Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN (left) discussing with the celebrant and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva (right) during Chief Timipre Sylva’s 50th Birthday Lecture titled, “The Challenges of Democratic Governance” delivered by Governor Fashola at the Ladi Kwali Conference Centre, Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, on Thursday, August 14, 2014.
I think it is too elementary to attempt any formal definition of democracy.
It will serve our purpose to say that it is participatory governance in the sense that we all have a say, whether we vote or not.
It is also useful to remind ourselves that participation is largely by representation; in other words, those who are old enough to vote and those who are not, are represented by people elected to speak, think and act for us.
This part is very important because we all cannot be in Government, especially the Executive and Legislative arm, so we must elect or otherwise choose people to go there on our behalf.
The problem is compounded by size.
Can you imagine what a Senate or House of Representatives where all 160 million of us can sit will look like?
From this point we can see the inherent challenges that lie in a process of collective decision making.
In order to further highlight some of the challenges that lie in democratic governance, I will share with you a report of developments across the World published by Newsweek Magazine on August 23 & 30, 2010 edition titled “the Best Countries in the World”, Newsweek Top 100.
An article by Rana Foroohar posed the following question before delivering the report of a survey of 100 nations:-
”If you were born today, which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous and upwardly mobile life?”
In the answer, Finland was number 1, Nigeria was number 99, Ghana was number 86, South Africa was number 82, Brazil was number 48, Singapore was number 20, USA was number 11, United Kingdom was number 14. Greece, with its recent economic and debt crises was number 26, Russia was number 51.
The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, that are not democracies in the contemporary sense of the western conception were rated 43, 53, 54 and 64 respectively.
Out of the 53 African countries on the continent, only 18 made the ranking, the highest being Tunisia 65, Morocco 67 and Egypt 74.
South Africa, which is reputed to be arguably the best democracy in Africa and at the time, the largest economy ranked lower than these “undemocratic” North African countries at 82.
As if this was not bad enough, earlier this year on a business trip to Abu Dhabi, I was forced to enter into conversation with a middle aged man of Arab extraction.
It was in the evening in our hotel. He had come out to the restaurant to dine and unwind. I ended up on the same table with him and he was insistent on making conversation while he drank a glass of red alcoholic wine.
In the event he sought to know where I came from and when I said Nigeria, he accused our Government of pauperizing our country when we have oil like his own country, Saudi Arabia.
When I told him that he was not supposed to drink alcohol he asked me if I was going to report to his country.
When I reminded him that his country was not democratic, he hit me where it hurts most.
He asked what the value of democracy is to my own countrymen when his own countrymen can build hospitals that we bring our own ailing presidents to.
As if this was not enough, he rounded off by saying to me that in his country they see what their leaders are doing with their money, building roads, bridges, new airports, schools, hospitals, rail, shopping malls and generally driving development, and he at least did not care about democracy.
Although I felt hurt that he thought very little of my country, the idea of freedoms, to think, to speak, to act and to ask questions is too valuable for me to exchange for development under an autocratic or undemocratic government.
So I worry as we must all worry, when I hear some people say that it is part of their achievement that they allow us to express ourselves. Utter Rubbish!
They seek to re-define the relationship in the social contract. They are to serve us and not the other way round. It is not a privilege for us to complain when they do not deliver.
If the only options left to choose from were between freedom and development, I for one will rather surrender development than freedom.
However, I am however convinced beyond doubt that democracy can deliver development and this is the central theme of my presentation.
In order for this to happen, the vehicle of politics, the political parties must be developed as first class institutions.
The first thing to seek is the “idea” behind governance (this is often contained in the program of a political party).
This is very important because the extremes of left and right ideologies have now converged around the centre.
If China and Russia are democratizing, no matter how imperfectly, it is clear that the communist or socialist ideologies of economic exchange have proven to become unsustainable.
Conversely, capitalism in its purest sense has also had to reinvent itself to remain viable. Therefore it moved from cash to credit and credit almost killed it.
The question of ideology is important because it lies at the heart of choice making for the people who participate in election to choose their representatives.
At all times, the welfare of the people is the central theme for the canvassing of votes. It is the ideology, often on economic outlook, sometimes on social outlook that helps to crystallize the difference between the political party machines.
Before concluding on party ideology (because it can be the subject of a full lecture itself) let me say that while some people still delude themselves that there is no difference between our political parties, especially the ruling party and the main opposition, the differences are emerging daily for those who are discerning enough to notice.
If on major policy issues such as power, security, agriculture, corruption and unemployment the main opposition has disagreed with the party in Government and has criticized its choices, I wonder what else the party needs to do to prove that there is a difference.
