Commentary: Abraham Lincoln Lied!

Abraham Lincoln Lied!

It was one of those unproductive days at work. In an effort to escape the frustration, I committed my thumb to its now customary pilgrimage, beginning from top to bottom of my phone, scrolling across my phone, as I skimmed at my Facebook newsfeed for anything worth reading, I got one:

“Government should be a continuum. Nations would progress faster if one government continued where the other stopped rather than fight its predecessor. – Ben Murray-Bruce

Interesting, I thought. I have always struggled to grasp the concept of democracy. Its meaning and idea is a political philosophy drenched in a pool of relativism. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech is famously ascribed with containing a definition of democracy: “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” But for all of Lincoln’s oratory prowess, that is still a definition shrouded in ambiguity. It begs the question, who are the people? A general election is conducted, people cast their votes, and the man with the most votes is declared the “people’s choice”. Is that really the case? Did ALL the people vote or indeed for the same person? Validating the logic of the “people’s choice” paradigm for democracy is a tough ask.

Alluding to the remark from Mr. Murray-Bruce, history has shown that a government system or leader that assumes power for too long will always become corrupt and oppressive to its citizenry. That is why monarchy and dictatorship faced and continues to face strong opposition and eventually deposition around the world. Indeed, that is why the British and Roman imperialist governments—at different times great word empires— failed.

However, it important to isolate the government from the leader in this context. Democracy in its ideal proposes a continuum of governance; placing the power to choose a leader from time to time in the hands of the people. Now, I assume Mr. Murray-Bruce is implying that the integrity of that transition be protected no matter the leader, and as such succeeding leaders should not undermine or dismantle any mechanism set in motion for the benefit of the people by the preceding leaders. The only problem with that is democracy is a system that favors the majority, and therefore elected leaders are inclined to the make popular decisions just to gain political points at the expense of the other party.

Another irony about the democratic process as practiced in Nigeria, is that the continuum is punctuated by elections of personnel to man government offices at term intervals. Now, except we allow for elected officials to remain in offices indefinitely (till they become unruly potentates) then there really is no way to guarantee a truly continuous government. That would be an ideal. We can only strive for what may be close to that ideal, which is what we have now: a farcical merry-go-round of government succession, politically engineered to continually vest power on the hands of the majority and continually marginalize the minority.

There can be no continuum here Mr. Bruce, not even a one party system would guarantee this. A political orientation that purports government of the people, must be evolved by the people including the minority. Not a borrowed colonialist idea to be enforced on a society uniquely different as ours. No part of the people should be empowered above the other, lest we continue in this fractious sham as we have now.

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