By Ralph Madugu
The former Speaker, House Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has declared that he is a “fanatic for justice, equity, unity and progress.”
Hon. Dogara, who is currently representing Tafawa Balewa, Bogoro and Dass Federal Constituency, made this declaration while presenting a lecture titled “Nigerian Democracy Post 1999: Progress, Diversity and National Unity,” at an event organized by Mupun Youth Association in Jos recently.
The lawmaker said that in order to reap the promise of democracy, the democratic culture must take roots and permeate all strata of a country, adding that democratic culture is characterized by democratic elections, representative government, free press and free speech, civil society, conflict, consensus and compromise.
“It doesn’t matter that some are calling us fanatics for daring to advocate for justice, inclusiveness and for a platform where Nigerians of all faiths can coalesce for nation building. If I am indeed a fanatic, I am thankful that I am not a fanatic for evil, hate, injustice and division but a fanatic for justice, unity, inclusiveness, peace and progress.”
Dogara stated that having rejected the divisive same faith ticket, he and others were consulting with relevant Islamic and Christian leaders to jointly adopt a pan-Nigerian platform that all would support in 2023 reiterating, “all that bothers us is the progress of all Nigerians regardless of creed.”
He explained that the appeal of democracy always lay in the constitutional guarantee that affords the people a good measure of control and influence over their affairs as individuals or groups.
Historically, the lawmaker noted, people chose democracy over monarchy, totalitarianism and other forms of government in order for them to have a say in the way and manner they are governed or led.
On how Nigeria’s democracy had delivered on entrenching democratic culture and the promises of democracy since 1999, he opined that while elections were so attractive, even “pretentious democracies” lay claim to holding elections just in order to confer some aura of legitimacy on their rule. But while maintaining that not all elections were democratic, he maintained that, for elections to qualify as democratic, they must be competitive, periodic, inclusive and definitive.
He posited that free, fair, credible and transparent elections were the basis for translating the consent of the governed into governmental authority adding that democratic elections have over time propelled true democracies since the 17th Century.
While pointing out that undue influence of voters had always existed in different forms all over the world, the lawmaker, however, decried the recent cases of direct pricing and buying of votes as if in a market square and described it as “very disturbing” and “one of the highest forms of corruption.”
Said he: “The high prevalence of vote-buying in the electoral system of the country is, without any doubt, of great concern to all Nigerians and members of the global community who truly love democracy. It is disheartening that this absurd phenomenon has assumed alarming proportions in recent times.
“As citizens, we must not surrender to this criminality as we cannot do so and still expect honour. When political office holders defy the law and corruptly assume office, they will always operate as if they are above the law.
“Vote buying and other sundry criminal manipulation of the electoral process in Nigeria have left our citizens in an abusive political relationship.”
Dogara further described the scenario thus: “As a result, we have been married off to a mob. A mob that rules us by the example of their power not by the power of their example and the dictates of law. A mob that rules by fear as an inalienable tool rather than by courage. A mob that accepts the status quo rather than challenge it. Mobs don’t grow others; they only destroy others in order to grow themselves. We follow the Mob because we must, not because we are receiving any sense of significance for our own lives from them. Our democracy has stagnated and will sadly remain so until we eliminate all sham elections which have the effect of throwing up the worst of us to lead the best of us.”
He explained that though democracy was not perfect, but just like human institutions, it remains the best form of government ever invented by mankind, adding, “Ours is a structural and system failure which can be fixed. It is not the failure of democracy per se.”
He submitted that the very foundation and structures upon which Nigeria’s system was built, were faulty, hence something radical needed to be done to correct it, adding that Nigerians had no option but to come together as one people to build the nation. “I call on you to build networks across people of all faiths and be deliberate about working together- Christians and Muslims, women and men, the youths and the old in accommodating and defending the interest of each other until we build the Plateau, North and Nigeria of our dreams.”