By Ben Â Agande , LukaÂ BinniyatÂ & TordueÂ Salam
Perhaps, when Nigerians embarked on the journey of democracy on May 29, 1999, the expectations were so high whereas the anxiety of a possible collapse of this Fourth republic also filled the air.Â
The reason was simple: after so many decades of engaging in democratic endeavours, Nigeria had never been able to transit successfully from one administration to another.Â This has happened now.Â But eleven years on, some people are still asking if democracy has served this nation well.Â It is for this reason that Sunday Vanguard decided to go in search of answers from that arm of government that suffers the most whenever democracy had suffered a set-back.Â Representatives and Senators gave their opinions below.
We have scored very, very low – Rep. Bala Ibn Na’Allah (PDP/Kebbi)
If am to score democracy in Nigeria, I will score it very, very low. Politicians have turned out more dictatorial than the military that we chased away. We have not been able to deliver on the promises of democracy.
All the issues about free-and-fair election will not materialise because everyone is desperate to either come to office or continue on a second term. Look at the State, all the Governors want to have second terms each and by all means. If you challenge any of them, you are doing so at your own risk. Look at the kind of scandal that politicians are engaged in. If you want me to give me you a fair assessment, a truthful appraisal of our democracy, I would say we have scored very, very low.
We have a stabilised democracy â€”Rep. Clever Ikisipko (PDP/Rivers)
We have done quite well, but we are still learning.
We have had a successful transition from civilian to civil rule three times from 1999 to 2007. This has never happened before. Even when we had a serious constitutional crisis as a result of the illness of late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, our democracy was not truncated. We found a way out. At the end, Good Luck Jonathan became President and Commander-in-chief.
If it were Nigeria of the past, anything could have happened. Nigeria should really appreciate the name â€œEmmanuelâ€ â€“ God is with us â€“ Because everything shows that God is with Nigeria.
On the side of the House, I have been here for seven years now. I have experienced the leadership of Aminu Masari, and for a brief time, that of Hon. Patricia Etteh. Now we are under that of Hon.Dimeji Bankloe. What I want to say is that we are learning. We are still learning, but we need to learn fast. But, we were once a vibrant house more than this. Maybe we need to learn more and fast. But, if you ask me to score the Legislature and the executive, I will give them a pass mark. We have tried.
The Political class has exploited the masses â€”Hon. Obahiagbon
Let me start by asseverating that the debate as to whether May 29thÂ should in fact be our democracy day is one we must continue to force until the exorcisation of the last spectral of military excrescence from our body polity.Â
Â There is no gainsaying the fact that eleven years of uninterrupted democracy has brought in its wake some measure of democratic bourgeoisie dividends. It is certainly audible to the deaf and visible to the blind that we now enjoy a â€œglasnotâ€ in the political space .Fundamental liberties are exercised without any bugaboo of jackboot and garrison paternalism.
Another positive derivative is the seeming survival of democracy itself. But this is how far it goes with deliverables. From the point of view of real concrete milestones, we have been left to meander in the pestilential aqua of lachrymoseism. This is because rather than our democratic peregrination unleash a salubrious developmental tsunami, what we have been visited with by Nigerians mindless and narcissistic political class has been a socio-political sirocco which has left our citizenry more pauperized and sissified.
No respect for the rule of law, the economy is still comatose, the health care delivery system is at best cadaverous, the Niger delta imbroglio is still a web of Penelope, and a drive on state and federal roads is like a dance macabre etc, etc.
The strengthening of our democracy must start from a genuine â€œperestoikaâ€ in our electoral process. Any electoral reform that does not start with extricating the chief electoral umpire from executive claws suffersÂ ab initio from a reformative thalidomide.
Very Low â€” Rep. Bala Ibn Naâ€™Allah (PDP/Kebbi)
If am to score democracy in Nigeria, I will score it very, very low. Politicians have turned out more dictatorial than the military that weÂ chased away. We have not been able to deliver on the promises of democracy. All the issues about free-and-fair election will not materialised because everyone is desperate to either come to office or continue on a second term. Look at the State, all the Governors want to have second terms each and by all means.
If you challenge any of them, you are doing so at your own risk. Look at the kind of scandal that politicians are engaged in. If you want me to give me you a fair assessment, a truthful appraisal of our democracy, I would say we have scored very, very low.
God has been the Pilot â€” Rep. Ita Enang(PDP/Akwa-Ibom State)
In 11 years of democracy, God has made so many things we thought could not happen to happen, particularly the transition from the Yarâ€™Adua Presidency to the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency and the transition between a vacuum president to an actively Acting Presidency situation. A situation where the constitution did not state clearly the conditions for transition and yet the legislature invented the doctrine of necessity and successfully installed an an acting president and the Country is still surviving.
