Democracy, most likely the most invoked concept in the world today, will be on the slaughter slab Saturday at a webinar on “Conversation on Democracy in Nigeria”. organised by Lagos based public sphere platform, Maroon Square, it will be moderated by Dr Lade Adunbi of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
It is coming up against a background of multiple manifestations of crisis that democracy was assumed to be the unfailing cure. Instead of anything anywhere near Eldorado of any sort, it has been what many would not hesitate to call a ‘Cathedral of doom’ as invoked in relation to colonialism by the late Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor in one of his outings.
The last time such a debate took place in recent memory was in February 2018 at Abuja. Organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD), it degenerated into a debate on whether a valid distinction between procedural and substantive democracy is sustainable and whether Political Science has been as helpful to the cause of democracy in Africa as much as Literature. It would be difficult to anticipate what may emerge a dominant controversy this time.
Unlike the Abuja debate in 2018, lead discussants at the impending webinar are, with the exception of one or two, from the generation of activists in whose hands the centre of gravity shifted from radical coherence of the 1980s to the radical chaos in the first half of 1990s. Their own angle to the problem might differ and probably very significantly. It would be equally interesting if there is no significant shift.
Generally, democracy has been on a descent to what The Atlantic calls ‘a dangerous low’ in a global survey last January. The question might be whether the early Philosophers who doubted the feasibility of democracy at all are being proved correct at last. One of them said it could not work because it is mob rule. In Nigeria, the problem does not appear to be coming from the mob but the inability of the elite to transcend the mob level.
How all these elements are fitted into a storyline makes Saturday discussion worth anticipating by both critics and celebrants of democracy in Nigeria and across the world at a time of combustible combination of variables vis-a-vis the prospects of democratic transformation.