Democracy: Nigerian Version of the African Type

Democratic dispensations all over the world appear as one concept and ideology with different shades of colour and versions of the same theory. There are different varieties of the concept of government of the people, for the people and by the people (Democracy). Although it is based on the supremacy of collective over shared power reposed in the people that democracy derives its universal appeal, there are variations of this same type of government based on differences in the culture and founding philosophies among other factors that affect politics and governance across the different societies.

Cited as one of the best-known societies for the practice of democracy, the United States of America has its peculiar version characterised by some of its famous values and ethos such as the freedom of individuals and the right to choose and act within the laws. However, there is no doubt that at the other extreme of those values and ethos, there are dire implications for the concept of government of the people, for the people and by the people; despite its long-established records.

As recognised and popularly practised, there are different forms of democracies such as a republic, a constitutional monarchy, a presidential system, or a parliamentary system. For example, the United Kingdom comes across as both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system. Another example is the United States of America (USA), which describes itself as “a federal representative, democratic republic, with exceptions of town meetings further described as “pure democracies”. This quote is an excerpt from the US constitution, and it implies that there are versions of democracy and that there are at least two versions operated in the USA. This is probably due to the very nature of their structure as a coalition of many independent entities, within which each entity has its own local parts with unique legal system and society.

From time immemorial, the United Kingdom has been known to uphold the position of their monarchy and that has not been lost to the efficacy of democracy but infused into the concept of government of the people by the people subject to the authority of the King. It has been argued if the UK operates pure democracy due to the position and roles of the royal family in the state.

Despite debates about the economic importance of monarchy in the UK, a poll conducted during the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations claimed that an impressive 62 per cent of Britons still support the system. It is unclear whether that was because monarchy is inscribed within the British mindset, or because the late Queen was certainly seen as the ultimate matriarch in British society by many. This article is not about that debate neither does it present an opinion. At least not yet on this occasion.

Many commentators in and across the different states in Nigeria have insisted that the country’s problem is partly rooted in its government’s form and system of operation; arguing that Nigeria operates a quasi-type of Federal republic. Many always compare Nigeria’s republic with that of the United States of America and other countries.

One major importance of this article is to call the attention of commentators, opinion leaders and mostly influencers to the reality of the endless differences in government forms as practised by many other countries based on peculiarities of history, social systems, culture and perhaps literacy level of the voting populace. For example, information about individual ability, antecedents and political ideologies are usually strong factors for the choice of candidates in many of the biggest democracies. Whereas in some other so-called emerging democracies, choice of candidates for election depends on tribe, faith, favour and other forms of prejudices.

To that end, every society seems to have its own peculiar form of governance even when it is dubbed “democracy”; there seem to be different versions of it. The real problem is that the Nigerian and mostly African versions of democracy have not been recognised in the study and lexicon of government systems or they probably fail certain tests of application to qualify as “real democracy”.

As a people and society, Nigeria seems to have a self-inflicted problem with the idea of democracy despite its so many advantages and the global clamour for it. Ours make a mockery of the concept and practise of democracy and we portray a legendary musician as a prophet, even if of doom, who has described what is supposed to be a people-oriented system as a “demonstration of craze”. Craze, in that sense, is contextually interpreted as insanity based on Nigerian vulgarism.

Notwithstanding, there are some things that truly set apart both the Nigerian democracy and the republican system of government. Such things are worth studying closely. Hopefully, there is a new theory or framework which could help with better explanations or classification for the Nigerian democracy when discovered.

I am hopeful that anyone of my readers especially those more experienced and knowledgeable may be willing to proffer a relevant set of hypotheses to guide the needed research in this regard.

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