That They May Have Life.... Jn 10:10
“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary” Reinhold Niebuhr.
1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND GRATITUDE
In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Father Son and the Holy Spirit; in the name of the Universal, Catholic and Apostolic Church, may I humbly greet all of you, the priests, religious and the entire Christ’s lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Onitsha. I sincerely thank you all that within the last year you have continued to contribute to the steady fulfillment of the ultimate task of spreading the Good News to the ends of the earth (Acts 1: 8). This task is a challenge that each person is duty bound to fulfill, each in his own way, with the gifts or endowments that God has bestowed on the person.
We thank God, our loving Father, for the success in the ministry, and for the visible progress made in all ramifications of the apostolic engagement. To Him be glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving for ever. Last year 2014, we celebrated the 5″ anniversary of the formal opening and first anniversary of the completion of the Youth Village Hostel project which provided us a golden opportunity to express gratitude to all who made contributions of all kinds to ensure the success of the project. May God bless all of you. Already, the Holy Family Youth Village has become a special destination of choice for serious parents and students who understand the impact of good environment to the optimal training of the human being both in Character and learning.
- Furthermore, the school apostolate in our diocese is also witnessing profound progress. The aesthetic condition of our primary and secondary schools has improved by almost a quantum jump. Neglected and dilapidated schools returned back to our church are now wearing very encouraging looks. Their records in external examinations speak volumes of the steady improvement of the learning conditions of our children. We thank the Anambra State Government again, for having the or having the courage to do the right thing by returning schools to their owners; and for providing funds for the refurbishing of the schools which were in dismal state of dilapidation due to poor and selfish management. We thank the managers, the principals and the teachers in the schools. The improvement which we have seen in our schools is greatly owed to their spirit of dedication and service.
- The obvious improvement in the state of our schools is a shining example of the spirit of cooperation between the government and voluntary agencies, especially the Church. We must also bear in mind that as laudable as the return of school is, it was also bedeviled by many hitches both accidental and otherwise. Many of our schools were in error handed over to our separated brethren, the Anglican Communion. It goes without saying that it is a moral responsibility of the State Government to correct as soon as possible such error which could blight its success in this field. Justice delayed is justice denied. We are also grateful to the Government together with all who contributed to the building of the School of Nursing at St Charles Borromeo Hospital in Onitsha. Such an institution that is devoted to the care of the sick is obviously very useful for the improvement of the apostolate of health care which is very dear to the Catholic Church. It is our ultimate hope that the school will in no time develop to be one of the bests ofits kind around our region and our country and contribute its quota to the improvement of health care in our State and beyond.
- On the socio-political level, we thank God that there was successful transition of leadership from the government of Mr. Peter Obi to that of Chief Willie Obiano. We are also grateful that after so many years local government elections were eventually held in our state. Though this election was nothing to write home about; and we condemn the lack of freedom of the people to choose their leaders, it is still good that we in Anambra State have also begun this process and will work to improve the outcome with a dint of sincerity. From the middle of February this year, there will be a series of elections to different national democratic structures: legislative, gubernatorial and presidential. It is clear that elections are becoming part and parcel of our socio-political existence. These elections in so far as they are free and fair are very important and fundamental aspect of the people’s democratic right and duty. It is our conviction that even though democracy in Nigeria has made some positive efforts here and there, it goes without saying that the democratic institution in the country is bedeviled by a plethora of problems. Part of the reason for this sad situation is the failure among Nigerian politicians and populace to realize that the exercise of democracy is like putting into practice their Christian commitment. Democracy when it is well practiced is like putting into practice our guiding principles as Christians; and where non-Christians are involved, it represents the presence of Christ-like behavior among non-Christians.
- We have no doubt that the institution of democracy is undergirded and sustained by what we call Christian values. It is therefore partly because those of us who are Christians have failed to inject Christian values into their political engagement that our democracy has remained chimeral, a charade and mere parody of what it should be. It is this realization that has propelled us to address all the faithful as well as men and women of goodwill on the issue of democracy and Christian values with special reference to our country Nigeria.
MOTIVATION FOR WRITING:
- Having observed that those of us who are Christians are not sufficiently injecting Christian values into our democratic practice, and the non Christians are not guided by the principles and values of Christianity which should be the hallmark of true democratic system, one is persuaded to call attention of Christians and all men and women of goodwill to the values that inform a true democracy.
Democracy severally defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, is about the people. However, it cannot succeed without being built on the eternal values, values that transcend the contingencies of existence. Christianity supplies such values that ready the people for the project of democracy. Christian values are the light transmitters and pathfinders for democracy. Without the Christian values which as well double as core human values, democracy will in turn be oppressive to man. It is after the manner of Christ, that the system of its operators will have value for the equal dignity and freedom of all, which should be the irreducible basis for every democratic experience. Man has dignity by being created in the image of God. It is on this premise of the dignity of the human person, one and all, that freedom is rooted. And from this ontological quality of dignity and freedom that all the rights, privileges and then responsibilities are located. Democracy as we have it today is hardly conceivable without the Judeo-Christian character on which the democratic project is hinged.
When a democracy is built without a grounding on metaphysical principles and Christian fundamental values but rather on fleeting values, then it is built to oppress and may thrive in disregard to the common good. According to John Paul II, “a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism” (John Paul II, Centecisimus Annus, 46). Such an experiment may institutionalize the obstacles to the common good, namely: “lack of rule of law, corruption, tendencies towards greed, and poor stewardship of resources” (cf. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vocation of the Business Leader, Press. Vatican City, 2012). The above is not far from what obtains in some countries, not excluding Nigeria.
On her part, “the Church by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system. She is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person” (cf. Vat II, GS. 76). The Church is supposed to be a sign of a virtuous and just society where common good is promoted. The Church transmits Christ the light to the nations (cf. Vat II, Lumen Gentium,I).