If you look at the level of progress and development (World Bank poverty index) in the States governed by old and new opposition Governors, there is clear daylight in terms of development.
For example, it is no coincidence that only 2 (two) States, Lagos and Rivers, governed by APC Governors are executing rail projects on their own as a mass transit solution.
The party in government has lied about when there will be stable electricity for 16 years, and an APC state, Lagos led the way in showing what is possible with its power initiatives in Egbin, Akute, Lagos Island and Alausa. Ikeja and Lekki will be commissioned this year.
Other APC controlled states are clearly Pack Leaders in service delivery across the religious landscape.
The party in power prefers to continue to import fuel with the attendant disruptions, and monumental corruption. It cancelled its own concession of moribund refineries.
Lagos believes that in a strategic partnership where it provides land for a refinery, Nigeria can produce enough petroleum products for consumption and still have some to export in 4 (four) years.
The ruling party is now sending a clear message to the people. This is what they are saying:-
“We care about you, but you do not need development so we will not do any developmental work in 3 (three) years. In the 4th (fourth) year we will give you money, kerosene, and rice. Please vote for us, and use the money we give you to provide your own roads, schools, hospitals and security, until we see you again in 4 (four) years”.
In the last election in Osun, the APC candidate sought the peoples vote on a campaign anchored on first his record of 4 years, and a clear developmental and economic agenda to empower the people if elected.
For the candidate of the other main party, the election was going to be a war. So said no less a person than the Vice-President of our country. A leading member of that party. The candidate therefore anchored his campaign on an intention to CAPTURE Ekiti. For me there is clear daylight between these two approaches.
Anyone who still pretends not to see this major economic ideological difference will not see the tallest building in the world even if he stands in front of it.
People and members
I will start here with the quote of Bertolt Brecht who said:-
“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, takes no part in political life. He doesn’t seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines, all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself on his political ignorance, sticks out his chest and says he hates politics. He doesn’t know, the imbecile, that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and, worst of all, corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitative multinational corporations”.
It seems that when opposition does its job will the Governmet panic and resort to a propaganda of lies.
It is part of the lies they have told us about the mismanagement of our National Security.
Their first story was that those behind it were within the Government. When the opposition pushed them to identify those people they have turned around to say it is the opposition.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is still regrettable that the majority of the members of our political parties and politicians do not yet include the critical elite of our society.
They still see politics as something too dirty.
Whether we like it or not, history has shown that the elite of any society, especially its professional cadre, and the very best of them decide the direction of the nation when they come to a consensus about the pathway for their nation, even if they belong to different political parties.
Where are all the people who have built things with their hands in our society?
What are they doing outside of Government?
Where are the founders of the big banks, businesses, telecoms in our body politic?
Are they just content to finance and yet remain unwilling to take the plunge?
There is unverifiable talk that they are willing to identify with the ruling party when they are in Abuja, and with the party in Government in their states when they get to their bases for fear of reprisals?
What do our elite believe?
It is only by their belief, that contributions can come in to fund parties, where members pay dues, where strong values restrain people from decamping whenever the grass in not green on their side again.
Truth be told, opposition politics is tough and only the committed and true believers see it through.
Opposition politics carries its own pain everywhere and has been the subject of a book called “How to be in Opposition. Life in the Political Shadows”, where Nigel Fletcher provides useful insight into the challenges of being in opposition and also profers useful tips.
The one I will share with you is sub-titled “choose your weapons wisely”, and this is what he says:-
“An opposition cannot compete with the Government on resources, so you must be inventive. In what is a David and Goliath contest, you can use the advantages of greater agility to aim your slingshot where it can do the most damage. Parliamentary ambushes, media attacks and effective research will wear down Ministers and help expose their mistakes”
As you may have also heard in this part of the World, the party in power will accuse you of trying to bring down the Government.
This is certainly not the same thing as bringing down the Country because the Government can be removed by LEGITIMATE and CONSTITUTIONAL means at the ballot box.
According to Nigel Fletcher:-
“…bringing down the Government was a peculiar day job and it is. But that is really only the negative side of the job description. With equally lofty ambition, the positive side of opposition could be summed up as ‘trying to change the World’. This is surely something worth doing…”
Perhaps when all these issues have been put in proper place, can we then begin to talk of the people of the party and what defines it.
This is different from a manifesto, which can change (discuss) easily.
It is the ideology of the party (what the Americans call the platform statement )and what I call the DNA of the party that is very difficult to change. The nearest to it since the Action Group was formed in 1951 is the All Progressive Congress Code of Ethics unveiled at its inaugural summit on the 6th of March 2014.
