A former Nigerian Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, on Monday said Nigeria has retrogressed because the political elites have perfected a “monopoly democracy” over the country.
The former minister and presidential candidate argued that Nigeria cannot move forward under such a system.
Mrs Ezekwesili spoke at the #FixPolitics conference organised by the Robert Bosch Academy in Lagos.
The FixPolitics Initiative builds on the concept of the #OfficeOfTheCitizen, in a bid to “upturn the current aberration that defines democracy in Nigeria and Africa as ‘government of the politicians, by the politicians and for the politicians’.”
In her presentation at the event, Mrs Ezekwesili explained that monopoly democracy is dangerous for the growth of the nation.
She said: “When you look at the degree of participation in a democracy, it will tell you whether such democracy is participatory or a monopoly. A monopoly democracy is more dangerous than an economic democracy. To have a monopoly in how the system functions is to retard the system.
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“In Europe, statehood is about people with a similar language coming together. In Africa, it was the Berlin Conference that marked out the territories. In Nigeria, administrative convenience propelled the colonial authorities to bring the people together. It was a patchwork.
“Nigeria is made up of people who had nothing in common. There was no common identifying point of reference beyond the colonial power’s administrative convenience.”
‘Right things not done’
The former minister said Nigeria could have overcome the challenges resulting from the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates had the right things been done at independence in 1960.
She blamed the post-independence leaders for not renegotiating the terms of Nigeria’s existence when they replaced the British.
“In gaining independence, there was something that needed to happen that did not happen,” she said. “There needed to be a discussion between these people that were brought together by the colonialists. That did not happen. The fact that we failed to hold some dialogue on how to live together constituted a gap. These failures and gaps continue to haunt us to this day.”
Also speaking at the event, the Head of the Centre for Values in Leadership, Pat Utomi, noted that one of the most important attributes of democracy is a “rational public conversation”.
Mr Utomi, a professor, also buttressed Mrs Ezekwesili’s position, adding that healthy conversations are germane for the growth of the nation’s democracy.
The nation’s democracy “cannot make progress without public conversations that can advance the common good”, he noted.
He said: “The thesis that Dr Oby Ezekwesili has just advanced, the thesis of democracy monopoly, is exactly the point I was making. When you have that mindset of only one perspective, you cannot make progress. Monopoly capitalism has never resulted in innovation and growth and that is why countries like the United States have anti-trust laws to prevent monopoly.”