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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

How more inclusive can Nigeria democracy becomes?



A system or an arrangement, be it social, economic, cultural, or political, name it; can be adjudged inclusive if it takes into consideration the interests of the majority of the people who are supposed to be the end beneficiaries.

A person or group of persons is deemed to be inclusive if they’re considerate of the views, opinions and wellbeing of others.

The considerate road users traffic rules and regulations. By so doing, they ensure that others get by with little or no hassles or obstructions. The roads to a large extent, in turn, are kept free of avoidable accidents.

By extension, the attendant deaths and injuries to people are minimized if not completely eliminated.
The inclusive parents prioritize the collective interests, growth, and welfare of their children.

They do not give undue preference to one over the other(s) based on primordial sentiments such as gender, number, the order of birth, and the likes.

Each child is seen and accepted in the light of their differential endowments.

The inclusive children, on the other hand, must always take into consideration the interests of their siblings. They must endeavor to be responsible and responsive to the sacrifices and efforts of their parents to see that they have the best of life.

As the most important institution of the state, inclusion in Governments cannot be overemphasized.
It is an essential ingredient for effective nation building. It is brought about not based on the whims and caprices of the leader no matter how intelligent, wise, well-intentioned or detribalized.

The only thing, therefore, that guarantees a dependable measure of inclusive fairness to everybody and every interest in a state is the constitution.

Constitution exists primarily to guide against arbitrariness in the process of governance. 

It is the constitution that prescribes roles, rights, obligation, responsibility, dos and don’ts alongside rewards and punishments for law-abiding and erring members of society.

Like any democracy around the world, Nigeria’s democracy has two components.

The first and most fundamental is its elective component. It is the part which ensures fair, equitable, and proportional representations of the diversity in the state in terms of who occupies where, number and for how long.

The second and incidental as one may put it is its appointive component. Despite its largely incidental nature, it is not completely free of constitutional guidance.

However, a lot depends on the persons at the helms of affairs whether at the federal, state or local levels of government. A lot also depends on the political realities surrounding an administration. It is these political realities that determine the distribution of appointive positions.

The elective heads determine who works where especially within their kitchen cabinet while bowing to constitutional provisions in other areas.

By design, popular democracy is participatory and proportional in representation unlike other forms of governments.

It is the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It can, therefore, be safely said to be geared more towards inclusion. Everybody and every interest are believed to have been catered for, constitutionally speaking.

However, since independence no governments in Nigeria whether civil or military has been completely free from accusations of non-inclusion or marginalization.

Same applies to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

But somehow, it appears the noise is loudest under his administration if news reports and public opinions are anything to go by.

Let’s examine some of the reasons for this sudden jump. It all started with his appointment of members of his kitchen cabinet which many considered to be lopsided and in favor of his region, the north.

Whereas, it is his prerogative to appoint who he wishes and from where he wishes. Nonetheless, people seem to demand that there should be a spread across the six geo-political zones in the country. 

The next was his ministerial appointments. By constitutional provisions, a minister must be appointed from each of the thirty-six states of the federation.

This becomes an impossible task because the president on assumption of office chooses to cut down on the number of ministries purportedly to reduce the cost of governance.

It, therefore, means that all the states will not get ministerial slots of equal standing. What this then means is that while some get a proper ministerial slot, others get ministers of states to compensate.

Meanwhile, within the same period the president, toeing the line of his predecessor and one of his harshest critics, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, reserved the petroleum portfolio for himself.

The reason advanced for this is that they both seem to have some arcane capacity or skill set to stop the ‘oil business from being or becoming too oily’. Hope you get the drift?

But by their action, he, like his political adversary, has denied a state which would’ve benefited.

There were also other pockets of appointments which didn’t go down well with some people.

A good example was the president’s decision to recall a retired intelligence chief to act as the substantive Director of the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) instead of appointing the next in line who is from the south-south region of the country. People from that region have considered that discriminatory and unacceptable.

