8 July 2013

Nigeria: No Lessons From Egypt


Since Egypt's military ousted President Mohamed Morsi in an unacceptable coup d'état and handpicked its puppet chief justice Adly Mansour as the nation's interim president, not few have itemised some lessons of Egyptian revisionism for Nigeria and indeed Africa. But in truth, there is no lesson from Egypt.

On the contrary, it is Egypt that must retrace its false steps in the direction of dictatorship, learn from the rest of Africa (including Nigeria) where democratic transition of power from civilians to civilians is becoming a norm not an exception. Since the spontaneous mass unrest which rightly ousted Tunisia's leader Ben Ali Egypt's Mubarak and Yemen's Alli Abdallah Saleh as well as Libya's Ghaddafi, some observers have recommended some Arab protest-style of regime change in Africa. Such recommendation betrays deep knowledge of democratic process and at best distorts the history of democratic process in Africa.

From the late 70s through to the 90s when the Arabs were romanticising dictators, peoples of Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Benin Republic, Zimbabwe, South Africa among others (with enormous sacrifices even to lives) were commendably up in mass protests against military rules and one party-states. Better late than never, that the Arabs at the turn of the 21st century had woken from their slumber to confront dictatorships which other Africans from early 20th century had tried to consign to dustbins of history. Whatever analysts make of our ever disputed elections, Nigeria in recent times remains truly a Democracy Destination.

With as many as 73 million voters (almost the population of Egypt!), 50 plus political parties (and we are still forming and commendably merging!), more than 20 presidential candidates during 2011election, our problem unlike Egypt was choice not absence of choices! Democratic struggles had been the norms in Nigeria. Democratic forces in varying political parties and trade unions fought against British colonial order before the eventual independence in 1960.

The decision to have independence in 1960 was made through free elections and debates conducted by various regional political parties.. With all the limitations of the second Republic, the disputation against the result of the 1979 elections was constitutional (the famous two third of 19!) not electoral (the vote and the votes counts were never disputed!).

The distortion of Nigeria's democratic aspiration started with the criminal annulment of 1993 June 12 free and fair elections. Since the events of 1993, election riggers had perfected the art of violations of peoples' mandates through varying subterfuges that included ballot snatching, falsifications of election results as we witnessed in 2003 and 2007 elections.

With this rich democratic heritage, Egyptians have a lot to learn from Nigeria. They must learn to follow the rules of democratic engagements. For one both the electorate and the military must respect the sanctity of democratic tenure. Putting elected President Morsi under house arrest at an undisclosed location, arresting more than 300 ranking members of the Islamic Brotherhood, including journalists, shutting down broadcast stations and other news outlets with connections to the Brotherhood and Morsi is illegal and unacceptable. It is the way of the dictatorships of the recent past which Nigeria and other emerging democracies had discovered to be futile and unsustainable for national stability and development. It is commendable that the Federal government, the Africa Union, the street protesters in Egyptian cities and the democratic forces worldwide have condemned the undemocratic removal of Egypt's democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi from office by the military and subsequent imposition of an unelected and probably unelectable interim President Adly Mansour.

The Egypt's military must respect the sanctity of democratic tenure and return Egypt to democracy under the constitutionally elected President. Progressive world should also hold the Egyptian military responsible for any avoidable deaths and casualties in Egypt following protests and deadly street battles occasioned by their meddlesomeness in power.

Its time African electorates and elected leaders respect democracy and constitutionalism even when we have problems and challenges with democratic process and democratic outcomes. President Morsi was accused of trying to exceed his democratic mandate through dictatorial tendency.

However the solution is to democratically remove him not for an opportunistic military return Egypt to the dark and discredited days of Hosni Mubarak and military dictatorship. In a democracy, people can definitely make a foolish choice. The beauty of democracy is that they have another choice to correct their mistakes and make another choice.

The African continent has made remarkable progress in fostering democratic governance after wasted years of military dictatorship and attendant underdevelopment. The challenge is to deepen democracy in the continent and not to reverse it. The Egyptian military lives in the past if it refuses to accept the truth that nobody dares to rule Africa again without a democratic mandate.

All democratic forces must therefore support the Egyptian protesters calling for the return of President Morsi to office and commend them for their abiding faith in democracy.

We join the global calls for the immediate restoration of the democracy order in Egypt and urge the Egyptian Armed Forces to allow the democratic culture to thrive in the country.

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