I think 13 years of democracy has been generally turbulent in this country from 1999 to date. There are many factors responsible for this. One, there has not been transparency in the way and manner we conduct our elections. Secondly, even internal democracy within the political parties also has a lot of challenges. Thirdly, there had been a high proliferation of corruption across the board in all tiers of government since 1999.
The level of corruption is unimaginable and it has changed the entire nation to the point that poverty has now become very rife. Poverty has brought up other challenges of violence and now, terrorism. I think that there is need for us as elites to really do a rethink on this political situation.
But in spite of this, it does not mean that democracy itself is not important.
It is important; it is relevant; it is the best way forward to have good governance in this country. But I believe if we all put our heads together and think of a way forward, then we may still be able to cross the rubicon and deliver our country. Whatever you see on the ground now in terms of development could have been done 10 times better given the enormous amount of resources this nation has.
I think the Jonathan administration also started on a very faulty line. I believe the challenges the administration is facing now in terms of this upsurge of violence is a pointer. Although some people will say it didn’t start with the Jonathan administration but the bottom line is that any government that is in power at any given time has the responsibility to ensure that things are normal and bring sanity into the polity so that this country can move forward.
Everyone of us is suffering with the way and manner the entire crisis has become a major impediment to delivering the dividends of democracy. I think he (Jonathan) would have done much better if he had not allowed things to get this bad. The government should embrace dialogue; the government should listen more rather than just talking.
They keep reacting to issues. When you keep reacting to situations, your focus is shifted away from the ball and once your focus is shifted away from the ball, you will miss the goal. Government needs
to do more – stop corruption in the country so that the country can be better. But beyond Jonathan, I think we should also be talking about what governors are doing. Governors are practically stealing from the electorate.
Most of them do not have the moral high ground to be in the offices they are occupying because all the elections that we’ve had in this country were marred by various malpractices. They are not just stealing, but they are also practically upturning the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria upside down. They are tampering with local government funds, they are trampling on the rights of even members of the Houses of Assembly in their oversight functions.
The issue of corruption must stop. I pray that the National Assembly will have the political will to do what is necessary in amending the constitution by criminalizing governors who violate the constitution.
We need to look at the independence of the electoral process at the local government level so that we can have an independent arbiter to conduct election so that the electorate can truly elect leaders of
their choice. So it’s not about Jonathan but also the other tiers of government.
Governors have majority of the people under them but we keep talking about the Federal Government alone. We need to beam the searchlight more on them (governors). Even the crises that we have here and there; what are the governors doing in employing dialogue? After all, majority of the people are in their domain, so they should know and they should embrace dialogue.
So far, so good but…
Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun, Second Civilian Governor of Plateau State and former Minister of Industries
Well it has been so far, so good. I can’t say it has been perfect, but we are making progress. You know that after so many years of military rule, coming back to start practising democracy is like learning all over again. There were children who were born, who went to school up to university, knowing the military only.
So we have in the past 13 years of returning to democracy been struggling. We haven’t got it right completely, but we have faith in it and we’ll continue to move.
It has been very difficult, more especially with the federal system we are operating which is a very complex system. The complexity of the composition of the Nigerian people itself has added to the difficulties we are facing. But I think with time, we’ll get over it.
The important thing is that we continue to learn from our mistakes. We’ll continue to make mistakes but we must continually learn appropriate lessons from them and we’ll grow.
The advanced countries that appear to be getting it right did not get to where they are overnight. They did not achieve it in 13 years; it went over several years and even till today, they haven’t got it all perfect themselves. So I think the important thing is that we are focused.
The Nigerian people have agreed that democracy is best for us and we are moving along. There are difficulties but with the will, I think we’ll get to the promised land. I have been a strong supporter of the clamour for the devolution of powers from the federal to the state and local governments and I still stand by that belief. I grew up knowing the parliamentary system when the regions were virtually autonomous.
The powers were in the regions even though they operated under the same federation.
But the military came with their command structure and collapsed everything and the states became appendages and you know the difficulties we’ve been having all these while.
The clamour has been that the powers of the Federal Government should be devolved to states and local governments so that they can exercise more freedom. The Federal Government will still be there to oversee things that are like a common wealth, but the basic things like education, health and even the police should be devolved to states so that they can operate at their level and the Federal Government will be there supervising.
