Nafisa Atiku: In a Democracy, Everyone Counts
The Four Freedoms is a series of paintings by Norman Rockwellwhich depicts the four fundamental freedoms embodied by the American people. Later, an amazing artist, Hank Willis Thomas, re-created them to be more reflective of a more inclusive America.
The rationale behind the re-creation of the art was to state that there are not just four American freedoms but 350 million freedoms. Each individual with their own voice, none less important than the other – whether Black, Caucasian, Asian, Native American. Male or female, physically challenged or not, all voices mattered and needed to be heard.
In one of the pictures, ‘Aja,’ a poet, stated, ‘‘I didn’t always believe in voting. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to trying to be included in things that weren’t set up for us to be. When it comes to voting, I’ve been very discouraged by the whole political show. If we were a true democracy we would still count the votes of those who abstain from either candidates up for election. All voices need to be heard, seen and respected. Voting isn’t the end, it’s one avenue of being heard, but we have to continue to vote with our art, our dollar, our presence and our organising.’’ I couldn’t agree more.
Every democracy struggles with being inclusive and our democracy is no different. My mind was brought to this last month when the different political parties were conducting their presidential primaries; a physically challenged man with no assistance clearly struggled up the podium to cast his vote. He was determined to have his voice and interest counted, and it was. This democracy belongs to all of us and no one should be left behind.
If having an inclusive system of government is cardinal towards creating a sustainable democracy, then why does it seem so exclusive? Why did we until recently shut the youth from being actively involved in governance? Or decline to support women who have the boldness to come out for public office but instead ridicule them on the basis of their sex? Why don’t we have policies that cater to the needs of the physically challenged and the old?
Our system of government hardly represents the diversity of our people, whether on the basis of sex, tribe, age, disability or status. It’s an issue we need to pay attention to as we vote next year. Even more so, it’s a campaign we need to talk about. Nigeria is far beyond tribalism and other ethnic squabbles. There are so many interests in society that need to be represented at the helm of governance.
For one, we need to stop paying lip service to women in governance and actually support them and advocate for affirmative action that includes introducing policy changes that reserve a quota for women in every election. Democratize access to education and social amenities. In other words, make service delivery more inclusive. Encourage economic policies that ensure the prosperity of the average Nigerian. This is one of the keys to having an inclusive society. Poverty on a very massive scale increases the chances of producing an unequal society. Our government must reflect the people they serve.
An inclusive government is the key to a sustainable democracy, nobody should be left behind.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime