A former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, yesterday stated that Nigeria cannot progress under what she described as monopoly democracy.
Speaking at a #FixPolitics conference organised by the Robert Bosch Academy in Lagos, the former minister argued that the country was not moving forward because old politicians were exercising a political monopoly over the country.
“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.
“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.”
She said Nigeria could have overcome the challenges resulting from the 1914 amalgamation if the right things were done at independence in 1960.
Ezekwesili 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. 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 hunt us to this day.”
On his part, the Head of the Centre for Values in Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi, said one of the most important attributes of democracy was a rational public conversation.
“In Nigeria, a terrible thing has happened to us, because any view that is not a ‘Kabiyesi’ view is taken on by public officials. I was hoping that these laws on the social media bills on the death sentence will be passed. You know why? Because the people that are in office now when they leave office will be sentenced to death. Because they are the biggest sponsors of fake news against people whose views don’t carry a ‘Kabiyiesi’ view.
Our democracy cannot make progress without having public conversations and then we learn collectively and then the common good is advanced.
“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.”