The relationship between democracy and Christianity may lead to such questions as credited to Tertullian years ego, namely; “what indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” In other words what has the secular sphere to do with the religious sphere, Politics with the gospel, Caesar with Christ? Christ is the true light of the world and whoever follows him walks not in darkness, but has the light of life (John 8:12). Christianity is therefore a religion of the light of God to the world (Matt. 5:14). It reflects and sheds light on the society. Christ ministers to Caesar.
- Man lives in relationships. He is a relational being. To properly harness the fruits of relationship among the human person, and between human community and other resources, and to properly establish harmony in the dispensation of privileges, rights and responsibilities, there has to be an order. There has to be a political order. In our circumstance it is democracy, which having transversed centres and centuries to get to us, has proved to be the most adequate form of governance available. It is in recognition that nothing in the world has attained perfection, not to mention our democratic system that one has to turn to Christianity for credible and lasting values.
VALUES AND CHRISTIAN VALUES
- It is important to proceed with some clarification of terms. What is value in general and what is unique about Christian values? Are there some Christian values that have direct link with democratic Governance? These and more we shall look into in this Chapter. In Scholastic philosophy we learn that being is good. This means that all that God created is in itself good. The good is what is desirable by all human beings. Being is good and therefore desirable because it has value. The Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary defines value as “the measure of how strongly something is desired for its physical or moral beauty, usefulness, rarity etc., especially expressed in terms of the effort, money, etc one is willing to expend in acquiring, retaining possession of, or preserving it”. It means that something is of value if it is good, desirable, useful, important etc.
- As a term value may appear to be elusive, but in general it expresses something worthwhile. It has very wide application ranging from material to moral and spiritual good, in all representing something “worthy of pursuit, worth living for and dying for”. In this sense a value can be individual or communal and the judgment or assessment of it can be objective or subjective. Judgment of worthiness that is dependent on the individual making it is subjective. It is objective if it is independent of the person or persons making the assessment. Irrespective of the point of view a value is considered, it is quite clear that values have certain fundamental imports in human life. In the first place, what we value has very strong influence on the general outcome of our life. Our sense of value is a determinant factor in shaping our life. The great American Statesman, scientist and writer, Benjamin Franklin makes this point in the following statement: “I conceive that the great parts of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things”. This fact is supported by the Greek philosopher Plato. Plato affirms that happiness is the end of life and human action. For him even evil doers engage in evil because of the hope of deriving some happiness from their evil acts. Such acts become then or turn out to be a misplacement of value, since ultimately the worth they have placed in their act as derivative of happiness turns out to be an illusion. Values are therefore very important in the life of human beings.
- It is on account of their importance in human life that they can also be said to be human centered or anthropocentric. For Albert Einstein, “all that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual”. Values are therefore rated based on how they positively impact the human condition and life. This is indeed foundational to the nature of value. It can be said to be transcendental to value since without this positive impact on the life of humans, hardly anything can be said to be valuable. Karl Marx expressed the same thought in terms of utility by saying that “nothing can have value without being an object of utility”. Marx would be correct if he does not limit utility by his narrow philosophy in which the human being is viewed solely from the material aspect of his being. But the human has other dimensions, moral and spiritual which are also sources of innumerable values. The centrality of values in human life makes them not too cheap to come by. Of course there are valuable things which we did not work for or which we received as gifts. Life itself is a gift from God; so is faith and so are other spiritual gifts that are not due to our own endeavour. Each human being has also received innumerable things of value from his /her parents, family, community, etc. But it also remains true that given the changing circumstances of life, generally what we do not put in effort to obtain are often not valued appropriately. That is why the thinker Thomas Paine declared that “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value”. Dearness is very important in values because even when the human being receives free and valuable gift, its dearness should prompt him to put in good effort to care for the gift. If what is received is not dear to the receiver, it is not cared for and may eventually be lost.
- Values can be grouped according to their origin, their nature, their effect, etc. It is this perspective that we talk of Christian values. In a way, all that is good is Christian since Chris represents universal and limitless goodness. But to be more specific, Christian values are those values which the practice of Christianity encourages; those values that are linked with Christian life and teaching. They are values without which one cannot be a good Christian. Such values are also biblical since they are strongly founded on the Bible and life of Christ. There are many of such values and we do not need to be exhaustive in outlining them. Let us concentrate briefly on some of the Christian values that have direct link with good and democratic governance.
12:1. HUMILITY: Humility is the affirmation of the inherent worth of the human person created in the image of God. It is not the pretense that one is the worst sinner or worst human being. Humility is the recognition that the human being is a creature of God, and that all other human beings are also the children of God. A humble person realized that all he has comes from God, and this influences his life and his relationship with other human beings, Humility is opposed to aggressiveness, arrogance and boastfulness. Living in peace and harmony requires the virtue of humility. It permits us to perceive the word and dignity of all the children of God. Hurnility is best exemplified in the life of Christ Jesus. St. Paul’s Letter to Philippians (Phil6.2-11) sings the famous hyron on the humility of Christ:
Though he was in the form God
Jesus did not count equality with God,
A thing to be grasped.
He emptied himself taking the form of a servant,
And being found in the likeness of men
He humbled himself even to accepting death, Death on a cross.
Therefore God has highh exalted him
And bestones on him the name which is above every name
So that at the name of Jesus
Every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth
And every tongue confess that Jesus in the Lord,
To the glory of God the Father.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gave clear teaching on humility when his disciples were debating on who among them was the greatest: “if anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35).
Humility leads to service. Service is being useful to other people because they are the children of God. It determines how a person uses his God given endowments, his talents and in general his abilities. Christ tells his disciples, “I am among you as one who serves”. And when the rest of the Apostles were angry that James and John were seeking the choice positions, he instructed them that it is only among pagans that those who are in authority lord it over the rest. Among them leaders must be servants after the example of Christ himself who came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:24-28). 1addition Christian service must be done with me understanding that one is doing his duty and so not necessarily expectant of reward or praise (Luke. 17:7-10).
