21 August 2016
The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, nearly two centuries ago, provided us with what has now become the most popular definition of democracy.
He famously defined democracy as “the government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Following that definition, the very nature of democracy puts the direct subjects of this system of government as the people. Thus, it can be said that the theoretical practice of democracy is people-centered or people-oriented.
Democracy as a system of government is practiced by many countries although under different constitutional forms.
The United States for instance practices democracy with a Presidential system. France has a Semi-Presidential system and Italy practices democracy as a constitutional republic. Countries like Canada and Australia and the United Kingdom practice democracy with a Parliamentary system, in addition to being Constitutional Monarchies.
Differing constitutional forms aside, the United Kingdom and the United States are globally known as bastions of democracy.
The 2015 Global Democracy ranking placed the two countries at the 12th and 16th position respectively.
The ranking which is annually compiled by the Democracy Ranking Association, seeks to measure the quality of democracy being practiced in 113 countries of the world.
The results thus imply that while democracy may be practiced in theory as a system of government, the quality of the existing democracy still has much to be questioned.
Nigeria placed 107th on that list, ranking in the lowest ten with countries like China, Pakistan and Syria, and even falling a position below its ranking from two years before.
Meanwhile, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden consistently top the democracy ranking list, with countries like Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands joining them to make up the top six positions.
The quality of democracy practiced as a system of government is measured by the Democracy Ranking Association with this conceptual formula:
Quality of Democracy = (freedom & other characteristics of the political system) & (performance of the non-political dimensions), where the non-political dimensions include: (1) gender (socio-economic and educational gender equality); (2) economy (economic system); (3) knowledge (knowledge-based information society, research and education); (4) health (health status and health system); (5) environment (environmental sustainability).
If freedom alone was to be the only index used to measure the quality of democracy, it is arguable that Nigeria’s democracy is severely flawed, not to now mention the addition of the other indexes that make up the quality of a society.
The formula shows that the quality of the society together with the quality of politics is what makes up the quality of democracy.
“Without reflecting on the quality of society, there cannot be a sufficient comprehension of the context for the quality of politics. And the quality of a society clearly colours the quality of the life of individuals and of communities within that society.” Campbell, David F. J. (2008). The Basic Concept for the Democracy Ranking of the Quality of Democracy. Vienna: Democracy Ranking.
The quality of the Nigerian society is made up of over two thirds of its population living in poverty as the World Bank estimates that over 70 per cent still live below one dollar a day in Nigeria.
In spite of the World Bank hint that poverty margins have recently begun to reduce with increase in population growth, the figures still do not balance out.
Thus, as we agree that there is a difference between the existence of democracy being theoretically practised as a system of government, and the reality that the quality of that democracy portrays, it is evident that much needs to be done in ensuring that the disparity ceases to be so far apart.
A lot can be learned from countries currently placed high up on the democracy ranking list, because as it presently stands in Nigeria, the quality of Nigerian democracy is placed closely to countries that claim democracy while still operating a largely authoritarian system of government and dictatorship.
This is a reality that might not be too far from becoming a possibility in Nigeria if the quality of the Nigerian democracy is not quickly and seriously looked into.
Author: Aderonke Adeleke
Writer. Music lover. Movie junkie. Social Media Enthusiast. Aspiring dancer. Aspiring photographer. Social Introvert.