A society of majority illiterates cannot enjoy the succulent juice of democracy. Democracy, although a government of the majority, was never conceived to be moderated by an ill-informed and illiterate class of majority citizens.
This is the reason, much of African democracies are still plagued by impunity that’s condoned and excused by the majority of citizens. From Nigeria to Zimbabwe, Gambia, Tanzania, Cameroon to Angola and almost every single African State, the story is not different.
Those who have exhibited some difference like Ghana and Kenya, have a prevailing majority of educated, informed citizens.
For countries like South Africa, their highly conscientized majority status has degenerated to a sore xenophobic albatross that makes nonsense of their avowed elevated state of being. Begging the worth of their very education.
Until Africa educates herself, from where the empowerment can be secured for an elevated consciousness, the beauty and values of Democracy will continue to largely elude her. It takes an illuminated mind, to both entrench democracy and extract its juicy values.
Illiterates; the uninformed are shackled. They cannot even help themselves, much more, their society. This is why democracy fails in Nigeria, as in most African States.
There’s only little happiness, if any at all, about Nigeria’s democracy today, which you’d be celebrating. It is difficult to comprehend how a society will allow few powerful citizens compromise its laws and governmental institutions for vain political expediency. A democracy in which, courts, the police and her sister agencies are compromised to work for political parties and their stalwarts to the detriment of the silently consenting Nigerian masses cannot be the character of Democracy which Abraham Lincoln envisioned.
Who is to blame? The minority educated big-wigs who assert themselves to undermine the system or the majority uneducated small-fries whose silence and illiteracy empower their very oppression?
African democracy has much similarity with the degenerated level of the Almajiri system that unfortunately is now a caricature of its ideals. Almajiri derives from the Arabic word Al-Mahaajirun, which literally means a learned scholar who propagates the peaceful message of Islam.
But as regrettably noted by Hussain Obaro, in his piece titled THE ALMAJIRI: ABUSED, NEGLECTED and published in The Guardian of February 29, 2016, “the Almajiri culture has since outlived its purpose and has become a breeding ground for child begging and in the extreme cases, potential materials for recruitment into terrorist groups. The pupils who were meant to be trained to become Islamic scholars have now had to struggle to cater for themselves, begging rather than learning under the watch and supervision of some semi-literate Quranic teachers or Mallams who themselves lacked the requisite financial and moral support. Hence, the system runs more as a means of survival rather than a way of life.” This shortfall, thankfully, has led the Sultan of Sokoto, the custodian of Islamic heritage in Nigeria to call on governments, particularly at the state level to prioritise the welfare of their citizens to address hunger and poverty.
However, one cannot but ask if the present day unfortunate reality of the bastardization of the Almajiri system, an age-long and exceptional model for empowering young people and propagating Islam, not true of what we accept to be practiced as Democracy in Nigeria; where free speech lands one in jail and inalienable rights have become vested privileges granted at the whimsical discretion of an all powerful supreme leader to his beggarly subjects who have lost sense of their place, calling and obligations as citizens? Can a democracy which cannot uphold the rule of law and the sanctity of the ballot guarantee the happiness and progress of the vast majority?
Is this what we celebrate today, as always?
Oraye St. Franklyn is a barrister-at-law. He is senior special assistant to Governor Nyesom Wike on Social Media. He is a strategic communicator and good governance advocate, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He tweets from @RealOraye. He is also on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.