Real service is based on love since even one who gives up himself without love is acting in vain. Love is the hallmark of Christianity. It is the Value that lies at the very foundation of Christianity. This is because love is the best characterization of God himself. God is Love (1John 4:8). The whole of creation is the fruit of his love since God created from nothing out of love. So at the root of being itself is love. Our redemption after the fall is on account of the love of God for his children. God so loved the world that he gave his only son. The Lord Jesus underlined love by his life, his death and his resurrection. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends”(John 15:13). Love is the clearest characteristic of a Christian, and it is the feature that will make all know that one is a follower of Christ (John13:35). St Paul describes love in great details in his odes to love in his letter to the Corinthians. For him, of the three things that last the greatest is love. It is on account of this that the Scripture emphasizes that our judgment at the end will be based on love. When Christ comes in his glory he will separate sheep from goat based on their acts of love: “ I was hungry you gave me food, thirsty you gave me drink…” (Matt. 25:35). That is why the letter to the Hebrew enjoins all Christians that brotherly love should continue (Heb. 13:1), and for the First Letter of St. John, “if you refuse to love, you must remain dead, to hate your brother is to be a murderer, and murderers… do not have eternal life in them” (I John 3:16).
One reason why we are enjoined to love as Christians is that God has been so loving to us and we should love him in return through our neigbours. Our love is therefore in a way a matter of justice since it is a response to God’s love. Justice is one of the most foundational or Christian values. It is indispensable in the human community. In fact the reason for existence of all our social and political structures is to maintain justice. And without it, as Augustine writes, any human society will not be different from a band of rubbers (City of God, Bk 4, ch.4).
Peace is one sure outcome of justice. A just society is a peaceful society. Christ gives peace to his followers to show how important this value is to them. He enjoins his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1) by the turbulence and the hostility of the world. He bequeaths them the type of peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27). The fifth commandment emphasizes the sacredness of human life, it is only peace that can ensure it. Real peace is therefore: “not only the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining balance of power between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the good of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and people, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is the tranquility of order. Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 2304).
Respect is the special regard or consideration which one gives to another person primarily because he is a human being and thus a child of God. Respect is a value that is based on love. It is also a result of humility. It means not just giving one his due, but also affection, benevolence, goodwill and concern for the welfare of the loved one.
12:7. GENEROSITY: Like respect, generosity is an outcome of brotherly love. The Holy Bible enjoins us to be generous to those in need. This injunction is directed to all, and each person has something to offer to someone in need, namely our time, talent, advice, money or other material things including our service. These can be given not only to friends but also to those in need, the sick, the elderly, the lonely, etc. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites that they must be open handed and lend to the poor. (Deut. 15:711). He instructed that since there must always be some poor and needy people their society must be so organized that they are cared for. In the book of Leviticus, the people were given precise instructions about how to care for the needs of the poor and the stranger. They are not to harvest all the fruits of the field. They are not to gather all the fruits that the vine has produced; nor must they gather the fruit that have fallen in the vineyard. This is in order to leave something for the stranger and the poor to take care of their needs (Lev. 19:9-10). The life of Christ is a shining example of infinite generosity to human beings, and in a special way has predilection for the poor.
Generosity in private life as well as in public service is founded on the ability to deprive oneself of something due to him for the benefit of another human being. Honesty is giving the people what is due to them. It is clear that honesty is forbidden 4). This may
is a demand of justice. Any deception to advantage or harm another person is forbici, by the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:4). This come in the form of false statement, innuende and half-truths. Honesty demands that puhii office holders do not extort those they are ment to serve; that they do not take more than what is due to them, and that they give everyone what is due to them. It also entails that public institutions are not truncated to benefit office or power holders. Honesty has a very wide-application but it is mostly necessary in affairs of the community
Etymologically the word sincerity is derived from two latin words; Sine (without) and Ceres (wax). In the Olden days, those who traded on sculptures and other breakable objects had the dishonest practice of gumming their broken wares together with wax and selling them as whole and unbroken. Sincerity means that one is, so to say, without wax. It has its opposite called insincerity which is the attitude known as hypocrisy. Christ could not stand hypocrites. The Pharisees were a religious and political party that outwardly vowed to maintain very strict observance of the law. But in the process many of them became self-indulgent, snobbish and greedy. They received the harshest condemnation from Christ in the Bible. Those who claim to be Christian, proclaim Christianity but behave contrary to the principles of Christianity are not sincere. They are not better than hypocrites. Psalm 50 presents God’s condemnation for insincerity:
What business have you reciting my statutes,
Standing there mouthing my covenant, since you detest my discipline
And thrust my words behind you (50:1617).
Sincerity entails saying what we mean and meaning what we say. It means living and acting according to the guidelines and principles that are good and that we have accepted and proclaimed as our guide. In fact, it is not things we say that matter but the things we do. Sincerity means not being deceptive to fellow human beings especially for selfish ends.
12:10. FAITH IN GOD:
God is the origin of being and all that we are and have. He demands that we recognize his position as the beginning and the end of all. This means that a Christian cannot keep away from his consciousness the undeniable fact that God is sovereign. He is to worship only God in all aspects of his life. It is not for nothing that the most important and the first commandment is the one that enjoins us to have no other strange God before the Almighty. It means that whatever else is taken as supreme contradicts the core of our being as God’s children. There are many things that can thwart our due attention to God. The lure of material things, pursuit of power, wealth, fame, pleasure and status, selfishness and excessive devotion to self are all attitudes that contradict the sovereignty of God. The simplest presentation of the condition for salvation emphasizes the necessity of recognizing the sovereignty of God: “you must love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself” (LUKE. 10:27). Faith in God is expressed in love of him and love of neighbor. It is acceptance of the sovereignty of God.
These values are useful, desirable and valuable in themselves. It means that they remain values wherever they are found. They are Christian values because they are qualities that have very strong foundation in the teachings and life of Christ and his followers in the Bible and in the teaching of Christ and his Church. They are qualities or values that undergird democracy when it is properly practiced.
