Democracy has provenance in ancient Athens circa 508 B.C. It began as a system of government in which laws, policies and major decisions of state or any other polity were directly or indirectly decided by the people. Democracy has however over centuries of its practice embodied modifications. However, the modifications have no bearing on the power and authority of the people to decide who represents them in the act of governance.
Democracy was adopted in contrast to monarchy, tyranny, dictatorship, aristocracy and all that. In our context here in Nigeria, we have got this checkered history of democratic practice, emerging from our colonial experience. Part of why the British indirect rule and its brand of warrant-chiefism failed in Igbo land was because of the democratic orientation of the Igbo ( encapsulated in Igbo republicanism) which preceded colonialism and the amalgamation, unlike what obtained in the monarchical Yoruba land of Western Nigeria and the structured Northern Sokoto Caliphate, which had suzerainty over almost the entire North as a result of the Uthman Dan Fodio-led jihad. However, the Lugardic amalgamation saw to the entrenchment of democratic institutions and practices in Nigeria. Nonetheless, we have had the emergence of tyrants within the democratic institutions, besides the many occasions of military take over of power.
Over the years, we have had leaders who showed passionate disposition to the institutionalization of democratic tenets in Nigeria. Obasanjo and Abdul Salami Abubakar were soldier democrats who quickly supervised the entrenchment of democracy in the country and handed over power from the military to democratically elected governments. Posterity has engraved their names in the golden tablets of Nigerian political history.
While we think of men who should people the Nigerian Democracy Hall of Fame, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State readily comes to mind. This is because he is also one of the leaders in contemporary times who has shown utter commitment to democratic tenets and principles in his administration of Enugu State. His consolidation of democracy at the local governments in Enugu State is glaringly commendable. Despite the power at his disposal to constitute caretaker committees to man the local governments as some of his colleagues had done, Ugwuanyi sees to it that leaders at the local government level in Enugu State emerge by the expression of the people the choice of their leaders via the polls. The transition processes have often taken this cause and the governor does not interfer with the will of the people.
The ongoing consultations with the party stakeholders, members from each local government of the 17 local governments at the government house with the governor, deputy governor, speaker and members of the state’s House of Assembly, commissioners, party chairman, and his executive members and other state officials is a pure reenactment of the primordial democracy where the people gather to take important political decisions. It is a way Governor Ugwuanyi has transferred power directly to the people to decide who emerges as the party candidates in the build up to the February 23rd local government general elections.
Anybody who attends any of the meetings would love Governor Ugwuanyi the more. Governor Ugwuanyi would ask each ward to file out with the ward chairman and the members of the party at the wards and would ask them to point to the part whose turn it is to produce the councillor in line with zoning which is entrenched in the party. In some cases where there is disagreement, a committee is set up to resolve the stalemate. The idea behind this is that it would not be good for aspirants to waste their money in consultations when the people could make a choice of someone based on the zoning formula without the aspirants having to go the whole hug of expensive consultations, when it is clear only one person will emerge the candidate of the party, who in turn would seek to be elected by the people of the state. The party resolves that candidates of the party for the councillorship positions would be persons who live in their wards, aspirants who belong to the low cadre; persons who would appreciate the position and leverage on its empowerment to add value to themselves, the party and the ward.
A particular case was touchingly a good reference point. It was a situation with one of the wards in Aninri Local Government where the people could not zero in on any aspirant. The governor asked the women of the ward present at the meeting, close to 50 of them, to put heads together and bring a candidate. While Nsukka Local Government was being attended to, the women indicated they had resolved and Ugwuanyi humbly excused himself and met with them and their decision was taken. That was a typical Athenian democracy. It was the people who had their way. Some local governments, in demonstration of the confidence they reposed in Governor Ugwuanyi and the party, asked Governor Ugwuanyi to select local government chairmanship candidate for them. That is government by representation; that is pure democracy.
Quite another is Governor Ugwuanyi’s gender sensitivity. He unequivocally states that the female gender should be encouraged to participate in the political process. He, in view of this, makes it clear that in any ward where the people fail to unanimously present a candidate, then a female candidate will pick the ticket.Gender question is a universalized social phenomenon that is receiving transformative touch all over the world. Female gender inclusion and deliberate consideration in the political process, in Ugwuanyi’s Enugu State, is a sign Governor Ugwuanyi is abreast of the gendered contemporary sociopolitical challenges.
So, this consultation process is completely bereft of any case of imposition. It is a case of the people taking the decisions themselves. There is no discrimination as to who is admitted into the meetings. Everyone who attends is admitted and the people have their way. It is only in Ugwuanyi’s Enugu State that such things are ever done and this speaks volumes about Ugwuanyi’s absolute commitment to the democratic process which he has consolidated not only at the local governments but also at the state level.
From the acceptance of the process by the people, it shows that members of the party are happy with Governor Ugwuanyi, the leader of the party in the state, and the state party officials. From the faces of the people who throng the Lion Building for the consultation exuding healthy and cheerful countenance, one can but say the righteous are on the throne in Enugu State and the people are rejoicing.
Anti-zoning sentiments can feel the political pulse of the people of the party, PDP. Zoning is the spirit at the 260 wards and 17 local governments of the state. That is the understanding and everybody is happy with that. So, let the owl visit the marketplace and listen to the hoot of its underlying. Zoning is the blood that flows in the veins of the PDP. So anti-zoning aspirations seeking the anaemic hermorrhage of the party and knowing it is impossible, should look elsewhere. In PDP, there is no vacancy for anti-zoning aspirations.
In Governor Ugwuanyi’s Enugu State, democracy is practised to its core essence and in line with the disposition of the party, PDP, the ruling party in Enugu State. That perhaps was why the party gave the zoning assignment of its National Working Committee offices to the Ugwuanyi-led Zoning Committee that creditably discharged its assignment commendably in line with the zoning DNA of the party. Ugwuanyi’s adeptness at sleeking through the undulated political landscapes was recently corroborated by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who marvelled at Ugwuanyi’s political urbanity and “otakpokpurukpuity” (cracking the shell), a quality that has presented itself for appropriation at the national level if Nigeria must come out of the woods.
In Ugwuanyi’s Enugu State, democracy adorns the true garb of its core value and essence. As it was in Athens, so it is presently in Enugu State. Many thanks to the democrat, Governor Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi.
Bibian Anekwe News added; “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”
By Reuben Onyishi