Let me begin by appreciating Prof Olukotun for, as usual, dissecting the issues with Achebean simplicity. But there are some fundamentals i suspect we need to highlight if we ever hope to fly with what i consider a pure political oxymoron, "Nigerian democracy" (always in scare quotes in my lexicon).
Let me confess that i have not read Prof. Diamond's essay on democratic recession, but an abstract i saw tells me a lot in terms of locating and contextualizing terms and concepts.
In fact, i think we should always be scared theoretically when we use the term "Nigerian democracy". This is because that is when we will be less baffled about the manifestation of antidemocratic and undemocratic practices that Nigerian political system demonstrates regularly. In the first place, Larry Diamond's piece is meant to address the state of global democracy (i wonder what that means). That assumption of a global trend in democratic configuration, it seems to me, already suffers from a contextual dislocation that figures as a subtext to Prof. Olukotun's piece about Nigeria. Democracy answers to historical specificities. There isn't even a seamless univocity in the understanding of the meaning of the fundamental of democracy. Should democracy be deliberative or procedural? Is majoritarian democracy a just system? Is "liberal democracy" a misnomer?
To worsen matter, Larry Diamond's summary reflects a significant doubt about the correlation between instability and illiberalism and a democratic polity. This, if we, for now, forgo the teoubled theoretical relationship between liberalism and democracy, and instead focus on the conjoining of liberal democracy to Nigerian political realities, what would a democratic calculus reveal about our situation? What level of illiberal dysfunction and unstable structural manifestations qualify us to be "democratic"? I know this may be considered beating an old theoretical path in democratic theory, but have we beaten that path sufficiently well to justify an uncritical complacence about democratic practice in Nigeria? It seems to me that we can begin to untangle our political predicament firat at the conceptual level. Conceptual clarity will enable us to come to terms more with anomalies.
Thus, i suspect a true.reading of Diamond's essay should commence with an analysis of divergence. To what extent does Nigeria qualifies as a democratic polity with the level of institutional disjuncture it possesses? I suspect an answer that takes reality serious will find the Nigerian state in that penumbral site where the difference between "democratic" and "authoritarian" merges seamlessly.
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