The bi-cameral legislature at the federal level is a big drain on the country’s resources. During the last attempt to review the constitution during President Obasanjo’s Administration, some of us had suggested a return to the Parliamentary System because it was easy and it was cheaper.
The expenditure on the National Assembly alone is enough to take care of a lot of other things in this country. So I’m still for a return to a single legislature, one parliament where everyone is a member. You are a member of parliament first before you can become president or prime minister. So I think if we do that, it will help.
This issue of the Federal Government being too powerful , the enormous power at the centre is what is responsible for the clamour by everybody wanting to be at the centre. Because that is where the power
is, the control of resource and all that. Everyone wants to be there at the expense of the population itself.
The Parliamentary System provides for robust debates and the government in power is put on its toes at all times. It also cuts down the cost of governance.
INEC under Jega has been improving a lot and I think we’ll see a marked difference in forthcoming elections which is what everybody has been clamouring for. The other thing is the organization of the political parties. We have too many parties in this country.
Even though people say that is democracy but we are still a developing country and I think some things have to be enforced like Babangida did by imposing two political parties. Some of the existing political parties do not even have offices and during elections, they talk anyhow and cause problems. This is unhealthy. I feel there should be a law prescribing just two political parties for this country.
On Jonathan’s administration
Jonathan has been doing his best for this country. People sit down and criticize governance from outside but they don’t know what is involved. For instance, people talk about the Boko Haram problem and say he should have been more decisive but there are a lot of intricacies involved. I think Mr. President is trying his best and we should give him credit for at least keeping the country together as one despite all that have been happening. We should continue to give him courage to go on with what he is doing and it is a credit to him that he has been handling things the way he is doing.
The administration’s transformation agenda is also commendable and is on course. We can see the efforts of the administration in the power sector, the transport sector, education and so on. Power had been a major headache in this country and a lot is being done to improve on it. Enormous resources have been committed to improving the sector.
The administration is also doing a lot in the area of education. The establishment of more universities, the Almajiri Education System and so on, are some of them. So I think (Jonathan) has started well and we should support him to do more in the next years.
Yes, people must criticize and I think that is good for democracy, but we should also commend him when he is doing well. I think he is handling the country with maturity.
Traditional institutions are left behind in this democracy —Calabar Monarch
As the country once again celebrates the enthronement of democracy in the country, some Nigerians have x-rayed the journey so far especially within the last thirteen years of unbroken democracy in the country. As some have given accolades to the government both at the federal and state levels, they have also called for improvement in some areas. Cross River State people have expressed their opinion on the present democratic dispensation and pointed out areas that require urgent attention.
According to the Muri Munene of the Efut nation and paramount ruler of Calabar South Local Government Area, Muri Munene Efiong Mbukpa, though government at the federal and states have tried to sustain the democratic principles, the traditional institutions seem to have been left behind.
The natural ruler said, “Well as it concerns the roles of traditional institution in this democracy, I will say that it has nothing to write home about because the constitution itself has not given traditional rulers any role to play. So, one will say that the traditional institution has nothing to do with the present democracy as it were in Nigeria.
“However in our different domains, I think we have tried to make sure that democracy thrives. That is why there is love, peace and order and that is what democracy is all about. Allow the people have their right, allow people know their right and allow their right to prevail.
“Well under His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan, the Commander in Chief, I want to say that so far so good as far as democracy is concerned. If you look at the President’s body language and his utterances, you will know that he is a lover of peace and would like democracy to thrive in Nigeria.
“I remind us that we are in a learning process, it took America so many years to arrive at where they are now. So for Nigeria, we are still in the teething stage, I believe that we will be there very soon. After all ,this is the first time we are having thirteen years of unbroken transition from civilian to civilian government, it clearly shows that democracy is having its roots in Nigeria no matter the fault, I think we are thriving faster than America itself.
“In Cross River State, people are reaping the dividends of democracy under the leadership of Governor Liyel Imoke. The governor has tried so much. In the area of education, he is there; roads in the hinterlands, he is there; rural roads, he is there; water, he is there; mention it in all the facets of life, government has tried as much as possible to allow people reap the dividends of democracy, “
He however stated that provision of infrastructure is the basic responsibility of government. “I must remind us that these are the basic duties of a government to provide roads, water, health, education. I want government to look at the human development angle to develop human beings to be able to man these different aspects of improvement that have gone into the health sector and educational sector.