The most controversial till date was the distribution of the heads of the nation’s military and Para-military institutions; namely the Army, Air Force, Navy, Police, Immigration, NSCDC, DSS, NSO, and the Custom.  

And by extension, also controversial was the constitution of the National Security Council members.
Critics have been quick to point out that the distribution is more in favor of the north. Rightly so; but has the president flouted any constitutional guidelines? The answer is a capital NO.

Beyond that, looking at the president appointments generally, one could see he has consistently been on the side of the law. Yet, it still appears more is needed from him when it comes to the question of inclusion.

Which makes the question: ‘how more inclusive can Nigeria’s politics become’ a pertinent one?
Problem of non-inclusion or marginalization in Nigeria goes beyond either elective or appointive politics.

People also perceive marginalization from the angle of non-citing of government’s institution like universities, polytechnics, and other social infrastructures and superstructures in their communities.

Just as they consider it an exclusion the non-appointment of their kit and kin to important government positions.

Nigerians. in a way. have also dichotomized government positions into what they call ‘juicy and non-juicy appointments’.

For example, Babatunde Fashola as minister of power, works, and housing is in the opinion of many people having a very juicy appointment.

Many critics are even calling for the ministry to split up, perhaps, into three and by so doing enables two more ministers to be appointed.   

Almost all through the first term of this administration, I’ve heard a lot of questionable reasoning during conversations around marginalization issue at personal and non-personal levels.

One of such is that the Nigeria Navy is a female force. And so whoever is appointed as its head is seen as an outsider in the order of importance in the military profession.

To this extent, the south-south getting the position of Chief of Naval staff under this administration is tantamount to saying they were giving the weakest of the military arms. How true is that?  This is an indication of how ridiculous some critics of this administration can be. 

Another one is that the present government should reconsider reverting back to the old ministerial format in terms of the number of ministries and ministers.

They argued that by so doing, the new ministers will appoint aides which they believe will help reduce the unemployment rate in the country.

In the light of this, I’m compelled to doubt if there can ever be true inclusion in Nigerian politics.
One, if electing people into offices cannot adequately address the problem of marginalization, I doubt governmental framework like the incidental appointment into offices will.

A ministerial appointee from Ogun State where I’m from, for instance, cannot unilaterally cite development projects in the state just because he or she is from there.

Of course, there’s this shared joy that some people have, which is overrated and bogus anyways in my opinion, that someone from their place is a minister or commissioner.

Now imagine if such people have somebody from their locality as elected representatives like the governor, president, and legislator, their joy definitely will know no bounds.

Whereas, the best many of them can do is build a house or two in the locality to add to what they already have.

And these are mere structures that can add little or nothing to the real growth and development that the people crave.

Appointing people into offices has never translated to money in the pockets of the majority of the people.

I doubt the condition as the electorate will change for any better even if you can afford to go cap in hand to them whenever they come visiting their constituencies.

This we know they rarely do when it matters the most just like their elected compatriots in the federal and states legislative houses.  Besides, these are not the best ways to engender inclusion.

Appointing people cannot as well expedite development of any kind over and beyond what the national economic thinking and planning say; couple with the complementary developmental program and programmatic of the elected chief administrators there, which are the governors.

The idea of thinking that the appointment of a minister, a commissioner can drastically change the fortune of the people at the grass root level is not only outdated; it is also unintelligent and non-inclusive.'

Two, I also think until the local governments which are the closest government to the people stopped being short-changed by the state in terms of funds and funding, then the chances of achieving serious development from ground-up will be zero.

And appointing multiple ministers and commissioners to deliver on the programs and policies of both federal and state governments will not be a way out either.

I’m not saying appointing people into whatever capacity based on regions and whatever parameters are not good.     

All I’m trying to point out here is that for genuine inclusion to occur in the Nigerian polity, the fundamental interests and wellbeing of the people must be given top priority above self-seeking agenda of the elites and the political class.

And the only way to do that is when the leaders become selfless. They can be selfless through the laws they make, the budget they make and passed; and its implementation to benefit the people irrespective of who they are and where they are from, and when the people get justice and without delays too.

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