The Vagaries Of Nigeria’s Kabukabu Democracy

By Mark Adebayo

Being The Text Of A Lecture Delivered By Comrade Mark Adesina Adebayo, Fmr National Chairman of KOWA Party and Spokesperson of The Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, At The African Democratic Congress’s Democracy Summit In Kaduna At The Arewa Conference Centre, On Thursday 16th Day of May, 2024.

Mr. Chairman of this unique occasion, Honorable Muhammad Lawal Nalado, the National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress, the Chief host, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, the IPAC national chairman, my own friend and brother, Alhaji Yusuf Dantalle. Permit me now to stand on all the already established protocols.

On the sub-theme that I was assigned to speak to, taking into consideration all the critical variables of this noble discourse and its thematic preoccupation, I have decided to title my brief intervention as The Vagaries Of Nigeria’s Kabukabu Democracy.

John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, who served as the second president of the United States of America, God’s own country, from 1797 to 1801, and this was what he said about the fragility of democracy when mismanaged;

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
—John Adams (1735-1826).

Except urgently rescued by a deliberate, determined, focused, and organized corp of patriots who are ready to pay the costs, Nigeria’s democracy is an endangered political species, volatile, retrogressive and moribund. It is in this wise that I commend the National Working Committee of the African Democratic Congress for organizing this crucial summit with the constellation of political players imbued not only with vast experiences but also powerful intellection and introspection in attendance. My hope is that this type of iconic summit continues to grace our political landscape more often with practical engagements of all stakeholders.

Gentlemen and ladies, until we begin to see politics and political Party management as a social engineering tool to reform, rebuild and revitalize society, we will continue to handle our democracy like a prebendalist adventure for the crude and exploitative politics that can only be described as kabukabu democracy.

Kabukabu typifies illegitimacy, illegality and dupery. Growing up in Lagos in the 70s, I was already familiar with the term ‘kabukabu’ as being illegally operated commercial vehicles that were actually private in reality. Oftentimes, these vehicles operated at late evenings and nights. They were mostly incognito, not so road-worthy, often with no or expired papers and the drivers often unlicensed to drive any types of vehicle.

So, it was a concourse of illegitimate business legitimized and accepted by society but remains illegitimate to the extent of its illegality.

In Nigeria’s variant of democracy, we seem to have acclimatized rather well with all that is wrong with our democracy. From illegal and parallel Party primaries to systematized electoral malfeasance, from vote buying to the menace of Party buying through the atrocious interference of money bags hellbent on hijacking and destroying the ideological abutments of potentially formidable political Parties to the deliberate corruption of our entire political and electoral processes, Nigeria’s democracy is a floundering entity in urgent need of rescue and it is our responsibility to do it.

Potentially great political Parties are either destroyed by internal brigands or external forces or even by direct state machinations as experienced in 2020 by the precipitate deregistration of 74 political Parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. In a supposedly multiparty democracy, such mass deregistration is a fundamental aberration.

I stand to be corrected, but it is only in Nigeria’s statute books that you find such acrimonious laws that kill political Parties at their maturing age. All other democracies allow political Parties to form, mature overtime, build up, engage their social realities, thrive or die naturally under the weight of their own inconsistency and incompetence. That we have such laws in our country is not the fault of INEC but the desire of the establishment and formidable political cliques who saw and still see other political Parties as unbearable irritants. They cannot stand a workable multiparty democracy in which the poor or the less privileged can compete on a fair electoral scale with the children of the rich and powerful. Therefore, all Parties that give free access to non-money bags to use their platforms to contest elections must be eliminated by the force of state powers. And this they did to political Parties not sponsored by the government. It is both an aberration and an unfathomable injustice.

In the culture of our kabukabu democracy, you also have characters who contest on the platform of a political Party not considered to be in the elite league of the so-called big political Parties. He or she wins and the next thing is for him or her to dump the Party and defect to a bigger Party that earlier denied them tickets. That is the mentality of a kabukabu politician that has no sense of honor nor a sense of the basest standards of decency. These are the ones who use political Parties as special purpose kabukabu SUVs to arrive at a convenient point on their electoral voyage and dump it at the earliest opportunity. Political Parties’ leaders must do more to protect their Parties from such crude invaders.

I’ll end this brief intervention by pointing out a major error in conceptualizing and writing of political Party constitutions. An individual or a group of individuals develop an idea to form a political Party. They invest valuable time, energy and huge resources to birth the Party only for some usurper from nowhere to get rid of them on the strength of the Party constitution that they wrote by themselves.

I still find it laughable that a Ward Chairman of a political Party who is answerable to the local government Chairman has the authority to suspend his national chairman. It is a veritable opportunity for Party usurpers to remove a national chairman whose face they despise from the scene, including the founders of the Party. All they need do is to avail his/her Ward’s chairman who may be struggling financially a couple of millions of Naira, even thousands and a rickety car and, voila!, the National Chairman is gone. Just like that. So, how sensible in that?

That’s an impossibility in the corporate world. Why allow such in political Parties and, thereby, leave the Party leadership so vulnerable that a Party’s national chairman will live in perpetual trepidation of his Ward’s chairman. Sorry, that’s not a Party being democratic but merely being acrobatic. On KOWA Party, the national chairman could only be suspended by four fifths of the full members of the National Working Committee and the BoT and quorum was 95% of all members of both organs of the Party. The National Chairman could only be removed before the duration of his term by a special national convention which we all know doesn’t come cheap.
As a matter of fact, the BoT could only exercise its authority over the NWC only if it succeeded in raising a minimum of 60% of the Party’s budget for the year. This put everyone on their toes because authority comes with responsibilities.

Permit me to end this by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with Noam Chomsky’s position that a nation is only democratic to the degree that government policy reflects informed public opinion.

Unlike our situation in Nigeria whereby government removes fuel subsidy as a form of collective punishment for the crimes committed by the elite class of subsidy thieves, thereby inflicting untold suffering, hardship, hunger and penury on the mass of the people. That is one of the fundamental elements of a kabukabu democracy.

Professor Claude Ake of blessed memory declared matter-of-fact in 1983 that whether military or civilian administration, it doesn’t make any difference in Nigeria. He said “In a military regime, we march in circles. In a civilian government, we walk in circles”. That was what Frantz Fanon, the Algerian revolutionary, termed “a circle of certainty”. Needless to add that this is why Nigeria has become a victim of the composite components of cumulative crises.

The current efforts and struggles are between the forces of progress who mean well for Nigeria and the forces of darkness who want it stagnant in arrested development. I want to believe that this gathering belongs to the first group of altruistic patriots who mean well and work for Nigeria’s success as the true giant of Africa in all ramifications.

Thank you for your listening attention.

Facebook Comments Box