DEMOCRACY SUSTENANCE IN A POVERTY-RIDDEN SOCIETY
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Without a doubt, democracy is the ideal form of administration for any country. And democracy is not a potted plant that can be transplanted into any soil with minimal effort. It is one thing to achieve democracy,
as succinctly summarised by Larry Diamond (1992). It's another thing, and sometimes more harder, to keep it going, to solidify it, to give it true life and purpose, to make it last.
In the ancient world, one of the Greek city-states, Athens, practiced direct democracy. According to Simyu V. G. 1988: 49, democracy entails not just rule based on the views of the majority of the people,
but also active engagement by the people themselves. All free adult males were granted direct participation in the entire government's decision-making process.
According to the 16th American President, Abraham Lincoln (1861-65), democracy in modern times is government of, by, and for the people. Raphael (1971) defines democracy as a system of government in which the entire people or citizenry is assumed to have the right and opportunity to participate in governance, either directly or indirectly, through representatives elected by them,
and these elected representatives are, in turn, accountable to the electorate. Democracy, according to Akpakpan and Umoh (1999), is a political system with a high level of civil and political freedoms.
It is a system that allows political parties and associations to compete for power. Democracy permits adults to participate in the selection of leaders and representatives through a fair and free electoral process. Carl Cohen (1971:7) defines democracy as a system of community government in which members of the community participate or may engage directly in the making of decisions that affect them all.
This definition emphasises equality and direct engagement in the nation. In this regard, Philips Shively (1991:322) describes democracy as a state in which all fully competent citizens vote at regular intervals to select the persons who would be in charge of setting the state's policies from among alternative candidates.
The father of modern and liberal democracy, John Locke, describes it as majority rule. A government formed by the majority of men uniting into the entire power of the community and exercising all power in establishing legislation through officers appointed by them. (Ch Xii 32 of the Second Treatise)
From a Marxist perspective, as reflected by Marx and Engels' work. Democracy, according to the communist creed, corrects “the dictatorship of the common people, the plebeians.”
It was a class issue; it meant the sway of the lowest and largest classes. That is why it was feared, rejected, and reformed by men of the Enlightenment, led by the British, who placed their property above political sentiments.
Democracy is seen as better to all other forms of governance because it guarantees and defends the rights and interests of all individuals and organisations, secures majority rule, and provides the minority with the opportunity to protest. Participation, representation, and accountability are three elements that make democracy acceptable and appealing.
Whether it is direct or indirect rule through representatives, democracy has attracted a lot of people and is widely desired and accepted as the closest approximation to the good society in operation and the best form of government, the world over, from Europe to America, Africa to Asia, Latin America to Russia.
Poverty is deeply entrenched in Nigeria, causing people to lose faith in the government's inefficient policies, weakening the foundation for its growth and maturity. It makes citizens frail and vulnerable to outsider influence, which might be used to subvert the government.
Poverty has the potential to develop disenchantment about what society goals are and what citizens' duties are in achieving those goals. In the face of disappointment and ignorance, democratic experimentation is certain to fail due to a lack of public engagement in governance and a breakdown of basic democratic ideals.
The focus of this paper will be on the elements that have hampered the sustainability of democracy in society, with particular reference to Akwa Ibom State. It will also include a critical study and examination of this aspect of democratic sustenance in society, as well as potential solutions.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEMS
To sustain democracy in Nigeria, strong civil societies, mass media, freedom from ignorance and want, freedom of choice, respect for the rule of law, periodic and orderly succession through secret ballot, and high levels of political participation and political education by political parties are required.
Since the inception of democracy in Nigeria, there has been a concerted effort by various administrations and non-governmental organisations to achieve the aims of democracy,
but such efforts have been hampered by a number of issues, including a lack of mass participation in the electoral process, a lack of internal democracy among different political parties, economic inequality, pre and post-election violence, ethnic and tribal politics (sectional politics).
Why are competitive political parties vital for the preservation of democracy in society?
How can we encourage widespread political participation in order to safeguard our democracy?
What exactly is an anti-democratic element in our society?
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The following are the study's objectives:
To assess the impact of anti-democratic tendencies on the survival of democracy
To investigate our leaders' economic and political ideologies, as well as their impact on the viability of democracy.
To compare the amount of democratic experimentation in Akwa Ibom State as a case study to that of any other Nigerian state.
To identify democratic institutions required for the long-term viability of democracy in our society.
To provide a viable remedy to the harmful impact of anti-democratic groups in our society in order to sustain democracy.
There is no discernible link between democracy sustenance and poverty.
There is a strong link between democratic sustenance and poverty.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The primary goal of this research is to assess the negative impact of antidemocratic elements on democracy sustenance, to examine our leaders' economic and political ideologies, to identify the institutions required to sustain democracy, and to propose possible solutions for democracy to be sustained in our society.
The amount of democratic experimentation in Akwa Ibom will be compared to other states in Nigeria.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This work is relevant in a variety of ways in light of the acceptance of democracy as the ideal form of government for any Nation. The research will contribute to a better theoretical and practical understanding of democratic sustainability.
That democracy has drawn a large number of people and is widely wanted and acknowledged around the world as the closest approximation to a good society in operation and the finest system of government.
The effort will change previous concepts, provide new ideas, and fill gaps in the existing knowledge stock.
This work will also provide the public (readers) with the opportunity to become acquainted with the circumstances necessary and important to the maintenance of democracy in our society. The work will be used as a reference in the future.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Democracy is a form of government in which citizens actively participate in the formation of their own government.
Sustenance is defined as the act of providing a means of subsistence.
A society is an organised association of people who have common interests.
Poverty is defined as a low level of income and consumption.