“We even have teachers in the classrooms who are computer illiterates, government should try to make sure that human development is part of our priority. It was the priority of the government of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, that is how he developed the west, that is why you have professors more than any where in the country coming from the west because of human development.
Human development should be an aspect that democracy should try to improve upon. If we don’t have human development ,we continue to invite the Chinese or Americans to go to the space on our own behalf.”
The monarch also urged the federal government to take the issue of power more seriously. “When there is no power or electricity, everything goes down because to run a generator costs much. Industries now run generator and it will definitely increase the cost of production, but if we have a steady power which the federal government is trying to do but it is not meeting the targets set by itself, the economy will improve.”
For Bishop Tunde Adeleye of the Diocese of Calabar, Anglican Communion, “our democracy has been battling and struggling with lots of hindrances and challenges. According to him, practitioners of democracy seem not to be learning much on its principles as they continue to make the same mistakes every time.”
The Man of God also said that those elected under the principle of democracy are not having the interest and desire of the populace in mind as they seem not to be addressing the needs of the people particularly in the areas of health, education, housing, et cetera.
He commended the present National Assembly which he said seems to be working hard, and have through their oversight functions reduced corruption, but noted that they are facing the challenges of truthfulness and battling with the powers that be in their oversight function.
Bishop Adeleye said that election in the country has improved but the country is still grapping with the challenges of inadequacies, cheating and allegation of rigging, adding that, “There are people whose moral status are questionable, who are holding positions in this country.
There are people whose marital status we don’t know, we don’t know how their children are and we don’t know if their children are drunkards. All these are not put into consideration, rather we are interested in party loyalty.”
He noted that the nation’s democracy is still facing the challenge of ineptitude in areas of sufficient research and execution in the socio-economy and political situation. He also pointed out the challenge of insecurity, adding that, “People don’t sleep with their two eyes closed. Churches are being attacked. Boko Haram is a monster pursuing everybody in this country.”
He said that all the political parties in the country lack ideology and called for a change of attitude. He also advised the security agencies in the country to save the innocent citizens from the enemies, be proactive and try to prevent an attack before it is unleashed on people and not only to wait for an attack to be carried out before they can react.
Also commenting on the nation’s brand of democracy, a legal practitioner and human right activist in the state, Chief Utum Eteng said that the country is making progress slowly and steadily and that the country needs to improve on some few aspects of democracy.
“Democracy is all about transparent election, free and fair election and the right for the citizens to exercise their franchise without threat, fears and or intimidation. Under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, progress is being made and the target is high except for the organized sabotage, whereby people want to put their fellow Nigerians in the disadvantage of fear and insecurity.
It is unfortunate that some section wants Nigerians to explode for untenable reasons but Jonathan is a lucky man in that he took time to appoint an experienced National Security Adviser in the person of General Andrew Azazi.
“By this I mean, Nigerians would have exploded and our democracy would have come to a halt but for the ability of the NSA to hold the situation. We pray Nigerians should give peace a chance for the democracy to thrive no matter the errors. Democracy is far better than military rule,” he said.
Lives are not safe —Alhaji Yerima Shettima, President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum
Honestly, the last one year, I think the government has not done enough. But then, I will also put it this way that at the inception of this government after the election. There was really nothing anybody could have expected in the midst of the recent happenings of insecurity.
There is no where in the world you will expect that if you have instability, lack of proper security networking on ground, you now expect that government will do anything positively in order to bring in developmental issue. One would have expected that nothing would have happened because it is a serious problem.
The last one year has been critical and more of challenging to Nigerians. I think it is more of a moment for the nation to reflect and begin to chart positive thinking about Nigeria. It is a moment of sober reflection now… Gradually, you know, insecurity is a problem that has been there for many years, so we do not expect that any miracle could have come overnight and resolve the problem of insecurity because certain injustices have been meted in several parts of the country and we have come a long way also in our own activism.
For over 10 years, we have been clamoring for a Sovereign National Conference, SNC, because certain injustices have been meted on people, Nigerians as a whole. So we expect that something drastic would have happened. Having said that, really we expect that sovereign national conference will hold to take Nigerians to the next level, otherwise, any other effort we are doing now means pushing the dooms day ahead, because we are still going to have more troubles in our hands.
The govt has not done well in tackling corruption and security challenges—Chekwas Okorie, ex National Chairman, All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.
Nigeria has not done very well in the area of security. The economy is on a very sound footing. The theme of Minister of Finance and Central Bank Governor and so on, seem to be working.
