Name: Peter Obafemi Lawal
School: University of Ilorin, Nigeria
DEMOCRACY VERSUS AUTOCRACY: CHANGE OR CONTINUITY? HUMAN QUEST FOR HAPPINESS AND BETTER LIFE THROUGH GOOD GOVERNANCE
Absolute power without change corrupts absolutely. The driving force of our global system is divided between the progressivism and conservativism. In the face of rising cost of living that causes economic hardship and fallen standard of living, insecurity at all ramifications that threaten the corporate existence of the nation for lives and businesses to thrive, poverty and unemployment loitering around the streets, inequality and corruption taking a feast from the national cake that belongs to all, depreciating health reducing the life expectancy rate, poor education and social welfare lingering at the corners, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) crying for help, the question either we as a people are moving forward or backward arises for a decision for change of government to be made or not—this is the power of democracy.
Democracy could be threatened by ruthless leaders, brutal cabals and vicious cronies. A nation under the power and authority of desperadoes steering the affairs of the State neither last nor endure the test of time. The previous barbaric military rule in Africa is a laconic case study. But when the rule of law is respected and the provision for human rights and needs are uphold at high esteem through collective participation, the question whether we as a people are languishing behind or advancing awakes for a choice to be made between continuity and discontinuity of leadership—this shows the supremacy of democracy over autocracy.
But is democracy actually the government of the mediocre or the majority dictating for the best minority? How true is the level of transparency and accountability in democratic system of government over others? What is the fate of election rigging and violence in creating pseudo-democracy to the national and global arena? How realistic is the bureaucratic nature of democracy to impending swift decision and wasting State’ funds? What is the place of SDGs and importance of lives in a democracy? These are investigative questions that needed to be justified in the quest of human towards happiness and a better life through good governance.
The beautiful ideology of democracy is a yearning of the people to equal participation and representation of diverse groups that cut across cultures, socio-economic statuses, ages, genders and political affiliations in the affairs of governance. Democracy recognizes individual differences, universal suffrage of the rights to vote and be voted for during elections, legal equality and fundamental processes of rights and responsibilities that carry everyone along towards nation-building through free and fair elections of representatives. The freedom of press and speech, the freedom of movement and association to any religious body or organization, the protection of rights and constitutionalism through the rule of law, political pluralism and civil liberties are virtues that are enshrined in a true democracy. Other autocratic system of governments ranging from monarchy to all forms of oligarchies (including military-rulership where power emanates from the barrel of guns) are doubtlessly more of alienations and restrictions that denied the people equal chance for a collective better life and mutual participations in the matters that affect and shape the future of all citizens nationally and in the Diaspora—perhaps, the people are left in the darkness or at the doldrums from moving forward and from enjoying the tantalizing dividend of democracy.
The acclaiming of democracy as the government of the mediocre, by the mediocre and for the mediocre is just a pre-conception of the myopic observers who failed to realize the fact that there are always campaigns by the parties and candidates involved before voting are made by the anxious electorates who wanted the best for themselves. Besides, two good heads are better than one. Through democracy, government on power is being challenged to be on track. Through democracy, the needs of the people are being expressed and interests protected. Through democracy, the best service is being rendered to the people so that they may continue to be on power. Come to think of it, which other government can the people challenge the leaders or protest without the fear of being arrested, imprisoned, murdered or charged for treason?
Democracy is anti-dictatorship or anti-tyranny, that focuses on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a bloody revolution. Though, democracy has been proclaimed as a political system where the majority votes rule and dominate over the few oligarchy or aristocratic class in the society. Democracy is also alleged to be a government that the majority dictates for the minority. But the fact of the matter is that, in democracy, the interest of the minority will surely be represented and their voice will absolutely be heard. For example, the Democrats in the United States of America don’t need to win the Presidency to be elected and be represented at the Congress and other political posts at the local levels. In other words, the Yoruba or Igbo man who is a Christian don’t need to be the President of Nigeria for his interest to be protected and represented at the various tiers and organs of governments in Nigeria. As far as democracy is concerned, there is always a political post for the minority groups that have sometime to offer to the people. For instance, the Ijaw’s ethnics are minority group in Nigeria, yet they produced the Vice President and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the year 2007 and 2011 respectively.
In a democracy, there exists a strong principle of separation of power and functions among the three arms of government such as the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary arms, who monitor and act as check and balance to the activities of one another. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 USA General Election to Donald Trump. The people are not comfortable with Trump’s leadership style. His military threat against President Kim Jong-un of North Korea would have caused great disaster and agony. The judiciary stopped his Executive Order on travel-ban against some Muslim countries. Now that the Democrats in the House of Representatives have gained majority seats over the Trump’s Republican Party, it is left at the discretion of the Democrats to impeach or warn Mr. President Trump if the upper house of the Senate does not stop their action—that’s democracy! So, democracy is not the dictatorship of the majority over the minority but rather equity and justice in representation.
It is unjust to postulate that the bureaucratic nature of democracy is a waste of State’s fund and a cog in the wheel to making swift decision. We need to weigh the pros and cons before conclusion. This bureaucratic nature has helped to promote due process, transparency, accountability, integrity, standard and helped checked embezzlement and corruption that would have caused the real waste of State’ funds—apart from the benefits that democracy create wider opportunities for participation and making government closer to the people (i.e. grassroots’ politics). Besides, if not for democracy, the mass looting of treasury in Nigeria in 2015 by the PDP party won’t have been discovered by the APC party under the new leadership of Mohammodu Buhari and revealed by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to the world—a pathetic looting where Dollars were buried at the graveyards and stored inside tanks and empty buildings! Now tell me, is democracy waste of resources?
Democracy is never a government from frying pan to fire. Some unscrupulous cabals who have no best interest of the people at heart than for their selfish cronies might rig the election. But truth be told, those government never see the end of the tunnel in true democracy as redresses are always made in the court of law or they are impeached eventually for bad governance. The election tribunal cases of Adams Oshiomhole Vs. Oserheimen Osunbor and Rauf Aregbesola Vs. Olagunsoye Oyinlola both in 2007 in Nigeria were good examples on how the rule of law and people’s mandate prevailed in democracy irrespective of the party or person on power.
Democracy that glories unethical nationalistic movement over globalization is bound to doom. Zimbabwe is in the drain and USA is currently losing the track of his founding fathers. When things went wrong in democracy, we the people are to be blamed because the government is based on our consent and sovereignty resides within us. We need to vote for and change government based on meritocracy than mediocrity. We need to support a visionary leader who has the best interest of the people at heart and could help us to achieve the SDGs towards a peaceful and prosperous world. We need to effectively use the social media to effect positive changes and values in politics through socio-political and economic orientation. When these humble suggestions are followed, I do hope that Kofi Annan’s call for strong institution towards healthy democratic States that brings happiness and better life through good governance could be actualized.