America Juneteenth Holiday and Nigerian Democracy Journey, By Lolabee@large

0 0
Read Time:12 Minute, 9 Second

America Juneteenth Holiday and Nigerian Democracy Journey, By Lolabee@large

 

Almost a week ago, the untiring efforts of some African-Americans paid off to secure a holiday to mark end of slavery in USA. It is not about the holiday per se, it is all about forcing a nation to talk and reckon with an event some Americans, mostly majority privileged white, would rather wish no one remembered. They almost succeeded, but for tenacious efforts by a few African-Americans to seize the principles of democracy to push that day into a nation history classroom and remembrance.

Democracy won the Juneteenth holiday, not an agitation by a race. That is why we must never give up on the principle of democracy even if some operators try to frustrate its working for the people and by the people.

American democracy and struggles is always fascinating to me, since i became a part of it, and not from outside looking in. And it helped me to persevere and hope against the travails of Nigeria young democracy. Even as it threatens its cohesive and enduring fight against the bad operators. American democracy is still not perfect today, but one can say it has weathered the storm over the century. And it is still struggling as modernization and technology intrude into the operations of “the government of the people by the people and for the people.”

Also it allows me to appreciate the struggles of every country in their journey to find and make Democracy works for them. Amidst the frustrations that the disenfranchised suffer in order to eke out from the benefits of democracy, still it is still the best form of system of government that allow citizens to have their say, push their struggle against a powerful group , class or race, until they can taste their victory. Sometimes, a very hard victory amidst discord, separatism, division, wars or threat of wars.

Democracy

Democracy definition has not changed as political scientists tell us – It is still a form of “government of the people, by the people, through elective process, to work for the people, hence it is a government owned by the people” as I paraphrased it here. Anything outside that is subject to a debate.

Capitalism or socialism or communism are more related to the method of economic system or management of resources of government. Sometime people tend to confuse these various “isms”. That is why China doesn’t have a democracy, because the people has no say in who gets selected into the management of that resources, as such. You just need to be a member, by invitation, to the “cult” or party. But where election takes place, even including Russia or Belarus and Myammar exhibiting tinges of autocracy and dictatorship, they can still claim a democracy because the citizens still participate in the process of the appointment of major governance positions, and democracy takes place. But it is a different thing entirely if the election process is rigged or thwarted to ensure a group smuggle or retain its grip into position of governance or power. In that case it is a stolen or manipulated (abused) democracy, nevertheless it is still a democracy operated by “the bad and the ugly” of the citizenry, while the “good citizens” struggle on to restore order. Hoping their participation will bring about a change for better. Am not going to contest any criticism any political scientist throw at my simplified version of democracy, as I speak like ordinary citizen on the street, looking in.

Let me return to the Juneteenth struggle through instruments of democracy that eventually bring about the Juneteenth Holiday. It might explain my point about the challenges of democracy and how it paid off for Juneteenth in a fairly hostile environment that also struggles with Democracy since its independence.

The Juneteenth holiday showed me that Democracy is great but it requires a whole lots of work. Persevering, painstaking, sometimes outrageously and “angrily” frustrating. But the outcome is worth it when it brings up the gain. Even for the struggling people who will not be silenced.

Democracy has never been the problem but the operators and established system, including economic systems that operate through it. That is, the Leaders, citizens and constitutions and its implementation.

A quick summary of the Juneteenth struggle journey

The Juneteenth (June 19) Holiday, like the Vice President Harris, of USA indicated has so many names to it for decades and century, since that June 19, when the Union Army General Gordon Granger travel to a State (Texas) that fought to retain slavery , and was noted to be still practicing slavery, more than two years after President Lincoln had declared a ban on slavery, and made slavery illegal all over USA, in his declaration of Emancipation of Slavery.

The General, had to tell the blacks in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that they had been set free, more than 2years earlier, in April 16, 1863 speech.

Since that time there have been cries for century, decades and years to mark the day. Meanwhile the blacks alone were always in their own corners, marking the day and passing the word along. First the States started to recognize its importance, by recognizing the special day, but not at national level. As at today, only one state, out of the 50, has not recognized that day as important in the history of American nation. If it is not recognized, its less likely to be given any civic study prominence in history classroom. But the continue pushing by the blacks forced it on the nation, not to forget. Until it became a National holiday backed by law on June 17, 2021.

Before then, the cry for its recognition got stronger since 12yrs ago, when A (Black) Lawmaker, Sheila Jackson, sets the ball rolling in their congress (NASS is Nigeria Equivalent) by presenting a bill to that effect. Then an old lady, Opla Lee, now 94years old persevere in a civil right march for the campaign since Obama came on board. This old lady”s effort over the years accumulated millions of signature, instead of thousands, she anticipated. The campaign faced majority white opposition and frustration, both within the white group, and those who could not appreciate the significance of its relevance. Many thought it was just “blacks seeking attention” or “trying to expose the evil of American past” and its journey into racism. The recognition was even 5agged as “racist.” In America, race card get played into everything when black are united behind a cause that is linked to their historical journey and struggles. Racism still exist in America, but the struggle continues. Some opposing white lawmakers fought against it. One white Senator prevented the bill from going to a vote for years, because he (a white man in Republican party) used the argument of negative economic impact of a holiday as a reason never to consider the granting of the holiday. A case of lack of interest in the historical relevance to the group concerned. Also the Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee, a black democrat was able to secure the co-opting of a white Republican member, (opposing party mostly representing white Americans) also from Texas, John Corryn to write the bill for the holiday. I don’t know, if that bipartisanship eventually helped to dissuade the obstructing Republican Senator Ron Johnson, to withdraw his opposition so that the the bill can move forward and get passed into law. So, when he changed his mind this year, the Senate voted, 100% for it and the House of representatives voted next, with about 96% favorable to it. Then President Biden on June 17, 2021, accented to the law. And African-American finally got their hard-earned holiday, after several decades of pushing , debating, persevering and climbing over several hurdles of biassed opposition.