The energy sector is also picking up. I think the greatest challenge facing the government is this corruption that is so endemic and then insecurity that has taken everybody back. If the government can be more proactive in the area of fighting corruption and provide security, I think it will be good.
But I believe that the Minister of Finance is doing what nobody has done in the past in the area of insisting on budget implementation.
This is her first year in office, I believe that things are picking up and she will have a good score sheet by the time she completes her term. But this first year is a year in which much of foundation has been laid.
And I am satisfied with the foundation though not many people will agree that things are improving but a critical mind would agree that certain areas have improved including the ones I just mentioned.
The House of Repshas done well—Uzo Azubuike, Chairman, House Committee on Public Petition, House of Reps
At the commencement of the House, the seventh House of Representatives decided to choose its leadership so that we can take responsibility for our actions and inactions, then against the practice of imposition of leadership. We voluntarily elected Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker of the seventh House of Representatives and Hon.
Emeka Ihedioha as Deputy Speaker, and that election was devoid of partisanship and characteristic tribalism in Nigeria. We came out in one voice and they took up the responsibility of leadership in the House and today, any watcher of events in the House of Representatives will join us in thanking God that we have real Nigerians, nationalistic and patriotic in the leadership of the House.
For the first time in the seventh assembly, we insisted and all the agencies of government brought their budget except the CBN. Before now, it never happened.
They now brought their budgets for appropriation. In the case of the CBN, you are aware that both the Senate and house of Reps have commenced processes of the CBN Act to ensure that the CBN governor does not become a lord to himself and that the governing council of the CBN does not become sovereignty. Everybody must operate according to the provision of the constitution. If you are an agent of government, your funds must be appropriated by the national assembly. What that institution earns and what it spends every year must be known. That is what we have achieved.
We are moving slowly but surely towards the promised land— Tolagbe Animashaun
Chief Muritala Tolagbe Ani mashaun is a notable Peoples Democratic Party chieftain in Lagos and he contested last election as PDP’s senatorial candidate for Lagos Central Senatorial District. He says:
As far as I am concerned, we have achieved quite a lot. For one, no one would have believed it possible in the history of this nation that people could come together to vote a minority as the President of this country.
This is a sign that democracy is working. For the first time in our history, we are practising the politics of inclusion where anybody, whether from the majority or the minority can aspire to the highest office in the land.
Only democracy could have made that possible. Secondly, for once in this country, we have our own people in key positions of the economy, running its wheel of development. I am talking about the likes of Dangote, Adenuga, Isiyaku Rabiu and Jimoh Ibrahim of this country.
I don’t so much believe in the idea that only foreigners can develop this country. I believe if we create the enabling environment and empower our people, we can take this country to any height of our dream. No one can lift our nation better than ourselves.
Thirdly, in the areas of development and entrepreneurship, now, we have many Nigerians owning their businesses. We are still not there yet but there is a lot of improvement. We are a very proud people and more than ever , we are looking inward. Look at the petroleum sector, we have what they called the ‘local content’ initiative where our people are controlling the larger stake in the industry. All these have been brought about by successive governments under democratic dispensation, especially under President Goodluck Jonathan. Now he is trying to do the same with Power Holding Company of Nigeria and all spheres of the Nigerian economy. It is going to take us sometime but definitely, we are moving towards the promised land. Our democracy has yielded quite a lot of dividends.
I will score this government low in the area of including the other areas of the country in governance, especially the Southwest region. Probably because the South-south people have never been in government before, they are kind of excluding the other areas. They should remember that the south-south was not developed by south-south people alone. The area was developed by the resources of entire Nigeria.
So the government should practise the politics of inclusion not the politics of exclusion. They should also remember that resources within the confines of the country belong to all Nigerians regardless of where such resources are found. Like I told you, the government should practise the politics of inclusion where every geopolitical zone of the country is squarely involved in the governance of the country.
The business of running this country should be a collective responsibility of everybody regardless of tribes or religions. We must all join hands together to make sure the President succeeds. To sustain this growing democracy, we should shun partisan politics and be nationalistic in seeing to it that Nigeria works. Remember, if you are pulling down Jonathan, you are pulling down yourself.
He remains the President until 2015 and if he desires to contest again, it is his right. The only option available is to contest against him and we can have free and fair election. I am very optimistic that the democracy of this nation will be sustained no matter how hard some people try to pull this country down.