The leaders of Nigeria, it will interest me to let you know that Democracy is that form of government in which the ruling power of a state is legally vested not in any particular class or classes, but in the members of the community as a whole. It is a government in which the will of majority of citizens rules without overriding the rights of the minority. The ideal of democracy is that of equality, freedom and welfare for all. it involves the abolition of very form of restriction and privilege. Ancient democracy was based on the direct participation of the masses in public affairs. Modern democracy is representative in character and it demands not only universal adult suffrage, but also the active participation of the people in government. Thus, in a democratic state, the acts of the government are in accordance with the will of the people, since they have the right to elect and remove their leaders and the right to determine the main lines of policy. Nevertheless, democracy is a matter of degree, and no complete expression has yet been given to the ideal of democracy.
“Our constitution is named a democracy, because it is the hands not of the few, but of many. But our laws secure equal justice for all private disputes, and our public opinion welcomes and honors talent in very branch of achievement, not for any sectional reason, but on grounds of excellence alone.”
These words of Pericles uttered in the 5th century B.C., still hold good and may be considered by far the best definition of democracy. democracy is in truth, “Government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Thus, if the people of Malaysia rule the people of Malaysia for the benefit of the Malaysians there is democratic form of government in Malaysia. every citizen has a share in the government of a democratic state. democracy rests on the will of the people and not on force.
Democracy implies political liberty. Political liberty consists of the right to vote, the right to sand as a candidate for election, the right to hold public offices, freedom of speech, of association, of worship and of opinion. All these secure the individual, the most fundamental right of political participation. By giving everyone a share in the government, democracy prompts patriotism.
Democracy is based on the doctrine of equality. Inequality has been the cause of all the revolutions which have changed the face of the world. Popular government resting on the will of the people and on the principle of equality are immune from all revolutionary disturbances. moreover, this form of government also implies the possibility of an alternative government in place of an inefficient one. These characteristics ensure the stability of the democratic form of government.
The greatest merit of democracy is that it elevates the character of the citizens. It demands a high standard of morality and honesty on their part. It provides for the fullest possible development of all its citizens and gives each citizen, a sense of responsibility. In a democratic society, reason governs the conduct of men and each man feels responsible for his actions. Here every person contributes some thought or feeling to the common life. Thus, democracy is not only a form of government, but also a way of life. In a democratic state, each citizen is an integral and irreplaceable part of the whole. it gives each citizen, a sense of responsibility.
“When political institutions call upon him to bear a part in their working, he is taken out of the narrow circle of his domestic and occupational activities, admitted to the larger life, which opens wider horizons, associated in new ways with his fellows forced to think of matters which are both his and theirs,” says Bryce.
The above principles imply that every citizen in a democratic state should have the opportunity to develop his personality. he must have access to knowledge, must be able to earn an adequate wage. The state must guarantee him the right to work as well as leisure. It must protect him from being exploited by the well-placed sections of the community or the privileged class. All these raise the important questions of education of the citizens of a democratic state. Education must teach them not only to assert their rights, but also to discharge their duties. It must teach them to think and act freely and express their views boldly. But, the system of education must guard against making the citizens selfish or over critical. The education system must be adapted to suit the needs of democracy.
Also leadership and proper organization are other important requisites of democracy. Without proper organization, the people cannot express themselves effectively. The leader of the party must be responsible, honest and courageous. He must be able to think clearly and act boldly. He must have the ability to judge public opinion correctly. Above all, he must adhere to high principles. An unscrupulous leader might easily become a dictator and endanger democracy.
Given favorable conditions, democracy is the best form of government known so far. It reconciles liberty and authority; it imbues the citizens with a sense of patriotism; it is a government by discussion; it rests on the will of the people; it treats all individuals as equals and tolerates the opposition; it aims at giving the greatest happiness to the greatest number of citizens in a state. Under the democratic form of government, human character develops and the individual realizes his best self. Fortunately, for democratic rule in Nigeria, political activities on the international scene have favoured- and are still favouring – the major source of income to the government which is oil. Prices of oil have been soaring higher and higher and in return, billions of dollars have been flowing into the government coffers.
Democratic governments and legitimate systems all over the world concerns centre around providing welfare and basic necessities that will make life easier and prepare its citizens for the challenge of nation building. Some countries, even though not endowed with natural resources, have used their initiatives to guarantee that lives of their citizens are at least comfortable and satisfactory.
But with democratic rule in Nigeria from 1999 to date, will the Nigerian people testify to any meaningful change that has brought about any positive change in their lives? Have they reaped any meaningful dividends of democracy? Is their will at the polls true reflection of their leaders and representatives? Are their leaders and representatives performance anything to hail up about? And have they held the trust invested on them sincerely? Answering these questions will help us to analyse recent reports which show that despite Nigeria ’s plentiful resources and oil wealth, Nigeria is considered as one of the poorest countries in the world, with over 70 percent of its population classified as poor, with 35 percent living in absolute poverty. Also reports indicate that 59,000 women die during or soon after childbirth every year, the second highest in the world after India.
Only very few Nigerians could testify that democratic rule from 1999 to date has direct positive impact on their lives. Among the very few are the politicians who enrich themselves, their families and cronies, business mongols and, consultants who have connections with politicians, professionals and academics given appointments to hold public offices and those that get tokens as defenders and promoters of politicians and public office holders.
The Nigerian people who don’t have connections with politicians are continuing to live in hardship and uncertain future. Poverty , maternal deaths, unemployment, insecurity, underpayment, corruption, rigging of elections, lack of electricity, good drinking water and roads, seem to be their own portion of dividends of democracy. In some cases one notices absolute carelessness about the lives of citizens that work without salaries for several months in places partially or completely sold out by government. Cases of pensioners dyeing on delayed payment queues are many.
Dividends of democracy are visible on politicians, public office holders and families and cronies of politicians. Flashy cars, exotic mansions and shopping malls, trip to foreign countries, expensive dresses and ornaments, fat bank accounts and established businesses are some of the dividends of democracy that all can testify that those in the shade of governance do enjoy.
Been a subservient nation through accepting and implementing policies of foreign countries and their institutions will keep on retarding our development and inflicting more hardship on our people. Such policies have been in use under various names for years but they have not changed the lot of Nigerian people. Our governments have to look inward to formulate economic policies that will tally with our way of life.
Nigerian leaders have to work extra hard to win back the confidence of the Nigerian people that democratic governance is all about service to the people not service to themselves. That the real dividends of democracy should be felt by all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, region political differences and social status through enabling the atmosphere to be conducive such that all can eat three times a day, can obtain employment without having any connections , can be attended to in hospitals and provided with drugs, that salaries are enough and Nigerians can now start having the habit of life saving, that all Nigerians can move freely without fear of criminals, etc. Until some of these and others are within reach to the Nigerian people that the real dividends of democracy will be elusive.