NOTION OF DEMOCRACY
- Democracy is popularly defined in the of Abraham Lincoln as “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” While, this definition or explanation may sound very rhetorical, and certainly idyllic, it is important that democracy is understood in accordance with its real practice in the actual world. Today democracy is taken to be the best form of government in human history. It is certainly a system that in a way challenges and trumps its enemies. The victory of democracy is such that even dictators claim to be democratic from the illusion that their rulership is what the people desire. Hitler described his National Socialism as real democracy. Before the collapse of communism, many communist countries that could not even allow opponents of their political party to live, still claimed to be democratic. This claim was often foisted in the name of such countries for all the world to see. The then East German Government that spent a fortune to erect the infamous Berlin wall was proud to adopt German Democratic Republic as its official name.
- 14. In real terms however, a democratic system must be in consonance with some generally acceptable principles. The first of these is equality of the members of the polity making it possible for people to exercise their democratic franchise both as political office seekers and as voters. The second is respect for the popular will of the people since a democratic government is one in which the members of the society have a great stake and are supposed to be the ultimate decision makers. The third principle is majority rather than minority rule, since this is the best way among other possibilities of making sure that sovereignty or political legitimacy rests on the people. (cf. F.O.C Njoku, Philosophy in Politics, Law and Democracy, P. 161)
Very often some of the ideals that democracy enunciates are very difficult if not impossible to realize. Equality of opportunity is often impaired by precedent conditions which purvey advantages or disadvantages to some people in a contest. Again, Respect for popular will is not always welcome by seating government, and without referendum it may not be easy to really know what is the popular will. Finally in situations where some cleavages like ethnicity are still prominent, majority rule may ensure the exclusion of some people from power because of their ethnic groups. In Africa, this has given rise to suggestions like democracy through consensus and not through majority rule. Still democracy is generally taken to be currently the best form of government. The first Prime Minister of India once said that, “Democracy is good. I say this because other systems are worse”. Similarly, Winston Churchill in a House of Commons speech in 1947 stated that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. (cf. Democracy and Churchill, www.standered.edu).
- The idyllic presentation of democracy has compelled some thinkers to concentrate on the minimum requirements of a democratic system of governance. Thus for the English philosopher Karl Popper, democracy is the ability of populace to remove an unwanted government. This is totally one through election, but in winciple wiere the people are in agreement, Popper’s definition of democracy can apply to systems where there are no elections. The basic meaning of democracy in hinged on Popper’s view that there in no where in the world where the people rule. For Popper, once Elections are over those elected acquire the mandate of the populace, and they rule with political parties and cooperation. All 100 ofion their decisions are not based on the will of the majority and so such expressions as government by the people are words without meaning if it is understood to refer to governance. However a democratic system gives the people the power to send parking an unwanted government and to install another in its place.
- Democracy thus implies respect for the sovereignty of the people. That is why Christian values are needed as a guide. It entails that legitimacy in governance is a property that must in all circumstances inhere on the governed. At once this means that political office holders are no more than unworthy servants. They are elected or chosen to represent the interest of the people, and a representative cannot be on than the one he is representing, unless he is impostor. It also implies humility. To serve people means that they are in fact your ma and to do so properly requires that it must be done with love. Democracy entails justice, since the repository of democratic legitimacy is the society that has multiplicity of individuals and groups of individuals. The office holders, the elected servants are servants and representatives of all. They must therefore be fare to all and give everyone his due. Justice will in turn bring peace, since peace without justice is like the peace of a grave yard. To be a good servant also entails that one must be generous with his talents and other endowments.
- Other Christian values are also necessary once it is understood that democratic legitimacy belongs to the people in any democratic system. One cannot be a good servant of his people or their representative if he is not honest, sincere o respectful. It is not possible to serve a master well if one does not respect one’s master. A dishonest and insincere servant can also not do well since he will be working for his own benefit and using the means available to him not to seek the wellbeing of his master but to explore his selfish ends.
Above all sovereignty and power ultimately belong to God. Even though democracy legitimacy is the privilege of the populace, it is obvious that despite human forgetfulness, God the creator remains the sustainer and providential guide of reality. It is therefore not democratic to want political power by all means. The allure of power’ especially public power should always be countered by the realization that at the end power belongs to God and real power must be accountable to him. From all the above, it means that a democratic system in which political power is more lucrative than other forms of power in the society has questions to answer; a system where holders of executive and legislative office are far richer than the rest who do more or equally vital functions in the society contradicts the meaning of democracy. A democratic system where corruption thrives, where injustice is regarded as normal, where personal interest reigns and God is served in public sphere with mere proclamations is yet to grow for such cannot lead to the desired noble end of democracy.
BACKGROUND TO DEMOCRACY
- 18. Though the foundation of democracy is solidly grounded on man redeemed by Christ (cf. Vatican II, GS 22), the background to democracy can be traced to the governance of the Greek city states the republicanism of ancient Rome and the teachings of some Christian philosophers. The various practices of different sovereignties of the Europe of antiquity, the political writings and Philosophical discourses of some European thinkers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, George W. Fredrick Hegel, Immanuel Kant etc have contributed to shaping the intellectual content of democracy.
The Birth of nation states and fading of feudal system and monarchies created space for representative government. Further, the political climate created by the American War of Independence and the French Revolution with its principles of equality, freedom and brotherhood, (egalité, liberté et fraternite) contributed to the formulations of the principles of democracy. However it was the social teachings of the Church rooted in the Bible, based on the Christian anthropology of man as a child of c, redeemed by Christ that gave democracy its son structure and lasting value. Without the Christian values democracy will lack legitimacy and proper content. It may degenerate into a type of totalitarianism or tyranny of the majority or a system for the promotion and protection of the interests of those in power and their circle of friends. But with proper values democracy affords the people the opportunity to participate in governance, in the administration of the common wealth and in self-determination. Built on Christian faith and values democracy seeks the good of the individual, the interest of the community and protection of the common good. (cf. Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #25).
