LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA’S MESSAGE THAT SHOOK THE NIGERIAN PRESIDENCY“THE CHALLENGE OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE”, BEING TITLE OF LECTURE DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, MR. BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA, SAN
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.Political Parties
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.
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