It is important to repeat the codes here:-
“1.Our party considers the Nigerian people as our nation’s greatest asset, and will do everything to protect and preserve human life and dignity.
2. Our party upholds a Nigeria bound by the principles of freedom, justice, peace, unity and the rule of law.
3. Our party upholds and respects every individual’s choice of faith under God.
4. Our party has no tolerance for corruption and will manage Nigerian resources responsibly, with a commitment to accountability and the pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
5. Our party is committed to a strong system of government at the federal, state and local levels as the most effective vehicle for harnessing the diversity and preserving the unity of Nigeria.
6.Our party rests on the foundation of democracy, fairness and the pursuit of opportunity for all citizens, predicated on economic productivity, fair competition and the bridging of inequalities.
7. Our party pursues its objective of increasing economic opportunity, social welfare and progress through a government-led and private sector driven economy.
8. Our party upholds the principle of one person, one vote grounded in free and fair elections at all levels.
9. Our Party upholds and respects the interests of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups that constitute our Nation.
10. Our party recognizes Nigeria’s strategic role on the African continent and commits to the pursuit of a foreign policy that promotes peace, security and our national interest.”
The existence of these codes leads inexorably to how the parties are managed.
Who leads them? What type of experience do they have? When and where are meetings held and how are decisions taken? (Night meetings).
Finally, what is the process of choosing representative of the party (officials) and its flagbearers?
What role do debates play?
What is the efficiency of primaries?
Where do we draw the difference between “godfatherism” and “endorsements”?
I have taken the trouble, even if in summary form, to highlight some of the bridges we must cross in order to deepen democracy.
These are only some of the challenges that democratic governance faces.
It seems to me that the countries that have managed to deliver development with democracy got one thing right – they built strong political parties (Not one in four years parties).
The makings were appearing in SDP and NRC until the annulment of June 12.
Thankfully, the APC provides the opportunity for a rebirth, with the broad base from which its coalition is formed.
That in itself is a challenge, which, if overcome and harnessed, provides very deep diversity from which to project strength and national unity.
Leadership of Government
Until recently, we all used to think that our national development was inhibited by the fact that we never had a university graduate as leader of any national government in an executive capacity.
This perhaps alludes only faintly to the issue of the elite consensus, but it is not the same.
Thankfully, the myth of graduate leadership as desirable as it is, has been exploded now.
We have two graduates (a zoologist and an architect) at the helm of our National affairs and I think the majority of Nigerians will tell you today that their lives are worse off today than they were four years ago.
Clearly there must be more to leadership than a university degree and educational qualification.
There is character, vision, courage, empathy, compassion and many more attributes that you simply will not find in a classroom or school.
They are in homes, in communities and also in the value system of society.
Recently, our leadership has re-defined empathy by inviting parents of abducted Chibok girls, bereaved people, to the presidential villa for commiseration.
I find this truly strange. Truly unAfrican.
How does this sound? “I heard you lost your child to abductors. Please come and see me at home so I can sympathize with you”.
This is my paraphrasing of what has so far transpired.
As if this was not bad enough, there is a tissue of lies around whether or not they tried to give the bereaved parents money.
It is a low point for leadership. It suggests the lack of empathy.
This is not the first lie that surrounds the unfortunate abduction of young girls in Chibok.
The first statement was to say that they had rescued the girls.
When pressed to show us the girls they issued a statement casting doubt on whether the girls were actually abducted.
The new story, is that they now know where the girls are.
This is the same way they lied about the unaccounted for $48 billion; when they say it was only $20 billion as if it was good not to account for $1.00.
They have turned around to say no money was missing, but add that they have appointed “forensic auditors” to find out if the money was missing. It seems strange and illogical to be searching for what is not missing.
Where is courage? The character to proceed even in spite of fear.
I think we will all do well to remember that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King led from the front in the civil rights movement, so did Mandela, so did Lee Kuan Yew in the agitation for Singapore‘s independence.
Barack Obama has been to the war fronts in countries where American troops (young men and women) are put in harm’s way, to inspire them.
As racially divided as America was in the days of Martin Luther King, he did not seek to divide the country and impose black rule over white.
He dreamt and worked hard to unify divided people.
Mandela sacrificed personal liberty for the emancipation of his people and surrendered presidential power for a higher power – a moral authority – that made him the father of a continent and a global leadership reference, when by clinging to power he could not have been more than a president of one of the world’s 196 (One Hundred and Ninety Six) countries.
Instead of dividing the ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indians in Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew united them by his housing and education policies, built a nation, and took them on a journey of dizzying adventure and development.
