The Turkish Referendum: Distilling Lessons For Nigeria

The Turkish Referendum: Distilling Lessons For Nigeria

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 8:10 am

Akinyemi Onigbinde

By New Independence Group

The New Independence group(NIG) noted President Muhammadu Buhari’s commendation of the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the people of Turkey on the successful conclusion of the country’s referendum. In the President’s words, “the Turkish referendum showcased the democratic credentials of the country and reflected a willingness of the Turkish people to live together and jointly pursue a better future”. While we agree with the thrust of the President’s remarks, we are taken aback by the inherent glibness and hypocrisy, as the realities unfolding in his country, as informed by his worldview and pantomime to governance, represent the antithesis of Turkey’s progressive disposition to participatory democracy.

The contradiction is evident in the President’s antagonistic disposition to the popular quest to restructuring the country to a regime of true federalism where power is essentially devolved from the center to the federating regions and the utmost disdain he has for Biafra agitators exercising their rights to self-determination as a right recognized in the article 3 of the United Nations Charter in their demand for sovereignty. It is obvious in the insistence of the Buhari administration on ensuring the 2014 National Conference report, which is the most current government backstopped endeavor towards restructuring, and which could replicate the Turkish feat, remains in the shelves gathering dust, and the manner entreaties, clamours ,agitations ,which if well considered, could obviate quests for secession and resolve the national question, are arrogantly wished away. The conceitedness and intolerance of views in an ethnically and ideologically plural milieu on the one hand, and the grandstanding as democratic champion in the global realm ,on the other hand, suggests a legendary hypocrisy and a palpable loss of the sense of understanding of when not to mix serious issues of governance with frivolity.

Rather than match diplomatic rhetoric contrived to launder him as someone passionately championing the vanguard of democracy with complementary actions, the President would rather indulge in the continued detention of citizens with dissenting voices in outright disregard and contempt for the rule of law.

The NIG do not exactly subscribe to the outcome of the Turkish referendum, as the preponderance of the Yes votes implies an abrogation of the office of the Prime Minister, replacing the existing parliamentary system of government with an executive presidency and a presidential system, which potentially increases the risk for the emergence of a dictator. We rather find as exemplary the progressive resolve of the Turkish leadership to adopting the plebiscite in the determination of its country’s future. The ruling AK party had the option of towing the Nigerian trajectory, arbitrarily imposing its propositions, laying claim to the monopoly of the knowledge of the best governance model, deploying the instrumentality of flippant propaganda, and the proponents of the alternative model(s) having their voices stifled, arrogantly dismissed, and wished away as treasonable. That the outcome of the referendum favored the government of the day does not matter as long as same government had resolved to affording the people their prerogative to determine under what political template they wish to live.

Same people who rallied around their President in the face of a recent coup, and believed their present peculiarity justified a reform to a Presidential system, could still revert back to the parliamentary system or any befitting governance model in the nearest future. What is key is in the leadership’s disposition to submitting their leadership and whatever their socio-economic vision for their countries are, to empirical validation through referendum. Apart from the Turkish example, Britain’s recent experiences in respect of the Scottish sovereignty, the Brexit,and the call for a SNAP election in June, contrary to the scheduled date of 2020,by British Prime Minister, Therasa May, offer an instructive dimension of how organized governments surrender to the sovereignty of citizens’ opinions, and validating same through plebiscites, even when such opinions do not serve the best interest of the ruling government. These countries had been afforded the learning curve that It is dangerous for the health of any nation for leaders to ever assume that they can act in the best interest of their country by insisting on a non- functional existing structural arrangement or political policies, as we are witnessing in Nigeria, amidst tension in all geo-pllitical zones.

It is on the premise of the foregoing that the NIG calls on the government of Buhari to yield to the peoples’ quest for a political rejig . The aspiration for power devolution, which can no longer be said to be the insular preferences of the people of South-West and South-South, as even the conservative Arewa Consultative Forum, perhaps its own way of expressing its cynicism or verbalizing a new found truism, now says the North is not afraid of restructuring, is the very antidote to our atomism and potential implosion. Apart from representing the only fundamentally pragmatic approach to extricating the nation from its economic quagmire, it has the potency to make unnecessary the quests for secession and make the doctrine of indivisibility really sustainable.

We challenge the government to immediately release political prisoners like the Independent People of Biafra’s( IPOB’s) Nnamdi Kanu and his friends, who are being continually detained for expressing their rights to self-determination. The government should rather take cue from the Turkish and British experiences and measure the validity of the people’s preference for a different governance model through a referendum. The President can as well simply oversee a successful democratic process that would make others remark whether profoundly or glibly like he did in the case of Turkey that , “the Nigerian referendum showcased the democratic credentials of the country and reflected a willingness of the Nigeiran people to live together and jointly pursue a better future”.

-for NIG by Professor Akinyemi Onigbinde The Convener

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.