- Historical investigations reveal that democracy owes a lot to ancient Greek civilization. It is generally agreed that the Greeks somehow invented democracy. The word democracy itself is coined by the Greek historian, Herodotus in the 5th Century BC, to signify popular rule (demo=the people, and Kratein= to rule). However, later refinements of democracy as already stated were the works of come 16″ to 18″ century thinkers and writers. Nevertheless, what obtains today in the name of democracy has really gone far beyond what the Greeks bequeathed humanity. It has made significant development and acquires the life of its own.
The democracy of ancient Greek polis (or city state) as exemplified by Athens had some basic ingredients which include: that the citizens were equal in their political rights and before the law; that public issues were discussed and debated in the Assembly and decided by majority vote; that elected public officers were accountable to the people; that the people enjoyed political and civil freedom including the right to criticize and oppose and they were protected against tyranny by respect for the law. These fundamental principles have today acquired Biblical and theological consideration including that all authority comes from God and leadership is a call to serve.
POLITICAL POWER: A TRUST
- Ancient history has recorded many government and administrative structures of these include: Monarchy (or government one person, usually a king or a queen); Oligarch (or government by a few); Polyarchy government by many); Plutocracy cor government by the rich); Aristocracy or government by the elite). All these are legitimate and valid forms of governance especially if they respected the dignity of the human person and protected the common good.
However, the more the people increasingly demanded for a voice, a participation and a representation in the governance of their nations, the more they yielded to democracy which seems to satisfy that yearning. Power belongs to the people. In a democratic setting, this power is ordinary, limitless, original and native to the people, it is inherent in them. The same is not true of the elected officials. Theirs is entrusted and therefore delegated power. Hence, it is borrowed from the people for whom they exercise it and it is limited to the degree it is consistent with the wishes of the original owners of such power. To the extent it serves the true good of the people, to that extent they can exercise it maximally. Political power is therefore a trust not a property.
- Political power is an authority to oversee and to cause the realization of the good of the community according to the particular law. It is a force for good and at the service of the common good. Political officers have to exercise this power “within the limits of the moral law” (Karl H. Peschke Christian ethics: Vo12, p. 611). The same point has already been emphasized by the Fathers of the Vatican Council II, when they said, “political authority… must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and directed toward the common good according to the juridical order legitimately established” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 74).
- Service for common good is the reason for the existence of political power. Without service to the community therefore, power is meaningless and easily becomes an arbitrary force for oppression and subjugation of masses, the real owners of power. The Father the synod in 1988, made it clear that “the spirit service is fundamental element in the exercise of political power. This spirit of service, together with the necessary competence and efficiency can make “Virtuous” or “above criticism” the activity of persons in public life which is justly demand by the rest of the people” (John Paul II Christifidelis Laici, 1988, p. 42). The Church teaches that authority belongs to the people whose duty it is to delegate such to their rulers. Hence according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “If authority belongs to the order established by God, the choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to free decision of the citizens” (CCC 1901). It also teaches that regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law is already abusing the power delegated to it and cannot achieve the common good of the nations. In addition “if rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience” (CCC1903). All these go to say that political wer is not limitless, it is a trust which should not be abused.
DEMOCRACY: PROJECT IN PROGRESS
- Man is not a perfect being consequently democracy as practiced by man is far from being a perfect system. The imperfections of human nature come to manifest even in democracy. It is not a perfect system but as man makes progress the system can grow in perfection but can also degenerate. The effort will be to progressively make it more worthy of the children of God. The values and light of Christianity can fulfill this noble role. As earlier stated, democracy has its fair share of contradictions and tensions. It follows that without the historico-redemptive mystery of Christ in whom man is restored, democracy will end up a caricature of man’s effort. “The Redeemer confirms human rights simply by restoring the fullness of the dignity man received when God created him in his image and Likeness” (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994, p. 197). Democracy. thus journeys to perfection as man progresses seeking true values with the guidance of reason and informed faith. It is rather clear that democracy is not merely an achievement but also a project to be advanced,
- It is good to note that democracy is not a religion. It is a system that is intended to promote human and social values and development. It is not synonymous with Christianity since Christianity transcends democracy. However Christianity informs democracy and when well practiced, democracy promotes such values like the dignity of the human person, human rights, freedom of conscience… and others which are core Christian values.
DEMOCRACY WITHOUT CHRISTIAN VALUES: THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE
- Nigeria became independent form British colonial rule in 1960 with a democratically elected government. This situation for several reasons did not last more than six years. The democratic governance that was ushered in at independence was virtually weighed down by so many malaise that the military took over the reign of governance in 1966. From that time, Nigeria was burdened with military rule, briefly interrupted by the elected government of President Shehu Shagari till 1999. It means that after the military era, the country has enjoyed now more than fifteen years of uninterrupted democratic governance. How far this system has been guided by Christian values is a serious object of reflection.
- In the first place, one must not deny the progress made in many aspects of life in different levels of governance. Democracy has enabled states that were not better than dungeons during the military era to have a lease of life While one may not say that the gains made are commensurate with the possibility that we have as a nation, it is clear that the progress registered during now more than fifteen years of democratic governance is far better than the near decay that military rule inflicted for several decades on the country. But while there is here and there some advancement made on account of democratic governance, it can also be said without fear of much contradiction that in general all is not well with Nigerian democracy. Some have said that in some respects Nigeria is not a democracy. Not that there are no elections, but what matters is how much the will of the people count. How much have our people been disenfranchised by all types of subterfuge determines how far we can say we have real democracy. Let us listen to some recent public commentaries on Nigerian Democracy.
“Although the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy enshrined in our constitution promise democracy and son justice, and national prosperity, some would argue that after 15 years of so-called democratia restoration, we have experienced neither towe democracy nor meaningful economic development. And if after so long, democracy it is practiced in our country has not promoted good governance and human development, then we must question the reality, effectiveness and quality of such democracy” (Victor Odozi, The Gaurdian, Dec 24, 2014, p. 18).
“Nigeria used to be vibrant, they used to vote. Do you vote now? … Last local government election in my place, I decided to go and vote in my own constituency… By 1pm, some young men came on a motorbike and said well, gentlemen we are sorry, you have been staying here for long under the sun, the election has been held and the result compiled.” (Paul Unongo, Saturday Sun, Jan 10. 2015).