What we are witnessing now is a daily dishonor and discredit of the service of previous Governments.
They tell us now that since Nigeria was created, no Government has done for us what they have done for us.
What would the nationalists who fought for our independence say to these inheritors?
I wonder how the seven surviving formers Heads of State and Presidents who attend the National Council of States feel, when they hear this kind of talk.
Yet their unmatched achievements has not delivered stable power whose delivery date has not escaped their lies. The date has shifted from month-to-month to year-to-year since 2011. The lie was even told to an International News Agency.
Instead of boasting that no previous leader of Government has done more for the country as our Government does, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the leader of Dubai whose achievements far surpass ours (at least for now) not only acknowledges the service of those before him, he sets new challenges for his Government and dreams new dreams for his people.
This is what he said in the book “MY VISION: Challenges in the Race for Excellence” at pages 44, 45, 46, 213 and 214.
“Although Arab and world history abound with numerous examples of such leaders, if I were to review the history that I stood witness to, the leader I constantly think about is Sheikh Zayed”
“Sheikh Zayed earned the love of all those around him, out of their great respect for his hard work and achievements. He was also frank and expected people to be frank with him. This is something he taught me and this is how I came to respect him”
“How can I prove this? Well many people, from the United Arab Emirates and overseas, criticized Sheikh Zayed for drilling artesian wells in the desert and using the water for farming. They said this would deplete a non-renewable source, inflict heavy damage on the environment and disturb its natural balance. Although none of those critics ever knew the actual size of the underground water reservoirs, they continually criticized the idea.
As time passed, water remained abundant and none of the fears of critics materialized, while Sheikh Zayed was proven right.
In the not-so-distant past, people travelling between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain would die of thirst if they did not have enough water for the long journey. Sheikh Zayed transformed the same journey into a fascinating drive on an ultramodern highway flanked by farms, palm gardens and endless greenery.
In fact, Sheikh Zayed transformed a large area of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi into the world’s largest oasis in one of the world’s harshest deserts. All this was made possible by the huge water reserves he put to good use and which are now expected to last many decades.
“I will never abandon one opportunity and wait for another. We have not reached the goal we are striving for. What you see now is nothing compared to our vision…just tiny parts of what lies ahead”
“I know the road to development and modernization is difficult; I know that it is long and I also know that the next stages will be even tougher and longer. But I have faith in God, I believe in my people, in the wisdom of our leadership and the future of our nation. I am confident we will realize our goals. Our vision is clear, our road is paved and the clock is ticking.
There is no more time for hesitation or half-baked goals or solutions. Development is an ongoing process and the race for excellence has no finish line”
So until we find that kind of leader that believes in God and country, who truly loves the people, the leader who recognizes ‘service” not awards, self-adulation and national honours as the highest honour, until then will our democracy remain undeveloping.
Certainly, without subscribing to any recklessness, I would think that if the leadership of any country is worth living for, it must be worth dying for.
Regrettably, such sterling leadership as we now so desperately need is not given to nations, frequently or in abundant supply.
In 236 years of the USA, she has produced 44 presidents (of which one was elected for 4 terms) and in about 500 years of British democracy, she has produced about 75 Prime Ministers.
How many of those Presidents or Prime Ministers do you remember off hand? Why?
Many were either not outstanding or simply did not meet the developmental aspirations of their people.
In just about a decade, Britain has produced three Prime Ministers: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Who knows what will happen in next year’s election?
This March 2014 in India, the ruling party, the Congress Party was defeated with the winning party, BJP having 31.4 percent of the votes against the then ruling party’s 19.5 percent of votes.
The instructive message of this musical chair of leaders is that their people have always acted to vote out leaders who were inefficient, not trusted or simply unable to inspire their people.
A number of American presidents served only one term, some voluntarily stepped down (e.g. Nixon) others were voted out after one term (eg. Carter, Bush Snr.).
Recently, Gordon Brown only finished the term of Tony Blair and was voted out in the first election he called.
So apart from building great parties, finding good people, and so on and so forth, the Nigerian people must find the courage to vote out an un-performing Government after its first term.
This must be the mood when a Government lies about power, about security an about the economy which are the problems it was mandated to solve.
This is the strongest message of a desire for development that the Nigerian people can send to the incoming government as well, that we will vote you out if you also do not develop our lives.
It remains for me to wish Governor Timipre Sylva, at whose behest this paper was written to commemorate his birthday anniversary, a very Happy Birthday and many happy returns.
I thank you for listening.
Babatunde Fashola, SAN
Governor of Lagos State.