Nigerian Democracy is not different

I have taken time to present that Juneteenth holiday journey to my Nigerian citizens, to see that, Democracy works but it does not produce an instant coffee result most of the time. It is a continuous work, sometimes, seemingly taking forever. But perseverance and patience always win over anger, ignorance and hate, even violence – all of the misnomers found often associated with racism or ethnic, even religious rivalry in democracy.,

America is still a struggling democracy but they are working at it. It brings insecurity and violence atimes , fearfully threatening peaceful existence of various races or groups, as is comparably the case in our country, Nigeria in 21st century.

USA also had a civil war, because of slavery. Slavery is still a contested issue till today, since it ended in 1863. Despite all this hiccup, American economy and system struggles and undergo reforms continuously, and still an envy of the world. The weather and other natural disasters didn’t give them any special treatment or considerations either. And everyone knows the people are as diverse as the occupants of this planet earth.

The struggles of Nigerian Democracy

Coming back to Nigeria struggles with democracy and rule of law and inequality, I have noticed a lot of similarities between it and USA, to some degree. That is why i see Nigeria too as having the need to work and pave its own way through democracy travails. Especially now as many are feeling so disenfranchised to the point where they are thinking Democracy is not working for Nigeria. Yet, America has been on it since 1776, as they always want to think that their democratic government started then. But for the African-Americans , the struggle began when the first slaves shipped them in by 1619 landing on the shores of America. If you look at Nigeria too, its problem was imagined that it will be resolved or ameliorated by 1960 independence. Rather the struggle for equality and domination or to escape same, began long before 1960.

Like in USA in 1776, our 1960 independence in Nigeria just expose the over-assumptions that we would use Democracy, whatever form it assumed then, as our bedrock to ensure people’s participation fully in their governance will bring about the desired solution. Till today, the experimentation is still on and it is not a pleasant experience between the diverse group of Nigerian Natives and Religious gurus. Nigerians had seen how Military dictatorship destroyed and delayed its opportunity to grow its democracy. Am sure some still think they prefer Military dictatorship. Which I consider a retrogression to an old habit that failed Nigeria woefully.

Nigeria Democracy is currently robbustically engaging today, as we moved away from Military dictatorship mindset. Yes, in our effort to make democracy work, we will argue, fight, threaten one another, even find time to celebrate religious holidays and the independence day to remind ourselves of the task ahead, and we still have not felt comfortable with or agree to the appropriateness of democracy outcome or intended plan. We can continue to persevere, demand for changes, debate and thwart each others effort to have one group or ethnicity or religious fundamentalism steal our desire to relate with one another, while cherishing our diversity. Patriotism that comes from that is more lasting than the imagined patriotism that come from one group or ethnicity or religion pretentiously pushing a dominant ideology, that sets our teeth on edge against one another.

Give Nigeria Democracy a chance

Can we make democracy of the people, by the people and for the people work in Nigeria? Yes, only if we are ready to put in the work.

Let the “good” among us keep debating, pointing out the faults of the “bad and ugly” in our midst. We need to educate one another on electoral process and the power it gives each individual to strengthen the democracy. Let us find the right group of sincere representatives at all levels of government, as leaders and managers to lead and speak for us. Let us respect our diversity without imposing it by any means necessary, on the other groups.

Social tolerance and understanding is a part of emotional intelligence that seek and encourage the best in each one and group. Yet collectively able to fight off what disrespects, destroys and squandered our resources – natural or man-made along the journey of democracy.

We will have to learn to persevere relentlessly, use patience and negotiation to change negative mindsets, no matter how threatening.

Nigeria democracy is only barely older than 60yrs. America is just 200+ years and India, even longer. We must endeavor to spread power to others and make them thrive. Nigeria democracy needs to distribute power evenly among the diverse groups. Quota should not be used to elevate mediocrity and inefficiency.

There’s more to gain and pass on to the coming generation. Technology seems to be making governing more simple and participatory than of old.

One can only wish, our argument and demand for participation will win the effort for the good of all, in time, no matter how long it takes.

Democracy will not remove the “bad and ugly” from our midst or their frustrating tenacity to give democracy a bad name. But the persevering and energetic patient “good citizen” among us can be sure that democracy will yield its good fruits, if we don’t give up.

Our Democracy can help strengthen our diversity to make Nigeria the enviable African democracy on earth, which still pushes up its abundant human and economic prowess, as we bring the talents in that diversity to work for all.

We are strong working together than in isolation of tribes or groups. Humans are designed to be different, but to find unity of purpose. It may have its worrisome headache, frustration and threats, but it also has its positive return in diverse development in beauty, perspectives, infrastructures, culture and entertainment, and more.

Nigeria is going through the ever growing pains of democracy. Only the persevering effort with great positive outlook for the future, is what needs to keep us going.

The country is no different than the rest of the world. They all have the “good, the bad and the ugly” in leadership, managers, and citizens. Democracy is the only way to persevere in our search for those few good ones, like Abraham Lincoln in USA or Obafemi Awolowo in South West Nigeria, and others my limitation in history does not allow me to mention.

Democracy works. And it can work and it is still working for Nigeria post-military dictatorship, even if it is painstakingly slow and facing threats every step along the journey.

Let us work together. God bless Nigeria. 🇳🇬

Abiodun Olaosebikan

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *