Nigeria: Democratisation meaning and practice. Part 2

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By Chris Odinaka Nwedo

Democratization is understood as having ‘two diverse perspectives namely: intensive and extensive perspectives. Intensive perspective involves the change in the quality of democratic experience of a given community. This is determined by the extents of voting rights, the workings of representative institutions or the presence of the culture of democracy at all compartments of the society. While extensive or horizontal democratization expresses the qualitative extension of the democratic models.18 Some scholars describe democracy as a political system that grants to all its citizens the regular and constitutional possibility of replacing the government by peaceful means if they decide to do so by a sufficient majority…19  Democracy is a form of life that involves the people actively and directly in all directions affecting them. As a form of life, democracy entails the popular organisation of culture, economy, politics and education, so much so that citizens satisfactorily participate in all discussion affecting them directly or through their representatives.20 Democracy is antithetical to negation of rights in the sense of discrimination, exploitation, repression or oppression in all forms. It is compatible with, and espouses rights to self-determination, rights to self-development, rights to peace and security, rights to common heritage, freedom of expression and freedom to associate or to dissociate. Since the people’s rights to expression are fundamental to their humanity, democracy must not only respect these rights but represent them as they are the preconditions.

 For a political system to be considered democratic it has to be meaningful and extensive non-violent competition among individuals and organized groups especially the political parties vying for effective positions in government; a highly inclusive level of political participation in the selection of leaders through regular free, fair and peaceful election and a high level of civil and political liberties.21  Liberal democracy includes government by consent, public accountability, majority rule, recognition of minority rights and constitutional government. While the mechanisms involve more than one party freely competing for political power; political offices not confined to any privileged class; protection of civil liberties and independence of the judiciary.22


Going by the definitions and preconditions for democratisation to be real and purposeful, it is clear that much needs to be done to get the process implanted in some states of Africa where some candidates and political parties are sponsored for specific interests and voters paid, and are under vow to vote against their conscience. There is also the menace of godfathers who insist on political line-up made of privileged class for choice of flag bearers and appointments. These exposures so far point to the fact that democracy has not in principle and practice evolved in a way sustainable in most ‘developing’states. Since education, social services and rights to securities are tied to the caprices of those in power, democratic experiments in whatever form must remain culpably imperfect until the situations change.