By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Friday, expressed views and expectations on the nation’s Democracy Day as democratic rule clocks 21 years, which has been with diverse challenges through the years.
Speaking with Vanguard, leaders of the CSOs pointed out various challenges that have been bedeviling the expected development in the country after 21 years of uninterrupted democracy, which they traced to endemic corruption, tribalism, poor electoral system, nepotism, poor citizens participation, selfishness, mismanagement of public funds, interference with the judiciary, injustice, poor infrastructure, increasing unemployment, and others
The Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi said: “We see the political system getting more organized, more citizens participating through their parliamentary representations at the local, state and national levels. What that also meant is that the governments’ budget increased dramatically.
“Very little attention to public education which produced most in government, public health in shambles with very little attention while many politicians go abroad with their families for health care and thereby improving facilities abroad.
“On security, unemployment is on the rise as we turn out thousands from the National Youth Service twice or three times in a year with no jobs to go to. Without planning for the young population, they remain a fuel for today or future insecurity in the country. So many crises from the North to other parts of the country with diverse leaders politicising lives.
“We have made calls President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a State of Emergency in Violence Against Women and Girl, and we hope he is able that to respond to the current rape epidemic. It is very alarming.
“Women representation in governance should be a source of worry for well-meaning politicians and leaders because women form fifty percent of the population. Meaningful development can only be achieved when the diversity of the population is included in all the decision-making mechanisms across the board.
“Electricity in plain language is critical to industrialisation, different regimes have not succeeded as if citizens will be done a favour.
“This government has made an attempt on social protection for the people with the National Social Investment Programme but has quickly now swallowed it into the bureaucracies of Ministries which has slowed down implementation, history alone will tell.
“Nigerians are very united and love their country, but our politicians do many times use divide and rule to divide us along ethnic lines and religion when it suits them.
“I call on citizens of Nigeria to be patriotic and hold the government to account. This country is bearing a huge burden of corruption from many selfish Nigerians. It remains a great country but we must stand together and play our part. Happy Democracy Day.”
Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said, “Democracy is a process and a system, but sadly, it has suffered huge retrogression and unmitigated disaster in the last four years, due to the incompetency of the Buhari regime. The ‘little gains’ recorded from the flip flops witnessed in governance since 1999, has been significantly rolled back by an administration that promised Eldorado but has shown it has nothing to offer.
“Democracy is at best just a civil administration in Nigeria, but without the vital ingredients of good governance. Its unbroken run since 1999 is worthy of mentioning and attention, but beyond that, it is difficult to comprehend what has now befallen our nation.
“Significantly is the efforts made by successive governments toward uniting the country, but which has now been rolled backward by the divisive nature of the Buhari government.
“The increasing agitation for restructuring is because we have indulged for too long in false federalism, which has definitely worsened every sector of governance. It is obvious that in the manner that Nigeria is currently being managed, the country lacks the power to address its socio-economic needs.
“For instance, the federal government could only distribute palliatives to 3.5 million of about 90 million extremely poor people in the country. It is a tragedy and a monumental calamity that we can’t cater to the need of five per cent of poor people in our country.
“We must work very hard to redeem Nigeria from bad leadership, failed policies, and hopelessness, else, Democracy will become meaningless and tasteless to the upcoming generations.”
The Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, said that “I think we have achieved some milestones particularly in the area of governance compared to the military regime. The opportunity for people to decide who will lead the country is huge progress and it has helped to restored confidence in society.
“The Country has also made progress in the education and infrastructure sectors. Within the period we have put in place new laws and initiatives to strengthen democracy. For example, Nigeria was one of the first countries that established the legal framework on extractive industries for the purpose of transparency and accountability.
“The Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act brought some sanity into the oil and gas industry. Citizens are accessing data on oil and gas companies because of the NEITI report which was not possible during the military regime. The Government has also joined the Open Government Partnerships (OGP) and made several commitments to strengthen governance.
“Although the expectation is still very high and the performance of the political elites has not been helpful. They have mismanaged the resources of the Country which would have helped to improve the economy. Today Nigeria is performing poorly on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International because of the activities of politicians.
“Democracy has helped to attract international support for development in Nigeria. Our external debt was cancelled by the Paris Club creditors which released resources for more investment in critical health and educational programs across the country.”
The Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN, Deji Adeyanju, said, “Nigerians have not really enjoyed the dividends of Democracy aside a few developmental strides that were recorded under the Obasanjo administration, and the Electoral Reform and credible election under Jonathan, no other government had really done anything in my own assessment and view.
“On the issue of federalism, what we are currently practicing in Nigeria is true federalism I doubt because the majority of the federating units barely can survive because they are overdependent on the centre. That cannot be true federalism.
“Can we say there is the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers today in Nigeria, where the overbearing influence with which the President just did with Executive Order 10?
“The President trying to influence State judiciary and legislature through an Executive Order, how can we call this a democracy when there are clear constitutional provisions on this issue?
“On unity, Nigeria is so ethnically factionalised to the point that people are accusing the President of tribalism and nepotism on a daily basis, and you can see from the appointments of the President and you cannot say we are united.
“On security, you can see Boko Haram killing people and it has been so on and on. On education, there is nothing to write about. We see our economy battered and balkanized, unemployment rising every day, and we are declining and not making progress in all indices.”
The Director, Health For Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Arc Nnimmo Bassey, said that “We left military dictatorship in 1999, but the military mindset or culture remains solidly ingrained in our politics. Politicians and bid men go around in convoys and needless sirens. You have uniformed officers standing behind elected officials as if they were military ADCs
“Some elected officials behave like emperors, run cabinets that are not even good sounding boards and public consultations, where they happen, are mere theatre.
“We run a unitary system introduced by the military in the 1960s and give it a federalist garment. Nigeria isn’t running the federal system. At best you may call it a quasi-federal, quasi-unitary system.
“There has been a persistent erosion of the spirit of patriotism and of nationhood as the social fabric — measured by citizen’s well-being— has long been ruptured. Just as 70 per cent of the people are in the informal sector, so we can say that 70 per cent of everything is self-sourced. People are insecure whether confronted by security officers or by criminals.
“Health? Except for the lockdown, those who can afford medicare went offshore. Ask the political leaders when they last went to a Nigerian hospital, not counting those isolated or quarantined because of COVID-19.
“To get a picture of legacy investment in education it may be best to ask of this from ASUU.”