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Sanctity of Democratic Choice

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Author: Dr Lai Ajileye
Posted to the web: 10/13/2006 1:26:02 PM

Nigeria in Transition: Sanctity of Individual Democratic Choice

Democracy is a system of government that is largely based on choice and personal conviction. On the basis of the principle of Freedom of choice, speech and political affiliations, devoid of rancour, violence, intimidation and disrespect; people invest their time, resources, votes and belief on whoever they have chosen as their preferred leader.


If Nigeria is to portray to the world that we are a matured and truly democratic nation, our people, home and abroad, must subscribe to this ideals and as such refrain from all manners and forms of anti-democratic, uncivilised utterances, acts of disrespect to our aspirants and their supporters. We should learn to respect the sanctity of other people’s choices, affiliations and individualism.


Nigerians must realise that political affiliations are decisions that run deeper than may be amenable to public discussions, in as much as there should be transparency and freedom of speech, there should also be courtesy and discipline. What faces me definitely backs another person, therefore our views and perspectives, indeed our choices will be diverse and personal.


Currently, we have over 41 political parties in Nigeria and about 10 presidential aspirants, 200 gubernatorial aspirants, 800 senatorial aspirants and so on. For each party and aspirants, there may be a lot of historical issues, but the beauty of their participations in our democratic theatre is that it brings credibility to the transition process and enriches the concept of democratic awareness in our nation. People are free to align to any party or follow any leader and free to privately and publicly express that choice without being subjected to abuse, irresponsible vilification, persecution, disrespect and violence. People should be encouraged to stand and speak for their belief and convictions.


Without mincing words, it is profoundly unacceptable and it borders on the verge of deficient sense of decorum to directly question other people’s democratic choice. I have noted that some Nigerians, out of undue overzealousness and misguided sense of self-righteousness, ask menacingly from others about why they support this aspirant and not the other person. These often end up in wanton waste of energy, time and resources. All Nigerians have a choice of their own to make, all we need to do is to make it and stand by it. Do not stand and make no choice and then abuse people who have genuinely done so and are promoting the choices they have made.


Without usurping the role of our National Orientation Agency (NOA), I am prompted to educate and orientate Nigerians, including those in Diaspora, on this basic element of a democratic process because in recent times, I have noticed an overload of vilifying comments, abuse and unwholesome utterances that centres on issues relating to support of Odili, Turaki, Utomi, Gana, Buhari, Atiku and IBB presidency.


In all democracies, as the election date draws closer, emotions runs high, campaign gets tougher, strategies gets sharper, issues that have long been resolved are brought to the fore, ‘judgement’ are pronounced and questions are asked, dialogues are frequent and prolonged, monies are spent, there are carpet crossing, new alliances are formed, old alliances are broken, loyalties are tested, disloyalties are discounted. Ultimately, leaders emerge despite all that and losers are left to count their losses and regroup to fight another day.


This is the way politics and campaign has been traditionally in developed society. Nigerian should not depart from that, we should understand that the process is tortuous and complicated, and for this reasons choices of individual participants and supporters about their leaders cannot be expected to be simple and superficial.


Nigeria should not be lost to these ideals as we journey along in this voyage of national discovery. Sanctity and respect for personal space, choice and opinions are the hallmark of a civilised democratic environment. “….Act well your part, for there your honour lies”


Long live Federal Republic of Nigeria.


Dr Lai Ajileye writes from London


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