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The necessity of expanding Nigeria’s political space, By Ayodele Adio

The necessity of expanding Nigeria’s political space, By Ayodele Adio
INEC Chair, Professor Mahmood Yakubu

…we must continue to demand for the expansion of Nigeria’s political space and not allow greedy political elites to shrink it. If we allow a situation where only a particular political class dominates our political system, then we will inadvertently surrender ourselves to political homogeneity – one that favours order over diversity. We will be beating a retreat to an authoritarian disposition, where…the ruling class become intolerant of complexity or libertarian ideals which is the engine that drives democratic systems.

When people think about authoritarianism, they often imagine a brutal military dictator who is intolerant of dissenting views or civil society. Although this view is mostly right, what they never consider is that democratic governments can also be predisposed to authoritarianism. Authoritarianism in this case, as the Historian, Anne Applebaum, puts it, is anti-pluralist. Iit is suspicious of people with different ideas. It is allergic to fierce debates.” But most profoundly, Ms Applebaum views this predisposition to authoritarianism as a frame of mind and not a set of ideas.

Perhaps, it was this frame of mind that inspired an anti-democratic comment from the chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, in October 2019 when he argued that “we need to amend the (Electoral) Act to reduce the political parties to a maximum of five. This committee is really committed to reducing the number of political parties to save taxpayers money.” Beyond the absurdity of a partisan member of the National Assembly proposing to shrink the political space in the interest of taxpayers’ money, is the cognitive dissonance that he demonstrates. Because in reality, the biggest culprits of misappropriation and abuse of taxpayers’ money are politicians who are obese from feeding fat on public funds.

Unfortunately, Senator Gaya’s anti-pluralist disposition is not the exception but the rule. It is a mindset that is shared by a majority of Nigeria’s political elite, amplified by the media houses they control, and legitimised by a litany of civil society organisations that feed on their table. It explains why, in spite of an Appeal Court judgment restraining it otherwise, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), led by Professor Mahmood Yakubu, is deliberately and unconstitutionally excluding the Youth Party from participating in the 2023 general elections. For these political elites, what they cannot control must not be tolerated. Hence, to maintain their hold on power, they are attempting to constrict the political space to deny the remote or likely possibility of the emergence of a credible alternative.

The only way that a political class can maintain its hold on power, after pauperising the middle class, vandalising our value system, vulgarising our institutions, and devaluing the lives of citizens, is to, first, perpetuate a…

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