If the Country is allowed to survive and the people are doing well, then it means we can survive anyhow. We also thank Nigerians who have not lost hope.
The United States had situations like this and they have come out of it and they are still moving on. They survived worst things and they are still moving on, so we have done well so far and we would survive.
So far, so good – Rep. Samson PositiveÂ Ihiabe(PDP/Kogi State)
So far, so good! You know coming out from a military dictatorship, a lot of the things that were there during the military are no longer there. Democracy came up in 1979, it was botched and we are back in it again for 11 years, and you see better developmental projects abound. People are having more confidence to talk. People can accost people to ask questions as it relates to nigeria and Nigerians.
But the down sides we have so far witnessed are, the multiplication of political parties. There are too many political parties, so the focus is not very much in the political arena. Larger parties swallow smaller parties and the larger parties cannot be blamed for that. The opposition parties do not have confidence within themselves to sustain opposition and you cannot blame the bigger parties for it. One would have expected that with more than 11years of democracy we would have a strong opposition.Â
It is important to let people know than when the take the opposition line, the issue of dithering right, left and centre is not good for our polity. Let the people know your ideology. Let them know that if you are given the mandate, you will be able to transform their lives for the better.
Our Democracy has come to stay â€“ Mark
The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark has commended Nigerians for their steadfastness and commitment for the propagation and sustenance of Democracy in the Country. Senator Mark in a goodwill message to Nigerians on the celebration of democracy day (May 29) praised the Perseverance of citizens over the years in their believe in the sanctity of civil rule otherwise called democracy as a way of life.
Senator Mark noted that Nigerians have remained resilient and resolute over the years especially since 1999 supporting the successive administrations for democracy to thrive in our land.
According to Mark â€œOur people have toiled and labored for our democracy. Destiny has entrusted in us the responsibility to uphold what our people deserves. We shall do our utmost best to ensure that democracy is not only a norm but a way of life in Nigeriaâ€.
The President of the Senate promised that the present administration will neither disappoint nor deviate from upholding the tenets of democratic government that is participatory and truly represents our people. He was optimistic that the electoral reforms which Nigerians yearn for would be finalised before the expiration of the present administration so that the forthcoming general elections would profit from it. Beside the electoral reforms, Senator Mark said wide sectoral reforms, improving security of lives and properties as well as general welfare of the citizenry have been the center point of the present administration. The President of the Senate for the umpteen time promised that all grey areas and encumbrances inherent in the 1999 constitution have been addressed in the review of the nationâ€™s supreme document.
He said; â€œI am sure that the final copy of the constitution amendment would be a document that would please all sections of Nigeria because we have painstakingly addressed all areas of imbalances and complaints in the Land.
â€œWhat is left now is a concurrence between the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as getting the state houses of Assembly, at least a constitutional requirement of two-third of the state legislatures to endorse the document before the clean copy is rolled outâ€.
Senator Mark therefore pleaded with Nigerians to cooperate and continue to display unalloyed support and loyalty to the Governments at all levels in order to facilitate the delivery of the dividend of democracy.
We are making progress â€” Senator Nimi Amange (Bayelsa East)
We are progressing and I believe if we maintain this standard, we will reach where we want to reach. Democracy that we are trying to copy did not develop to this standard within a year. They learnt from their mistakes, they were given opportunity to correct their mistakes. Unfortunately
we did not pass through that phase of making mistakes and correcting it ourselves.
The slightest mistakes that were made, the military would come in until now when we believe we are hoping to be allowed to correct our mistakes.
Â In the next ten, fifteen years, we hope to have a stable democracy. It is not easy because till today, most of our leaders are still adopting the immediate effect approach to issues. They have forgotten that we are now in civil rule and if you want to do something, you allow people to know early enough. For instance, the issue of deregulation that the government is talking about. As far as I am concerned, deregulation is not bad but the way the government is pushing for its implementation is not good. If you ask some ministers, they will tell you that they donâ€™t know about deregulation. Government should be able to tell Nigerians that we are deregulating so and so time and these are the palliative measures we have put in place.
The electoral process and I put the blame on politicians. They do not regard elections as a contest and in a contest; there must be a winner and a loser. Until we are able to imbibe that culture, we will not make much progress. This explains the lack of opposition in the country because everybody wants to be a winner. The problem is not with the leadership of the electoral body. Politicians are the cause of our electoral problems. And because of the poverty level in the country, it is difficult to end thuggery in the country.
The future looks very bright. We must tackle some basic issues like education. It is so difficult to control ten illiterate people and very easy to control one thousand people who are educated. We have not done well in education. We must also fight corruption in this country. Corruption is celebrated in Nigeria. If we can tackle these two, we will go very far.