Nigeria And Democracy Essay, Research Paper
It is one thing to show a man that he is in an error, and another to put him in possession of truth – John Locke. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous state and one of it’s wealthiest. For this reason alone, Nigerians should know the truth about their coutry so that they can know the roots of their problems which would help them in finding a solution. Nigeria consists of a facinating collection of different peoples, cultures, histories and religions which have unfortunately never been united at any period in the past but today, gradually through democracy, it is trying to find a sense of nationhood out of the rivalries and bloodshed which bedevilled the country for years after independence. They are struggling to be democratic but are not quite there yet.
The demographics and pre-colonial traditions of Nigerians were very different . The Hausa in the North had been forming states and came under the influence of Islam in about the 15th century. But later on they were conquered by the Fulani for not being strict enough in their Islamic practices and being too worldly. This made politics and religion one. They learnt Islam in their schools and the mosques became a centre of activity. Their ruler ruled them based on the Islamic law therefore there where no limits on his power. But they were the only group with this kind of religious and political system. There were two prominent groups in the South namely the Yoruba’s and Igbo’s. The Yoruba’s inhabited the forest region and formed several kingdoms. They had village councils which voted chiefs thus limiting the chiefs authority by the councils checks. The Igbo had small organized village structures. They where very independent people so had much freedom. The village governments therefore had less power. Both of these groups worshipped their ancestors so where very different from North in terms of Religion. The presence of democratic elements in the Igbo and Yoruba groups made democracy a lot easier to install later on. This already set them apart from the North because the North traditionally accepted to be ruled by one person (was set-up more like a dictatorship). This differences laid a shaky foundation for democracy in Nigeria because the South was culturally prepared for it whereas the North was not.
Nigeria’s history of different colonial rule also made democracy difficult to establish. Political control by Britain over Nigeria began in the early 1900’s. The North was ruled indirectly because the Emirs were incharge of everything so the British could not come and disrupt this. Whereas in the South, the British challenged the authority of the traditional rulers and put the people who were going to be more profitable to them as chiefs. Collecting taxes became a central duty in the colonial system which was the source of conflict between the people and their chiefs who were viewed as traitors. This made the people in the South disrespectful to their leaders and long building tensions led them to revolt against anything British because the people considered taxes as extortion. The British concentrated on the South because the had more fertile land than the North which already gave the South more opportunity than the North in development. Along with the British came missionaries and education. They evangelized only the South because the North emirates had an understanding with the British that Christian proselytizing would not be permitted in their domains. The long term effect of this was that the South became more educated than the North which helped them acquire the tools with which they could challenge colonial rule on their rulers own terms. If they could read and write then they could be developed and independent. The education in the South made the Southeners able to relate with other countries in the Western world which was very good for trade and developement. This even widened their economic gap with that of the North. The Koranic schools in the North did not value progress therefore what the Southern politicians judged conservative was usually seen as radical by the North. There was very little basis for a democratic Nigeria because the North and South had different mentalities which was further broadened by education.
Nigeria’s federal structure is not to blame for their difficulties in forming a stable government . This structure consists of an independently elected president balanced against a two house national assembly (with governors and legislatures) at federal level. There is also the supreme court on the other hand. In the recent years, a lot of local government areas have been introduced to guarantee a proportionate share of positions in federal institutions thus balancing representation in the implementation of policies. But these localities are not as effective as they could be because hardly any money reaches down to this level due to corruption. Also, Nigeria’s difficuty with this structure is their failure to achieve a stable constitutional rule. The fault however is not due to the structure but is due to the ethnic clashes and hence the lack of trust among the country’s subcultures. This structure works well for other democratic countries like the United States and Canada. Even though Nigeria has struggled to use a democratic structure, it does not work very well. Therefore Nigeria has to find a balanced structure which would suit it regardless of it’s ethnic differences.
Another uniqueness of Nigeria is her past political experiences with democracy and military governments. For a country which has had 7 coups, 3 elections, 2 presidents forced out and 2 governments handed over to the civilian government, Nigeria ia rather unique in her instability. Whether or not this instability can be justified is answered by their definition of legitimacy. Legitimacy of a government for Nigerians is determined by it’s effeciveness and not the process therefore , when a certain government stops being effective a rapid change is needed which results in a coup most of the time. They have had 23 and a half years of a military government, 5 and a half of provisional and 11 and a half of democracy. But because Northerners have dominated the the leadership of the country under both civilian and military rule, it makes it hard for Nigerians to create a stable government because they keep wavering back and forth between military and democratic governments. This fluctuations show an attempt for a democracy because it is not easy for this to happen when half of the people do not believe in democratic ideals(the northerners).The decision seems to be in the northener’s hand because the southerners seem ready to be democratic because they have a history of democratic rule and have been exposed to western culture . However there has been positive signs with the recent democratic government of Nigeria because the party in power is a coalition inbetween the North and South. This is significant because the Nigerian struggle for a democracy is leading them at least partially towards unity.
Nigeria’s political parties are becoming cross-ethnic. Because ethnicity droves much of the political organization in the country, in the past the political parties were formed and voted for according to ethnic identity. But this tradition is beginning to melt. The fact that Abiola ran in a cross ethnic party and fairly won the elections are signs of change. Additionally, the present president Obasanjo, is a christian Yoruba running for a muslim party. This is very significant because Nigeria is gradually pulling away from her ethnic bias and voting based on the party that best represents the individuals views.
Nigeria faces very serious problems today because the endless source of easy money through the sale of oil has stopped. Oil accounted for migration from the countrysides to the city because when oil was discovered there was a need for labour. The people left their farms in the countryside and came to the city. But now that Nigerian oil competes with other countries, the oil price has risen to 3.60$/l . The refining facilities were not maintained as a result of this, Nigerians now to import refined gasoline so do not have enough money to provide the jobs which once existed. The consequences of this is that thepeople who migrated to the cities are stuck in the city with no money and now face problems like overcrowding, pollution, easy spread of disease, and the temptation to become robbers.
The oil producing areas in Nigeria are the least developed. This is very
Education is also a serious problem as a result of the oil crash. Education was once free during the oil boom but in recent years, has seen the introduction of fees. Those who cannot afford this fees do not send their children to school hence, presently only 60% of children attend primary school and Nigeria is 19th place for education in Africa. This is terrible because with the huge size and abundant natural resources in Nigeria, they are supposed to be a lot better than this.
Corruption is endemic amongst the civil servants in Nigeria. It started by the people stealing anything they could from the British as revenge for the taxes the British took. But when the British left, because any bad habit is difficult to stop, stealing from their government became a habit too for the Nigerians. In a sense, the British brought about corruption to Nigeria. But the Nigerians are to blame for continuing to empoverish their economy through corruption.
Inflation has also taken it’s toll. Nigerians took a bad move by printing more money to pay their debt. The result is that inflation has risen upto 6,000% in 20 years. And they even have a heavier debt of 34.5 billion $. The interest of this debt is over 25% of government expenditure.
Nigeria has been divided in history, demographics, political culture and experiences,political structure and parties with bold fists. But bold moves have gradually been made to get the country together and more and more, we see the appearnace of democracy. However, the serious financial, educational , corruption and inflation problems she faces porhibit her mo