The purpose of this article is to employ the story and strategies of the TV program, The X Factor, in advancing alternative to our current systems of leadership selection, that delivered nothing but regional and tribal rivalries, non-value adding leaderships at state and federal levels, economic stagnation, infrastructural decay, endemic corruption, unmerited levels of poverty, civil war, retrogressive human development, and Boko Haram in the past 50 years.
Dr Israel Nonyerem Davidson
I often get angry and frustrated that 50 years after independence, and in presence of abundant human and natural resources, Nigeria has remained massively under-developed and many of our citizens are either on economic slavery abroad or at the mercy of corrupt politicians at home. With all the education and resources at our disposal, we are still unable to dig ourselves out of the shameful and degrading situation our people and race are locked in. Selfishness, greed, and lack of self-love bar many from standing for values, systems and movements aimed at re-engineering the conscience of our nation and peoples. There is a saying that the downfall of great men often stem from bruises sustained in deadly battles with women and money. Same goes for nations, for their demise is often driven by the actions of citizens, politicians and leaderships as exemplified by the case of Nigeria and most developing countries of the sub-Sahara Africa. Nigeria and Africa in general have remained behind every acceptable measure of progress and prosperity, principally because of choices made on behalf of the people, and driven by the quality of leaderships elected or rigged into power. This is hardly surprising since most electorates are ill-informed, uneducated, lack access to quality information, very poor, and face intimidation during polls. We must seek a better way of guaranteeing the selection of patriotic, honest and capable leaderships, and deploy it, even if it violates the norms of European/US balloting process and their brands of democracy.
Most people will not be surprised reading that leadership selection process in Africa is flawed. It is myopically based on European and American models that took hundreds of years to develop,with painstaking considerations for the cultures, values, education, and technological advancements of the European and American peoples. It slavishly latches on to the brand and interpretation of European and American concepts of democracy that took hundreds of years to develop and nurture for citizens with full knowledge of their constitutional rights and prepared to live and die in its defense. Such models are most effective where (a) citizens are educated, have access to information, and cannot be bullied by politicians or political parties; (b) vote rigging is minimal and carries heavy mandatory penalty; (c) most citizens can afford two to three square meals a day, thus minimizing any chances of selling one’s birth right; (d) citizens love themselves and easily organise in defense of common agendas; ; (e) politicians see themselves as servants rather than masters, and (f) where the rule of law prevails. These conditions are non existent in most African countries – Nigeria in particular. Therefore a country like Nigeria, will benefit from a different brand of democracy and balloting system; one that recognises its developmental stage, cultures, exposure, and value systems. Over time it can be modified to accommodate the demands of progressive changes in its life journey, just as Europeans and Americans have done for centuries.
WESTERN DEMOCRACY – MEANING, SHAPES/FORMS
Europe and America are pushing and selling their brand of democracy to ill-equipped, ill-informed and unprepared developing countries, as though a panacea to all problems. Of course, it is in their interest to do so since it makes it easier to do business with countries operating their systems of governance and general business. But is conformity to the European and American systems of government in the national interest of developing countries? Ignorantly, to many nationals of developing or under developed economies, democracy is synonymous with expectations of overnight prosperity, freedom and eradication of poverty – as exemplified by events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria. That’s hardly the truth. The Russians learned the hard way regarding the cost of hastily embracing Western style democracy, after many years of communism, without checks and balances. The Chinese learned from the mistakes of the troubled “Perestroika” and chose rightly to mix the best of communism with the best of capitalism – what should rightly be known as “Cap-communism”. Today, China has emerged stronger, more confident, more disciplined, and above all – a bank manager to a number of Western/American style democratic states. Africa should learn from the Chinese experience and carve out own style of democracy and election processes.
Another worrying trend is that the concept of democracy is being interpreted to mean nothing more than a balloting process in many developing countries. The election process, a tool of democracy, has become a means through which cartels legitimise the process of commandeering national wealth and power for self. Consequently, politics now represent a self enrichment process and the art of projecting tribal, religious and family superiority, rather than service to a nation and its citizens. Everyone talks about democracy; what really is it, and is true or pure form of democracy practiced anywhere in the world today?
Democracy is a culture, a way of life, and a “government in which citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives”; or “a system of government with a rule of law, in which the laws apply equally to all citizens” (Ask). The concept of direct democracy was pioneered by the Greeks (Athens) in the 5th century BC. “The word comes from two Greek words: demos, meaning “the people,” and kratein, meaning “to rule.” These two words are joined together to form democracy, literally meaning “rule by the people” (library.thinkquest.org). It was about giving real power to the people to influence how they are governed. It came to an abrupt end in 322 BC and was replaced by oligarchy. Therefore, it is important to note that prior to the representative democracy we have in Europe and America today, was “oligarchic” system of governance in which power confined in the hands of relatively few families. There is no country in the world today practicing direct democracy. The reason is that nations of Europe and America, for example, have experimented and modified the concept to suit politicians and their people. For example, the idea of parliament, a place for speaking (from the French word – parler). began evolving from the 12th century in the monarchies of Western Europe. It developed from “ the curia regis, or ‘council of the king’, the feudal court in which the monarch makes legal judgements and discusses important issues of state with the most powerful bishops and nobles of his kingdom” (historyworld.net). Through the Magna Carta, Nobles forced King John to enact the English Parliament or law making body. Consequently, the power of the monarch was curtailed and written law was mandated higher power than the king. A new system of governance began.
The world’s first formal blueprint for European/US democracy of today originated from the adoption of the Constitution of the USA in 1788. In this document was the guarantee of “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all citizens. However, the new brand of democracy was still based on a restricted franchise in which leading politicians were “ all from a small leisured and landed class (the most distinguished among them, Washington and Jefferson, being southern slave owners)” (historyworld.net). Back in England, by 1833 reform had taken place too in the parliamentary system. “Even under the new system only 813,000 people qualify to register as voters in 1832. But this is now a middle-class electorate, in place of one representing mainly the landed gentry” (historyworld.net). However, women were barred from voting, until 1928. Therefore the brand of governance practiced in Europe and America today has gone through hundreds of years of rebellions and transformations.
The point being made here is that (1) our system of democracy should be one that is in tune with our cultures, values and the stage in our development; and (2) our leadership selection process, though can continue to be ballot box based, should be modified from the European and American models in order to achieve the primary objective of delivering competent, patriotic and value adding leaderships. The purpose of this article is to employ the story and strategies of the TV program, The X Factor, in advancing alternative to our current systems of leadership selection, that delivered nothing but regional, tribal and religious rivalries, non-value adding leaderships at state and federal levels, economic stagnation, infrastructural decay, endemic corruption, unmerited levels of poverty, civil war, retrogressive human development, and Boko Haram in the past 50 years. I have come to term this X-Factor experience – the Simon Cowell’s Theory of Contestants’ Selection.
In mathematics, an “X-Factor” indicates unknown quantity which later becomes known following a rigorous mathematical process. In the context of Simon Cowell’s TV program, an “X-Factor” is a “certain undefinable quality which may promote one candidate over another in the eyes of his or her” credible and accomplished “critics or examiners” (WiseGeek.com). In politics, a national leadership with outstanding dazzling charisma; political, leadership and organisational skills; emotional, social and spiritual intelligence; exposure; talents; knowledge and strength, remains an “X-Factor” until identified and elected through a robust and credible process. That process may differ between peoples and nations for efficiency and effectiveness. That’s a view point this article is meant to explore with the aid of Cowell’s X-Factor Theory.