- The two views and comments strike at the root of Nigerian disappointment with its democracy. They talk of the stealing of the democratic mandate of the people and the consequent regress in the desired meaningful development in the country. This situation is engendered by democracy that has jettisoned Christian values and operated without regard to the well being of the people. Let us dwell briefly on some of the evils that crop up because we have wot cultivated Christian values in our democracy. These include:
27: 1. Electoral Malpractice: The fact that our elections are often riddled by innumerable malpractices indicate that our democratic sovereignty has not yet been given to whom it belongs. Electoral malpractice is rife because people are dishonest and have no respect for the populace who are deceived with the hope that their vote can make a difference. Of course the presence of this factor is not equal throughout the country. For instance, there have been here and there incumbent governors who were voted out of office in elections that have certain minimum standard. Note that often when Nigerians speak of incumbency factor, they generally mean the ability of office holders to manipulate elections to their own benefit. Electoral malpractice seem to be present in all levels of elections in but one can easily agree that elections government councils in Nigeria are the Because the state governments are in charge, state electoral commissions are appointees state governors, and these commissions engage in so massive electoral fraud that they do not generally permit any other party except the part, in power in the state to win even a councillor’s seat. This practice completely steals the democratic mandate from the people.
27: 2. Corruption: The manipulation of election is possible because of corruption which is another word for dishonesty with public trust. Corruption thrives in a situation where those in office use their public office to acquire what is not their due. Everybody will readily agree that the level of corruption in our country is too high to allow the governance structures to achieve the development level it is endowed to achieve. In the political sphere, corruption is preponderant because office holders do not see themselves as servants. Their actions are often backed by selfishness not by justice and love. Nigeria is graded as one of the poorest countries in the world, no thanks to the corruption in our system. While we glory in being the biggest economy in Africa, we fail to take seriously the fact that even though we have the highest Gross Domestic Product in Africa, we still have one of the lower per capita income in the continent. And, this is even more surprising given our great potentials. Still with such high level of poverty, our political office holders are among the highest earning office holders in the countries of the world.
27: 3. Greed: Many of our democratic leaders are taking undue advantage of their office for self enrichment. The gap between the earnings of Nigerian political office holders and the normal earnings of other hard working Nigerians must be among the widest in the world. That is part of the reason why politics is by far the most lucrative business in Nigeria. The situation in Nigeria is so appalling because some political leaders are generally not concerned about justice and their responsibility towards the people and the society.
27: 4. Politics without the Sense of Mission: The level of greed and corruption in the political sphere in Nigeria makes one wonder if some political office holders have any vision and mission. It creates a situation where the only objective in politics is to win election and enjoy political office. Consequently, there is no difference between the main parties. Their ends may be different in papar, but for the political actors that is the least important of all other factors.
27: 5. Political Butterflies: Because the programmes of the parties do not play any role in political affiliation, Nigerian politicians move with ease from one party to the other. Many use one party or the other to come to office, and then revert to another party that is judged to promise more fortune to the office holder. The absolute record must be a sitting governor who was a member of three different parties within a period of about three months. Such behavior shows people without any sense of value or commitment.
11.6 Abusive Electioneering: Given that the programmes or fundamental principles of parties do not really matter, elections turn out to be, not an opportunity to convince the voters about the superiority of one’s programmes but a field for throwing mud. Thus in Nigerian electioneering, serious issues are hardly ever seriously discussed because the aim of the candidates is really to acquire power and not to do anything creative, special or positive. Electoral opponents are thus seen as obstacles to this aim and without serious programmes, exchange of abuses replaces critical examination of programmes.
27: 7. Politics of Winner Takes All: This attitude is connected to the political structure but also has to do with perception of and implications of political power. Again this tendency engenders corruption. Political appointments are not extended to those outside the party membership no matter how competent. Political office is seen as an opportunity to get all that one needs. Winner takes all politics is behind the greed which result in the huge and sometimes unjustifiable remunerations of our office holders. It is also responsible for the fact that our political offices are always more than adequately catered for with public funds where so man institutions of the state are virtually starved in proper maintenance.
27: 8. Poor Priorities in Politics: Democratic governance helps in development. But when priorities are wrong or missed, not much can be achieved in this regard. The thwarted priorities of our democratic governance is seen in the allocation of resources where in some states, up to sixty percent of the budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure while some vital areas like education, health and infra-structure are seriously neglected.
27: 9. Bribery: Political office holders who distribute money to the electorate during elections are inducing voters with such gifts. This is tantamount to vote buying or bribing voters to act against their consciences and the well being of the people. Party agents who insist on being bribed for them to cast their votes are also not being guided by Christian values.
- 10. Politics without Honor: This mainly concerns the people who are represented and who are served. Very often the populace and the political agents are so influenced by periodic and paltry gifts that one wonders how far they have cheapened themselves. The expectation of money from political office holders during elections is an indirect way of encouraging corruption in our democratic politics.
27: 11. Politics without Lobby: In advanced democracies, there are lobbies which are devoted to one interest or the other and these virtually compel politicians to listen to their demands. Our people have not lobbies, they are not organized and so politicians can easily manipulate them as individuals
27: 12. Excessive Display of Power: Some Nigerian politicians see themselves as lords and masters of the people and not their servants. Most of them are always surrounded by scores of policemen and other armed men for a price. They find it hard to observe any common rule even in places of worship. The young people who see them as role models thus aspire to be in office not to serve but to be in power and above the law. All these are dismal consequences of the neglect of Christian values in a democratic politics. It without saying that these vices have arisen give a dent to our democratic experience. These are not far from what was observed by Victor Odozi and Paul Unongo. They go to minimize what little progress we have made in some areas Such phenomena should be taken very seriously for any society which desires to experience the progress its potentialities deserve.
