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When Democracy Lacks Accountability – By Arnold A. Alalibo

By Arnold A. Alalibo | NNP | May 20, 2012 – Since Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”, it has remained the most popular and acceptable definition of the term.

The reason is that it encapsulates and conveys the essence of democracy as it was practised in Ancient Greece, and is still being practised today.

Lincoln’s democracy is built on the principle that power flows from the will of the people, not as Mao Tse Tung, the founder of modern China, would have us believe that it flows from the barrel of the gun.

Democracy advocates that the people should rule. But since it is impossible, or rather inexpedient for the people qua the people to rule, it demands that those who rule should do so with the consent of the people. In other words, they should have the mandate of the people, and by that fact be responsible to them.

It is this responsibility and accountability of the rulers to the ruled that makes democracy more noble than other forms of government. This, democracy is underlined by the belief in the equality of men, and the right of men to have a say in the politics that inform their life chances.

Given this equality, those who hold power, I mean our leaders, must be made to know that they are only delegates of the people they are not in power because they have preternatural qualities, rather they are there because it is impossible for all citizens to rule at the same time, and some people must therefore do so on their behalf.

It is imperative in any democracy for the elected representatives to be accountable to the electorate. It is this principle of accountability that empowers the people. It rests the ultimate power to the people even when they have delegated same to their representatives.

This power lies in the provision for recall and periodic election which are hereditable features of democracy.

When the elected politician realises the next election date, and is conscious of the power of recall executed on his constituency, he must rule in their interest.

Thus, accountability is the engine that keeps democracy going. Without it democracy ceases to exist. What obtains in its place is tyranny. Democracy without accountability can be likened to a pod without seed. It is empty and meaningless. It can not reproduce itself. It is dead.

It is for this reason that the struggle for democracy the world over is undisguised a struggle for accountability. When the Japanese electorate said it was ready to have ten Prime ministers within 24 hours just to ensure that persons with questionable character or records are outsted, it was fighting to protect its democracy.

The people want to uphold their right to rule themselves by simply ruling those who rule them. When the Italians threw out their prime minister for corruption charges some years ago, they did it to preserve their democratic culture. When the South Koreans recalled their past leaders to account for fraud they perpetrated while in office, they did so not to punish those who served them but to protect their fragile democracy.

They knew that nothing kills democracy like corruption and unaccountability. Therefore, persons who inadvertently worked to kill the best form of government man has ever adopted, should be sanctioned to serve as a deterrence to present and future holders of power.

This was why some Ghanaian Ministers were probed by the Ghanaian authorities for living above their legitimate earnings. It was alleged that the Ministers had properties which worth was far and above their income. Following the development, it was suspected that they might have abused their positions and enriched themselves. Ghana did that to preserve their democracy. Today, the country has one of the strongest democratic structures in Africa.

Any nation that cherishes democracy, will do what Ghana did. To keep democracy alive, accountability must exist. Unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to come to terms with this. Every one talks about democracy but only few talk about accountability, which is a sine qua non of any democracy.

Nigeria is experiencing the biggest scam ever in the fuel subsidy regime because our leaders have failed to accept accountability as an intrinsic part of democracy. Today, the nation is faced with all kinds of scams that are amazing and unimaginable.

Politicians, the electorate and all alike albeit reluctantly look forward to election days in the country, but not much is done to ensure that present leaders are accountable and live above board. We tend to share an erroneous and unfortunate belief that we can sweep corruption under the carpet and make the table over it to relish the dish of corruption.

Despite the cacophonous propaganda on anti-corruption, public officers build multiple estates which their incomes in the next 20 years cannot fund. And no one is concerned about the adverse effects this would have on democracy in the country. No one is worried that the prevalence of unbridled corruption is laying the shaky foundation for the failure of subsequent democratic experiment.

The kind of democracy we practice may create room for resentment against the government. Who says the national Security Adviser to the President, Gen. Andrew Azazi, was not right when he blamed the rising wave of terrorism in the country on the undemocratic way leaders emerge on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic party (PDP)? I agree with him.

In a world where accountability and good governance hold sway, there is every reason for Nigeria leaders to imbibe the culture of accountability. Unless we show in practice that we detest corruption and assimilate an abundance of accountability, our quest for a viable democracy will remain elusive.

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Posted by on May 20 2012. Filed under Arnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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