DEMOCRACY IS THE BEST SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT.
Man, according to Aristotle, is by nature a political animal. He forms and lives in a society with his fellow men and he wants to rule and be ruled: hence, the emergence of the concept of government. There are different systems of government: broadly, we have the government by the majority (democracy), government by the few (oligarchy, aristocracy, plutocracy etc.), government by a single person (autocracy, absolute monarchy). Of all these, democracy has proved to be the best both in theory and in application in different countries of the world.
WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?
“Democracy” is derived from two greek words – “demo” meaning common people; and “kratia” meaning rule or government.
Thus literally, democracy is the government of the common people. In modern usage, democracy is a system of government in which all qualified adult citizens exercise power directly or through their elected representatives. It is simply a rule by the majority.
Abraham Lincoln famously defined democracy as “the government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Thus we see that democracy is a people-centred government.
The common characteristics of a democratic state are: regular and periodic change of government through free and fair elections; active participation of citizens in the polity through the party system and the voting system; constitutionalism which is strict adherence to the dictates of the constitution such as the fundamental human rights of citizens, independence of the judiciary, rule of law, separation of powers and so on.
WHY IS DEMOCRACY THE BEST SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT?
The argument that democracy is the best system of government is not without proof. Most of the thriving nations in the world practise this system of government e.g. the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany etc. Apart from its success in many countries, the failures of its rival systems especially autocracy/dictatorship in different parts of the world only makes the affinity for democracy grow.
The atrocities of dictators such as Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Idi Amin of Uganda etc. only give credence to the popular saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Why not share the political power through democracy? Let’s examine some arguments in support of democracy as the best especially for a country like Nigeria:
1. Rule of Law:
This encompasses both the supremacy of the law i.e. the constitution; and equality before the law. Thus the law is above every one including political leaders and every citizen, regardless of status whether economic, social or political, is equal before the law.
Thus Alhaji Aliko Dangote has just the same number of rights as his gateman. This would not be the case in a system like Aristocracy, Plutocracy or Oligarchy.
2. Fundamental Human Rights of Citizens:
It is not uncommon to hear cases of mass brutalization of citizens, extrajudicial killings and other sorts of injustice meted against helpless citizens in autocratic countries.
Meanwhile, in a thriving democracy, such news are hardly ever heard because citizens are the majority; they hold the power and they wield it as they please.
Thus their rights are adequately protected and promoted in the laws of the land. There are also strict provisions for redress in case of breach of these rights.
In Nigeria for instance, Fundamental Human Rights are provided for in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution.
Since a democratic government comes into power through the vote of the people and in accordance with legal requirements, the government is legitimate, real and accepted. This is fundamental because it gives citizens a sense of belonging and responsibility and it gives them the confidence to objectively criticize unfavourable government policies through recalls and protests.
4. Sound decision-making process:
In a democracy, the decision-making process is subjected to a lot of consultation and scrutiny. For instance, when an issue comes before the legislature, extensive debates and public hearings are taken on it before such can become a Bill and executive assent must be sought before it becomes a law.
And even when it becomes a law but it is invalid perhaps in the procedure, the judiciary has the power to declare such law null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
Thus sound decisions are inevitable unlike in an autocracy where the ruler may choose not to consult anyone before making arbitrary decisions. This is the operation of the doctrines of Separation of Power and Checks and Balances.
5. Change of government:
The fact that democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people shows that the people can easily remove a leader who turns out to be corrupt, ineffectual, vile or anything unwanted by the people.
They can do this either through a method like impeachment of executive members or recall of legislators or even through the elections.
This holds government accountable to the public.
Democracy is a government of the majority of the people and there is only one reason why is it the by far the most practised of all systems of government: it is simply the best! It is not just one person dictating for the majority. No, it is the majority deciding what is and what is to be. Why then will democracy not win over all other forms of government?