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Democracy is never a sprint but a marathon, by Usman O. Abdullahi 


Democracy is never a sprint but a marathon, by Usman O. Abdullahi 

Democracy is derived from the Greek words, Demos and Kratos. Demos means the people or audience while Kratos means government. The concept of Democracy comes from the Latin Phrase “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” which means the voice of the people is the voice of God. Harris Soche defined Democracy as a form of people’s government which suggests democracy is all inclusive and participatory as everyone has a role and function to play in ensuring our democracy is strengthened and sustained.

Democracy is not a quick fix, I must say, it has its own challenges as well as hurdles that must be surmounted and annihilated before its dividends are seen to all and sundry. Democracy itself doesn’t guarantee a smooth journey but there is always assurance of a safe landing.

As a sport aficionado, I get thrilled whenever I see athletes doing what they know how to do best and one of my favourite track and field events is the long-distance race or better still “The Marathon”. I love the sport not just because I am a marathon buff but also there are lots of lessons to learn from it.

The marathon race to me is a tripod which includes tactfulness, stamina and resilience, all of which are needed for great feats. While I look at the world top marathoners, over 90% of them always come from Kenya and Ethiopia. In my quest for knowledge, I stumbled on some reasons why they excel in marathon and these salient points are noteworthy.

Kenyans and Ethiopians have 3 distinct features which separates them from others as regards long distant races. The first is that they start to train very early in life at about 3 years old which helps them in developing tact, they also train in High Altitude Rift Valley which is about 6000 feet above sea level where they develop stamina and resilience over and over again, and finally their diet which is high in carbohydrates, low in fat and sufficient protein intake recommended for athletes, popular amongst them is Ugali.

READ ALSO: The role of structure and texture in modern democracy, by Usman O. Abdullahi

While the pith of this discourse isn’t about sport nor food but a lesson or two could be drawn from this. Democracy never grows itself; the actors are responsible for its growth through feeding, nursing and strengthening it. Who are these actors? The leaders and followers, government and the governed, you and me.

Democracy needs to be energized and engaged at all levels, the people need to be aware and conscious that the power of government rest with the governed (the people). Little wonder, the famous author Helen Keller quipped “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

In my opinion, the lethargic and docile nature of the populace is actually responsible for the rot and decay we see in governance. People no longer ask questions, followers aren’t concerned with the nuances of government. We tend to be more reactive than proactive. Moreover, caution should be applied in the society as democracy is not a license to be rebellious and recalcitrant but rather engaging and diplomatic. There is something called “Due Process and Rule of Law” which should be strictly adhered to at all times, one of it is to know that the only way in or out of government office is always through the ballot and nothing more.

It was Edmund Burke who said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I will say, when you say nothing, do nothing, then you become nothing. We must learn to do something in promoting our democracy, that is only when we can be called partners and stakeholders in democracy.

While I watch many African countries retrogress from democracy to autocracy, authoritarianism and totalitarianism via coup d’état and subjugation, it saddens my heart because democracy has never been the problem, the actors are. The actors are in various cadre and strata because we are all actors as far as democracy is concerned.

As the popular cliché says Rome was not built in a day, democracy cannot be built in a day or a moment because even the best democratic nations still encounter challenges even with their democracy. Democracy is work in progress, though it has its ups and downs, notwithstanding, it is still the best option.

Democracy is a steep learning curve, you never get tired of learning; you fall, rise, fall and rise again, only then you will know how to rise better and stronger. Need I say, the gains of democracy may not be geometric, it could be arithmetic.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, it is a participatory event, if we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy so says Michael Moore. Finally, I end with the words of the Chief of Army Staff, Nigeria – Lt General Taoreed Lagbaja where he declared at a recent passing out parade ceremony “The only thing better than democracy for Nigeria, is more democracy”.

Usman O. Abdullahi is a writer and public affairs analyst based in Lagos and can be reached via Email at abdullahiusman19@gmail.com.

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