GOOD CITIZEN: AN ASSET TO DEMOCRACY
- A well ordered human society, founded on the principle of justice and common good in which one can easily realise his or her potentials without hindrances, is generally the aspiration of every normal person. Experience down the centuries has come to discover that this noble aspiration is a product that derives from the combined efforts of those who lead the society and those of the people who are led. Hence in most modern societies, the duty of responsible leadership is emphasized at par with good followership.
- In our local context the failure or success of a political dispensation is often acclaimed to be the leadership. This should not be. The fact remains that followership is by no means less important than leadership in the task of nation-building. Considered from the point of view of democracy, the former may even be placed on a higher pedestal than the latter given that it is the followers who are supposed to determine their leaders through democratic election.
- There is a great need to deepen our consciousness on the great responsibilities of the followers and the inputs which they can make to support the work of the leaders in order to move the society forward. Pope John Paul II challenges the laity to rise to their Christian duty of witnessing. He writes, “the lay faithful must bear witness to those human and gospel values that are intimately connected with political activity itself, such as liberty and justice, solidarity, faithful and unselfish dedication for the good of all, a simple life-style, and a preferential love for the poor and the least” (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 42).
- It is clear the Pope is addressing both the leaders and the followers. A citizen who faithfully fulfills his civic obligations can be called a good follower. A good citizen who participates actively and positively during democratic elections, who endures the stress of pre-election registration and comes out on the election day to vote the right person out of conscience and not out of gains received, contributes to the making of the society as much as the person voted for. The civil servant who struggles daily to animate his service to the state by his Christian faith without looking for narrow-minded and filthy gains, is very important for our progress as a nation. The teachers who with dedication, carry out their duties of imparting knowledge and values on the young, are equally veritable agents of good political order. The same applies to all others who, out of consideration for the common good of all, pay their taxes and dues to the government, obey traffic rules, report crime to the police and generally comply with the directives and efforts of the government for the good of all. Such citizens are an asset to nation building and of course to democracy.
- By his behavior a good Christian should be a good citizen. Christ taught his disciples to pay tax (cf. Mark 12:13-17) and St Paul advised the Christians to be obedient to constituted built, “authorities. He teaches that, “whoever resist authority resists what God has an Rom13:1-7).
- To be a good citizen consequently proper participation in democratic political process. The Church demands that the should “take an active part in public life” (CC 1915). His Holiness John Pauli writes, “the Church values the demo system in as much as it ensures the participation of citizens in the making of political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those wh govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate” (John Paul II Centessimus Annus, 1991, 46).
- The Church teaches and insists on this “participation” so that each person according to his position and role will contribute to the promotion of the common good. The obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person (cf. CCC 1913). The Church observes that the manner of participation may vary from one country or culture to another but praises democratic system when she says, that one must nay tribute to those nations whose political systems permit the largest possible number of citizens to take part in public life in a climate of genuine freedom”(CCC 1916).
- Active participation in the electoral process and in the general political life of the society is a virtuous act which one should be proud of provided it is done according to right reason and good morals.
SOME MODELS OF LEADERSHIP WITH CHRISTIAN VALUES
- Though there are innumerable example to show that our democratic experience is no guided by the application of Christian there are also many examples in the w people who really understand a practice some of the values we have enumerated as consonant with real democracy. These people may not necessarily be Christians but they have applied Christian values to their rulership. Let us here pick a few examples that can register in our consciousness as guide. One is not saying that the few people mentioned here are saints or that they have no faults. They may be Christians or not. We are merely saying that the examples of leadership they exhibited should be emulated by Nigerians especially those who desire to lead the country aright in its democratic governance.
36:1. Poverty in High Office:
A poor person is generally one who is not able to pay for his personal needs. There are quite some examples of highly placed leaders who were not able to pay for their needs. We mention one of the former presidents of the United States of America. As president he was taken to court, and the case dragged on for so long that he was unable to continue paying his legal fees. This had to be done by some friends who arranged an out of the court settlement and paid the terms of settlement. Again when his wife wanted to contest the senate of New York State, they needed to buy a house in the state, and this was done by advance of royalty from a book contract. Also Collin Powel, the First African American to be appointed the chairman of the joint Chief of Staff of the U.SA military as well as the first to be the minister of Foreign Affairs of that country also bought a house after retirement from advance of the royalty for his best-selling biography since he could not afford such from his savings while in office. As already stated, this is not a canonization process. The point in these examples is to imagine these people being possibly, Nigerians and to imagine how their compatriots will regard them as fools if they were not able to build the most costly house after occupying such high positions even in our poor country. In Nigeria most office holders are wealthiest when they are still in office, they have the wealth of the nation at their disposal through corrupt practices.
36: 2. Poorest President of the World
Jose Mujika was the last president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2014. He was known throughout his tenure as the world’s poorest president. Mujika was earning $12,000 a month, and he always gave out 90% of this salary to and also to help small entrepreneurs. He strongly believed that his value was not in earning more money but in helping his country and his people As president he never lived in the presidential palace. Rather he chose to live in a farm belonging to his wife. Mujika has one personal car, a 1987 volkswagen Beetle which he drives himself. His personal protection consists of two guards and his dog. Mujika protests being called the poorest president of the world. “I am not the poorest president”, he would say, “the poorest is the one who needs a lot to live”.
16:3. Lowest Salary in Presidential Office:
Nwalimu Julius K Nyerere was the president of the Republic of Tanzania for many years. A very simple and saintly personality he devoted everything to the wellbeing of his people. Even though he was president for almost twenty years, he had no house except the one he built as a teacher before coming into politics. A very just man, who displayed this sense of justice when the students of the University of Dar es Salaam organized a riot and his son was one the students indicted for complicity in the riot, the indicted were suspended for two years including his son. Throughout the years he was president, he by personal choice remained the lowest earning worker in the presidency.
