deputy Editor

Today, Nigeria is marking 11 years of new and uninterrupted democracy.
It is a journey that began when the table turned on the then  military head of state, general Sani Abacha who died suddenly in office and created room  for the emergence of a transitional head of state, general Abdulsalami Abubakar whose hurried transition to democratic rule  saw the emergence of a  former military head of state general Olusegun Obasanjo as civilian President.
Indeed, Obasanjo’s journey to power  was charted by the annulment of June 12 1993 presidential election believed to be won by Chief MKO Abiola who was later martyred during his bid to actualise his mandate.

Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in on the 29th of  May, 1999 after a near – death experience in prison  for an  alleged involvement in a  military coup. The  dawn of  the new democracy was wildly celebrated and despite the initial opposition to Obasanjo’s candidacy, Nigerians accepted that having a retired general in a civilian garb was better than  military dictatorship.

Still wounded by his experience in prison, the then  new President  Obasanjo had promised  Nigerians that the second opportunity afforded him  to serve as a civilian President would  enable him restore the legacies he left behind in October 1979 when  he handed over power to the Shagari administration. He went on and  summarised  such legacies as a healthy economy with robust reserve in which the naira exchanged for two dollars, an independent and courageous judiciary, as well as a nation which commanded international respect, a democratic structure, a nation in which every citizen had a hope and chance of self fulfilment.

During his swearing in, President Obasanjo described  the richness of the democratic dispensation as  a golden opportunity which must not be squandered. He described democracy  is a chance  for rebirth, a chance to rekindle the transformation of the country into a land of opportunity and justice  for all.

He expressed confidence that democracy would provide an opportunity to create an enabling environment to actualize the vast potentials which nature and providence had endowed Nigeria with, saying that would be realisable  in a climate of peace, security, justice and equity. He urged Nigerians to  seize the historic windows of opportunity and not let victory allude the people as they may never be lucky again.

Eleven years after, it has indeed  become a sad story that Nigeria’s democracy is not yet deeply rooted. The expectation  that those at the helm of affairs will deepen democracy has been in vain. Nigeria has not been able to organise a simple free and fair election since 1999 . Those who  believed that Obasanjo was imposed on Nigerians saw the  subsequent elections which were bastardised as the confirmation of their belief .

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent eight years in power during which he tried desperately to get a third term but failed  and when he could not perpetuate himself , he handed over to Umaru Yar’Adua, the younger brother of  his co-traveler  in prison, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua  who was also his second-in-command when he was the military head of state.

The choice of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was  perceived as a deliberate choice.  It is also  believed  that over the years, the election umpire, INEC, always did the bidding of  Peoples Democratic Party , PDP, the party in power and  ensured  that  the  favoured nominees of the party  emerged winners at every election.

The  late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was honest enough to admit after he was sworn in that his own election was flawed and subsequently, he set up a committee to reform the  electoral  process which was headed by Justice Uwais.

Unfortunately , Justice Uwais’ submission on electoral reforms is still hanging on a balance. The greatest threat facing democracy today would be the non – implementation of this report which is believed to hold the key to  free and fair elections in Nigeria.

It is an open book that  for eleven years, Nigeria’s attempt to democratise  is  marred by judicial foul plays, chaos, lawlessness, corrupt practices and a most frivolous electoral system.

Late President Yar’Adua’s , Vision 20-20-20 is still staggering and is on the verge of  total eclipse as nothing is being done to ensure it’s realisation.

In the heat of  the storm at present is the zoning policy of the ruling party, the  PDP. The death of President Yar’Adua paved way  for the  former Vice President who is from the South-South to become President and the likelihood that he would contest the next presidential election  has left the north where the PDP has zoned the Presidency at present gasping for breath.

The road to amnesty is still slippery and the question on the lips of many Nigerians is, will we ever get there? In this Democracy Day edition, Saturday Vanguard went in search of answers to the  many questions being asked about democracy.

We should sustain this democracy — Gowon

General Yakubu Gowon, Rtd. was a former head of State. He believes that democracy is changing the face of things for the betterment of  the people.
The country is celebrating 11 years of democracy, what is your opinion?

It is definitely wrong to say, 11 years of democracy, rather, it is better put as return of democracy. But, to answer your question, I believe the leadership of this country will change for the better.

There is no need for dictatorship as it was in the past. My opinion is that, true democracy would be restored to the country.

It appears  the country is blessed with bad leadership?

Saying the country is blessed with bad leadership is a wrong .  The fact is that, we are beginning to see the true democracy, not as before. Nigerians are beginning to know their rights  as citizens and that is why democracy is important for a country like Nigeria . Things are beginning to change in the country and I hope we will be able to practice true democracy for the sake of development in Nigeria.

Parliamentary system is better— Pa Fasoranti

Reuben Fasoranti is the leader of  Afenifere in Nigeria. For him, celebrating democracy in Nigeria is a waste of time. According to him, the leadership of this country has been a source of disappointment which calls for a sober reflection.  Excerpt.

What has democracy cost us since 1999?

Democracy in Nigeria is not stable. Our educational system  has crumbled, corruption has become the order of the day.

Our roads are bad, morals of the nation is at its lowest ebb. In fact, it is out of place talking about democracy in Nigeria when the state of the nation is nothing to write home about. It is hard to talk about democracy in a nation where masses are used as instruments of destruction. The so-called leaders in the country are only mindful of  what goes into their pockets, leaving the masses to suffer.

Are you saying we are blessed with bad leadership?

My opinion of the leadership of Nigeria is that, it has lost focus. It is distracted and loyal to its party members instead of the public. Our elected leaders are a disappointment. They are interested in looting the treasury of this country without giving back to the nation.

So, how  would you score the so-called democracy?

We have not made any progress since 1999. It is worse than better. There is need for new leadership that is committed to the welfare of the masses. The leadership of this nation should know that, there is need to give back to the people.

There is so much corruption in the country. Our so-called leaders are not ashamed of the present situation of the country. The fact is that, there is no progress at all.

Some people believe that our presidential system of government is rather, too expensive considering our resources, what is your take?

Yes, it is expensive.

So, how can it be better managed?

The country cannot continue to practice presidential system of government in situation like this. Rather, there is need to go back to our parliamentary system of government. It is better for us.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.