by Usman Alabi
In a democracy, the state and citizens are together in a social contract. This contract spells out the role of both the citizens and the state; the state is responsible to citizens and the citizens are the popular sovereign, while citizens uphold the sanctity of the state and contribute to its advancement.
Institutional openness is however a critical core of ideal democracies, in other words, constituted authorities are expected to be transparent in all their dealings so long as they are representing the people who elected them into office.
But in recent times, these democratic virtue of openness are receding, the state is pulling back in her responsibility to citizens, public information is institutionally hidden thereby making it difficult for citizens to make an informed decision in terms of leadership recruitment and development imperative.
Political socialization and culture are also predicated on the extent of democratic relations between the citizens and the government. A tradition of openness in government creates a proliferation of highly informed citizens who are ready to participate in governance.
An active citizen who is well informed in the running of government can effectively get involved. Thus every democracy is expected to have an in-built culture of transparency and accountability.
An open government has more chances at economic and political prosperity than a closed state, it has more chances at sustaining development. This is evident in the global development arrangement.
The part of the world with a well-developed democratic culture of openness has a more politically sophisticated citizenry who can stimulate the government to action, compared with other regions with distorted democratic structures that are evasive of openness and transparency.
Democracies in Africa are quite parasitic and have not only stifled institutional development but have as well perpetuated political ignorance and stunted activism in their population. These democracies have structures that often institutionalize a single man system that alter the sanctity of the constitution at will to suit the interest of the leader in power.
Citizens are not only ignorant of what is happening in government but are also voiceless and sometimes hopeless, and where there is a proper tenured rotation of power, it does within an impregnable circus that is truly impervious to change and resistant to citizens’ activism.
This distorted democracy devoid of accountability and transparency is paranoid and ready to attack, hijack every citizen protest demanding that the very characteristics embedded in a democracy should be upheld.
We have seen this play out in the recent ENDSARs protest in Nigeria, we watched how the state looked the other way when hoodlums attacked the protest, and then placed the burden of guilt on peaceful protesters.
Democratic states don’t forcefully respond to peaceful protests, because the very idea of protest is an inbuilt opportunity for democracies to reinvent themselves, it’s an opportunity for citizens to unequivocally grab state attention and the very reason why they will never take up arms against the state, hence when a state stifles or delegitimizes or attack a protest, it encourages dissent and the tendency for an alternative to it.