Often, we hear people say that democracy is a game of numbers. To the extent that the majority carries the vote in any election whatsoever, barring genuine consensus, that saying is true. The numbers reflecting the various leanings in an issue after the counting come handy to resolve such an issue.
If there is a bill before an assembly of the people’s representatives, it is only a simple majority that can translate such a bill into law, with the accent of the Executive as well as other processes involved. When contestants go to the field to canvass for votes in an election, it is the figures that they gather for themselves after the polls that would indicate the people’s choice.

In a referendum, which bears the attributes of democracy, people’s votes are counted to ascertain the majority opinion. Once the majority opinion is determined on the matter on ground, it is expressly implemented, just as in Brexit that happened in Britain, when a majority of the Britons voted to leave the European Union. The Brexit, we note, led to the resignation of David Cameron as Prime Minister, primarily because he was on the losing side in the matter. For democracy’s sake, he did not capitalize on his position of authority to impose his will on the people.
Also in the UK, Scotland, sometime, voted to leave the United Kingdom and the number that refused to leave was victorious, thus, Scotland remained in the UK for another ten years. That’s what numbers do in a democracy. It follows that refusal to grant the referendum in cases it is needed is grossly anti-democratic.
Beyond numbers as they are counted in elections, there are underpinnings of this great form of government which the Western countries have continued to sell to the world that divests it of totalitarianism and allows it to run on the plank of representation of the people being governed. One of such underpinnings, which is actually the foremost, is a mutual resolve on the part of all peoples concerned to willingly submit to a particular authority in a nation state. This characteristic of democracy gives it the definition of government of the people, for the people and by the people.
An evaluation of the Nigerian state as a democracy would probably post a dismal result. At no time would we be correct to see democracy as a gang-up of a majority against a minority in a nation state simply because the minority lacks the numbers. Unfortunately, the notion around the country is that once a group of persons have the numbers, they can vote to take away the bona fide rights of another group. It’s been there ever since the federal government maintained full control of oil minerals in all parts of the country to the detriment of host communities. It played up in the days when RUGA reigned and the Federal Government sought to seize lands belonging to other parts of the country to freely offer to an ethnic group under the veil of democracy.
The proposal gave the nation sleepless nights until it was shelved, but not without the Federal Government taking a $1billion chunk of the nation’s common purse for the Fulanis who were to benefit from the RUGA project had it been allowed to sail through. Again, from the back door, the same FG sent a bill named Water Resources Bill, which sought to give it total control of a certain radius of land area around bodies of water within the country, claiming it was for development. It is the same notion that drove President Muhammadu Buhari into referring to the people of the South East as “a dot in the circle”, perhaps, one that could easily be swallowed because of their numbers. It is this same obsession for numbers that drives the northern Nigeria into seeking to recruit non-Nigerians as citizens, to boost their numbers during elections or census.
Nigerians think of a home grown democracy, especially when they desire to bend the rules in their favour. That explains the numerous problems we have in the polity. America’s National Democratic Institute (NDI) believes there is no single democratic model, but that certain core values are essential to all democracies. They list such values in their website as:
• Accountability: Leaders are responsive to the public interest and people are able to hold their leaders responsible for their conduct through institutionalized checks and balances including regular, inclusive elections that are competitive and credibly reflect popular will;
• Transparency: Political activity is open and subject to public oversight;
• Equity: All people are treated justly and in accordance with their diverse conditions;
• Inclusion: Diverse voices and views are sought, respected and incorporated;
• Pluralism: Free, open, and peaceful competition of ideas is universally embraced;
• Civic Participation: People are able to exercise their political and civic rights and responsibilities freely, and do so actively and respectfully;
• Rule of Law: Laws promulgated by duly elected representatives are consistent with universal human rights principles, adjudicated independently and enforced equally.
These must be the yardsticks to measure the quality of democracy the leaders are offering Nigerians. Advocates of democracy here have been shortchanged such that many of them ask whether the nation is actually better off with it. The fact is that people seek nothing but a better democracy rather than oligarchy in the cloak of democracy and numbers. They want free and fair elections and as long as sovereignty resides with the people, the people’s voices must be heard and their interests respected, beyond the election.
Ideally, democracy ought to engender relative peace in a polity. It stands to reason that the numbers show up only when there is an election, which is just one of the ingredients of democracy. Why the Nigerian democracy has refused to give Nigerians peace is because of the few misconceptions of the term already listed. Strictly speaking, democracy should not be seen as a means of conquest just because of numbers. And, as a matter of fact, it remains the best form of government.

Dr. Odu can be reached through or SMS +2348115711108.


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