, and don’t expect the core northerners to vote against Buhari in 2019 should he fail to deliver on his promises.

The fact remains that the people who wanted a change were the Middle Belt and Southerners especially the South West as reflected by their votes, but the core northern voting pattern remained the same since 2003.

An informed opinion will query why has the Muslim core north always predictably voted along the same patterns even before President Jonathan “failed” as at 2011.

Were the Chibok girls missing in 2011 when the North massively voted against Jonathan? Or were they anticipating that Jonathan will fail? More questions than answers will continue to probe our democracy. Our voting patterns reflect our underdeveloped mind-sets. Buhari’s over 12 million votes in 2011 even before Jonathan had supposedly failed in office continue to unravel our democratic mind-sets.

With the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) being then the only true reflection of a national party as at this period as oppose to the regional party lines of Action Congress (AC) in the West; All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) in the East, Congress of Progressives Change (CPC) and All Nigerians People’s Party (ANPP) in the North, it wouldn’t have taken rocket science or ingenuity on the part of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to envision that a simple political alliance will definitely sweep the rug off the feet of the ruling party.

So it was a matter of the two leading figures (Buhari and Tinubu) to come to a political marriage and the rest as they say will be history. This potentially dangerous feat; ethnicracy which we falsely pass on and wildly celebrated as the beauty of democracy is what many including Alhaji Balarabe Musa called a “gang-up” against the minority South-South to wrest off power.

In as much as democracy is a game of numbers, the beauty of it actually lies in the appropriate applications of the numbers that reflects genuine desire to see change and development as oppose to the crude application of numbers to show them were the power lies. Many will immediately accept that of the four leading Presidential candidates on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it was rather the President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari who possessed the least or no working plans on what he intended to do for Nigerians other than his incorruptible personality and promise to fight corruption. Sam Nda-Isaiah with his “Big Ideas” was turned down by delegates so was former Vice President Atiku Abubakar with his comprehensive seven point agenda which Buhari and APC will later adopt including his media team of Garba Shehu after the primaries.

Moving on from the elections to the post-elections stage of trading accusations on who voted along ethnic reasons or for stomach reasons, it is democratically wicked and vexing to always hand the big sticks and castigate the Igbos. The shame actually began when a First Class traditional ruler, Oba Akiolu of Lagos was caught on tape actually threatening the Igbos for voting for their democratic choices in the Presidential and National Assembly elections. Nobody castigated the Muslim core northerners who have consistently voted for their own since the 2003 Presidential elections; or is their support not ethnic driven? Until we address the fundamentally flawed issues with our mind-sets, then our democratic choices will continue to be fuelled by the wrong reasons.

Diana-Abasi Udoh is a writer, politician, public affairs analyst, lecturer, and agronomist. He tweets from @dian4real.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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