Democracy has always been a game of numbers. The way that the numbers are used however stands it out as a failed democracy or a thriving one.
It has been widely defined as the rule of the people by the people and for the interest of the people. The people being referred to are the majority of the people and not just a few. The majority carries the vote and where the opposite holds sway, one has to critically re-examine the nation’s operational values.
Looking closely at the Nigerian context, we seem to be either practising an aberration of the fundamentals of democracy or deliberately abusing its application. Drawing from recent and recurring happenings, it seems that we might be lost in the synonym of democracy, popularly called ‘’democrazy’’ by the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, connoting a demonstration of craziness.
At the start of the year and as a national New Year gift across board, the Federal Government announced a hike in the pump price of petrol, a product which is derived from our major source of income as a nation, and puts us, in ranking, amongst the top 10 producers of crude oil.
Despite widespread protests across the nation, the government did not heed to the numbers and refused to revert to the initial pump price of petrol before the hike. In a strategic game of numbers, the price was reduced slightly which action some considered as the intended negotiation point.
More recently in a newspaper report, it was stated that from a budget of N240 billion, fuel subsidy payments (which simply means the act of defrauding Nigerians for government’s inefficiency in not making our refineries work) took a gigantic leap to a sum 10 times more to about N2.4 trillion.
With our legislators (who have done very little by way of meaningful legislation) earning what represents 25 per cent of our national budget, one wonders what is left for national and economic development after corruption has taken its share. It is once again a game of numbers.
In a game of billions of numbers as well as Naira, despite billions down the drain, our national refineries still cannot produce at optimum. In a deliberate attempt to confuse figures or another game of numbers, despite billions spent along with a change of name PHCN has still not delivered uninterrupted power supply to Nigerians.
Despite the woeful performance of the nation’s present youths in WAEC and NECO exams, one can see that of the 150 million people, not more than five million would be considered a hinderance to the nation’s development. That should even be a generous figure bearing in mind that our census figure has always been a victim of the proverbial game of numbers. Never believed and never reliable.
How come, then, that in the true spirit of democracy the aspiration of these few people overrides that of the 145 million? Maybe we are all profiting from the “system” and all have relatives that diet on the national cake. Maybe Abuja is so far from the enlightened masses that we cannot put up a fight and resist this demonstration of craziness. Maybe everyone is so tolerant or people are comfortable and tend to adjust at every point in time.
They adapt to change but cannot change and become change agents. Maybe. Maybe. Just maybe—because even in the analysis of the maybes we have been playing with numbers whilst others have been working tirelessly playing against us.
The President, who seems not to be presiding over the nation’s affairs, alluded to a “cabal”. One hopes that the companies found guilty of sharp practice as revealed in the fuel subsidy report would, at least, be stripped of their covers and disarmed so that the percentage impact of the nation’s budget would at least make sense for the greater percentage of Nigerians—corruption permitting.
It seems the cabal consists of just a few. It is always incomprehensible that we haven’t been able to do something about just the few who have messed things up for the much more significant in number.
In addition, some public officers seem just to be representing or misrepresenting themselves. Someone said he collected money and not bribe. Alas, the game has shifted from numbers, now it is even words!
The lesson of Arab Spring is yet to register on their psyche even when they are aware that we can all refuse to go to work, march to the government offices and hold down our feet until our number is respected.
Can our refineries work? I say a big yes. It happens not too far from us on the same African continent. Can we have 24 hours of power supply? Can we have educational and health institutions that are standard and reliable? Yes and yes in greater numbers. It just depends on the number of people that stand up to say no to what is wrong and yes to what is right. No to what is obtainable and yes,to what is possible.
That is the way to positive change. The desire for positive change is still very high. The question remains “Will you stand up to be numbered?”
By Kehinde Akintobi