36:4. An Example From Nigeria:
Such examples as above are not easy to find in Nigeria, especially among high political office holders. However there is no country or region without good people. There are also in Nigeria . and among the political class those who pose acts and take decisions that are strongly in consonance with Christian values. At present, our former Heads of State and Presidents receive a monthly payment of 23 million Naira month. One of them was reported to have written the ministry of finance and asked to be paid only to percent of that amount, that is 2.3 million monthly. They obeyed his instructions and paid. him only ten percent of what he should be receiving. This is a shining example of leadership. An eloquent statement that in a country where minimum salary is 18,000 Naira, and where some earn even less, it is not proper for one human being to be earning 23 million Naira every month.
36:5. Example of Pope Francis:
Our current Pope was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina. As Archbishop-Gorge Mario Bergoglio, and later as cardinal he refused to live in the Archbishop’s house. He rented and lived an apartment in town. He had no car and no driver and no elaborate personal staff. He used the available public transport to go to work every day and come back to his home at the end of work. As Pope he abandoned the official residence of the Pope to live in a more modest apartment in the Domus Sanctae Marthae-a guest house for Bishops and cardinals.
These are few examples that are worthy of emulation by Nigerian politicians. What is important here is that as leaders, these individuals did not see themselves as deserving all that is good to the exclusion of the less privileged. They did not see power as a means of securing their future or that of their families. They had the conviction that leadership, including democratic leadership is service.
CHRISTIAN VALUES; A CHALLENGE TO NIGERIAN DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP.
- It is clear from our reflections above the Nigerian democracy is not in its optimal state. Given the situation on the ground, there are in the society that are not happy with conditions in the country after more than years of democratic governance. Such pe have the right to expect something better than what they are experiencing. Nevertheless ji hope is not lost. There is every confidence that we have a better tomorrow, in fact a glorious future if we work hard for it.
- We have argued that Christian values which are values evident in the life and teaching of Christ are the values that make democracy what it is. They are the foundation on which democratic leadership is built. It means that if our political leaders want a lasting democracy, they must pay attention to how far their action guided by these values. In making this reflection, it is not enough that one looks at the bad situation and decides to join the bandwagon in order to ensure one’s political future. What is necessary to remember that politics is part of the ephemeral world, and that this world and all in it are passing way. It means that the time that is given to us while in office or while we are able to exert some political influence should be employed to improve the democratic culture of our country. By so doing one makes a lasting contribution to the improvement of both the current and future generations of Nigerians.
- Christian Values constitute a big challenge to Nigerian political players. They have a responsibility to improve the world, including the world of politics. Among them the primary responsibility should be assumed by those of them who are Christians. They should live and engage in politics in accordance with the demands of their faith. We should all be doers of the word of life and not just proclaim our Christianity and forget it in public life. By so doing we are placed in a position to serve the public with good conscience and also enjoy the satisfaction of seeing others who may not be Christians, learn from us, imitate us and become better human beings. Doing so will Christians veritable instruments for propagation of good behavior, good principles and values. They will be examples for all society and so make it progressively a better society
- But Christian values are not restricted those who profess Christianity. They are, cherished human values. In fact anything that is good and praiseworthy can in a way be said to be Christian in the sense that it is reconcilable with the lofty principles of our religion. Political actors should therefore co-operate with all men and women of goodwill to insist that there are things that we must reject and others we must encourage if we hope to achieve the aims of that which democracy is known to pursue. By so doing, we have greater possibility to being fulfilled, in that we will be in a better position to leave our footprints in the sand of time in our society. For the Christian politician, he will be a true witness in addition.
- The populace has also a big challenge to face in encouraging the influence of Christian values. Political agents are the products of their society. not logical to conceive a very dishonest and corrupt society in which the politicians or political office holders are honest. It means that for us to integrate Christian values in our system. everyone has a role to play. Little drops of water make an ocean. When we all play our positive roles, and when there are enough people doing so, our entire society will gravitate to be better.
- Our society need more and more of people who are honest, humble, generous, sincere and peaceful. It needs those who can serve the society with love and maintain justice in their operations. We need leaders who will respect those that are led and see their position as God given opportunity to serve their neighbors.
- It is important to emphasize that unless we are able to integrate these Christian Values into our system and into our socio-political and economic structures, in vain do we hope to have a better country which we can proudly regard as a legacy to our children and oncoming generations. Every society needs men and women that are in tune with the necessary useful values for the improvement of the society. There may be some difficulties in pushing for their acceptance but whatever difficult encountered in such noble efforts must be overcome for the benefit of all in the society.
- God the Father Almighty sent his son to be our savior and our ultimate teacher, Jesus Christ came to save us, and placed us on a completely higher pedestal by living with us, and being a man like us in all things but sin. Christ shared our human condition. Jesus Christ is the perfect man, our redeemer and liberator who came “that we may have life and have it in full” (John 10:10). By sharing our human condition, he has sanctified our earthly existence. His passage on earth as a man in all things but sin has transformed the mundane and made it to share the sanctifying influence of God. It means that our earthly existence should be guided and made holy through Christ. It means that without confusing boundaries, Christians and all men and women of goodwill should live with the sense of responsibility, to change for better the condition of the world.
- The essential structures of our earthly life, including our social and political institution are like gifts given by God to his children to enable them live well here on earth, serve him and the fellow human beings and at last gain eternal rest with Him in heaven. It is through our action here on earth that we accede by God’s grace to eternal life. It means that there is no sphere of the where free for all attitude is permitted, Sir creation is God’s work, it should bare His stamp which should be made more evident through positive engagement of his children.
- Democracy which is today adjudged to be the best form of government that we know me founded on Christian values. If these values on trampled on in our society, if they are neglected our democracy cannot be very functional: our community will be less well governed and its inhabitants will be less satisfied and less able to serve God properly. It is because of this that our democracy in Nigeria must not be delinked from Christian values. All Nigerians both Christians and non-Christians should appreciate the import of these values and cultivate them towards 2 better Nigerian political order.
- Father in heaven, God of power and lord of mercy, From whose fullness we have received,
Direct our steps in our everyday effort. May the changing moods of the human heart, And the limits which our failings impose on hope,
Never blind us to you, source of every good. Faith gives us the promise of peace and makes known the demands of love. Remove the selfishness that blurs the vision of faith.
Through Christ our Lord.