The immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said that the do-or-die mentality of most Nigerian politicians was a major threat to the country’s democracy.
Jega, who provided further clarification on his position at an event organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja yesterday, in said that the do-or-die attitude undermined the whole essence of democracy, “especially the conduct of free and fair election.”
The former INEC boss, who joined others to express growing frustration at the practise of democratic tenets by politicians in Nigeria, linked the do-or-die attitude to the long years of military rule.
While anchoring the panel on, “Three Decades of Democratic Transition in Africa’’ organised by the CDD, Jega said this negative political attitude was also responsible for the poor state of democracy particularly in Nigeria and Africa generally
“The challenges most African countries are faced with is that democratisation in most African countries are on account of legacies of military rule.
“Clearly everybody knows that military rule is an aberration, and if it has done anything in our continent here in Africa is that it has created very dangerous legacies.
“In Nigeria, we have been talking about militicians; many of the prominent politicians now are people who learnt politics under military rule particularly under the Babangida politics of transition.
“Many of them now have a do-or-die mentality of engaging in election and it is a mindset that was imbibed under the military rule”, he said.
While stating that democracy is in a state of flux in the African continent, the former electoral umpire wondered whether democracy was actually delivering the dividends to the citizens.
“There is growing frustration that democracy is not delivering what is expected of it whether in terms of legitimacy of regimes, in terms of stability, peaceful coexistence and quality of governance.
“Most times the electoral process is just a routine because candidates who do not represent the people are imposed on the people.
“So, the lack of integrity of the election coming from a military approach is responsible for undermining democracy in Africa”, he said.
Jega, joined other speakers to call for a rethink of the practice of democracy in the country, noting that “democracy does not equal good governance.”
They submitted that democracy, just like in the developed countries, should be able to drive development and impact positively on the wellbeing of citizens.
On her part, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, lamented that successive administration had continued to use democracy to their personal advantage.
Hassan said leaders may have assumed power through democratic principles but they are however, autocratic in their conduct.
She lamented that freedom of the press in the last two years across Africa, particularly in South Africa and Nigeria had not been commendable.
Hassan was also of the view that real democracy must be inclusive and deliver development to the people, adding that it goes beyond building institutions and economic growth.
“I think we are practising a hybrid system. We practise democracy but when it becomes necessary, we become authoritarian because when you look at the level of press freedom in Nigeria in the past two years, it has not been commendable.
“When you also look at social media monitoring request from Google, facebook on accounts of citizens you find that Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt topped the list. In fact, it is a fact to see that we are a hybrid system”, she said.
She advised the citizenry to learn to hold elected representatives accountable, if they must enjoy the dividends of democracy.