THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF OUR DEMOCRACY(1)
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Politics, Economy, and Society are the three pillars, apart from Divinity, that uphold and shape the quality of human life anywhere in the world. They are inseparable, their mutual dependence best modeled by a concentric circle of integrated,continuous relationship. None can do without the other.
This intricate coexistence is best demonstrated in no other form of government than a democracy, which has been classically defined as “…Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Fundamentally, a willing, thoughtful, and free-choosing people form the bedrock of a democracy.
Society is formed when these people interact and exchange for the purpose of daily life activities, being true to their nature as social animals.
When the aim of the meeting is commercial, in the sense of exchanging goods and services to the end of monetary and livelihood gains, they create an Economy.
And when the congregation and interaction are on the subjects of power and authority, including the related subjects of law, order, and security, the wheels of Politics are set rolling.
It is thus clear from the foregoing that the two pillars of economy and politics have their bases in the third -society.
Equally clear is the fact that the quality of the interrelationship among these pillars will naturally rub off on each one,ultimately determining the context and content of society.
The Nigerian Experience
In Nigeria, however, we all seem to go about our lives, oblivious of these facts. There seems to be in operation a mental rule that divides us into the three different segments of politics, economy and society, each one having its different constituents, privileges, and problems; with such constituents going about their lives as though what happens in the other segments least affects them.
Indeed, this is a fallacy. It is a fallacy that I believe was consolidated in the about thirty years of military rule, and which will do us no good in a democratic dispensation.
The Ideal Interrelationship
In a democracy, every citizen is a qualified constituent of the three segments discussed herein. Not only does he become a member of society by the instrumentality and operation of the family, the first agent of socialization, he also becomes a player in the economy, although in the consumer mode, with the first baby materials he uses.Depending on the pace of his physical and mental maturity, he soon zooms into the productive mode of his membership of the economy ,treading any of the livelihood paths presented to him, either by choice or circumstance. And at 18, he is guaranteed by law to have a say in the running of the wheels of politics by the minimum obligation to vote candidates of his choice into various public offices; and to vie for service in such offices as he grows in age. Hence, as earlier alluded to, the society births people who form the economy and run the polity.
The Nigerian Reality
But what happens when a majority of the people so birthed refuse to take their place in the economy and polity? What happens to the economy when all that constitutes public discourse is the subject of power and who should and should not wield it? What happens to politics when society would rather ‘mind its own business’ and leave the “dirty game” to people who “have no fear of God” and have “sold their souls to the devil”? What happens to society when everyone frantically goes in search of his own, either in the economic or political segment, and forgets that he has a source in the whole?
The economy is a summation of the creative exertions and productive geniuses of a people, measured in both monetary and material terms. It requires the well-being and active cooperation of society and politics if it will do well. It requires a critical mass of value-oriented and productively solid people to successfully operate. It also needs the existence of a visionary and value-adding leadership to fully exploit its potentials.
The gross under-utilization of the potentials of the Nigerian economy of the past years, and its corresponding effects on society, can be explained in the light of the dysfunctional relationship that exists among these three segments. The apathy shown by the Nigerian society to the composition and working of government, in the name of “minding my business”, comes back to hunt it when the selfish, short-term and insensitive policies of government begin to affect the economy negatively, thereby making society worse off.
This dysfunction explains the glaring lack of innovation in government,as evident in the over dependence on a single resource for national wealth since the 1970’s. This nature of government has,of course, rubbed off on the economy as a mono-cultural one, with little room for recognizing and rewarding the inputs of other citizens, who are outside the petrol-dollar zone, to the workings of the economy.
This dysfunctional relationship explains the apathy of citizens to the subject of taxation. A society that has been neglected by politics,the policies and programmes of which has made a hell of the economy, will not be willing to contribute to the purse of such polity. And when society so declines to pay taxes, it automatically lacks the right and moral standing to call government to question when the latter continues to put its fingers in the public till with reckless abandon, thus compromising the provision of basic socioeconomic infrastructure that will make life better for society. According to Professor Ropo Sekoni,“…Taxation increases citizens’ sovereignty and citizens’ power to call government to order”.
This dysfunction explains the unenviable status of the Nigerian society as one where poverty stalks dreams and snuffs life out of ambition. As one where money and materialism are venerated and everyone has a price. As one where religion truly lives up to the billing of being the “opium of the masses”, and the individual is quick to pass the buck to God with the popular refrains of, “It is well…” and “May God help us…”.
The Way Forward
For the Nigerian society to be better off in this democratic dispensation, which I think is here to stay, it needs to reorganize and re-position itself for a better engagement of politics and economy.
As a people, we need to be more enterprising and productive. We need to adopt a solution-conscious mentality,as against the complaining and pessimistic one we seem to adopt by default anytime we discuss Nigeria.
We need to be high on value creation and delivery. This mentality will rub off on our disposition to matters of politics and the economy in general. We need more enterprising, value creation-minded citizens to have a solid democratic system.These citizens will form the core of an electorate that will be too well-off and self-assured to be corrupted by ‘politricktians’ who have nothing to offer but filthy lucre.
Nigeria is in dire need of Statesmen-Entrepreneurs,not career politicians,in her public offices to be able to harness the bounty of resources God has given her for the visible benefit of present and future generations. These individuals,gender irrespective, will see their positions as responsible to humanity and accountable to Divinity. They are individuals who will be followed because they evince true leadership traits and not because they occupy a transient political position.
Nigeria needs leaders like Mohammed Al-Maktoum, the brain behind the creative and daring reforms in the political structure of the United Arab Emirates, and the transformation of Dubai from a land mass of sand to the world’s tourist destination of choice.Since 2010, he has been on a mission to make the UAE “one of the best countries in the world” by the year 2021.
She needs people like Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean Prime Minister who oversaw the growth and rapid development of his country when it was left in the cold by the bigger neighbouring Malaysia. He is widely recognized as the founding father of independent Singapore, under whose leadership the small island country transitioned from the Third World to the First World in a single generation.
Nigeria needs leaders who will combine imaginative creativity with grit and determination in, not only combating our present challenges, but also discovering and driving us toward a new destination of hope and fulfillment.
Such people will, of course, not come from the sky. They will emerge from society, from among the people, only if the people pick up interest in identifying and standing behind such individuals.
I think, and strongly believe, that Nigerians need to show more than a passive interest in the workings of government and the economy. An economy is as strong as its people’s ingenuity and productivity; and a polity is as strong as its people’s commitment to a free and just society.
I think, and strongly believe, that the workings of the political economy of our democracy require us to come alive to our responsibilities in the three segments of politics,economy and society. We all should stand up to be counted. We are all concerned and should be responsible for our fate. It is only when this is done that the goodies of living in a democracy can be equitably distributed and life made more abundant for all.
God bless our Nation!