By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
it is another day to commemorate Democracy Day in Nigeria after 22 years of the return of democracy, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, came up with their assessment and score about Nigeria’s democratic journey and spoke on their expectations ahead of 2023 general elections.
Nigerians should demand immediate passage of Electoral Act — CDNDC
The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said, “Twenty-two years of the most extended civil rule in Nigeria, our failure on two major fronts have wholly undermined our democratic journey: allowing undemocratic elements to manipulate their ways into hijacking democratic structures and institutions, and the second, not being aware enough to make informed decisions and allowing our fault lines to trump rational decisions and the building of a nation that works.
“A combination of these factors led us into the Buhari den, where life is nasty, brutish, callous, meaningless and short, and we do not know what will happen before we get to the electoral bridge crossing into 2023.
“It is sad, painful, and heart-wrenching that 22 years after, we are in this terrible mess, led by a dictator, who sometimes qualifies as an absentee landlord, threatening some parts of the country with the genocidal remark.
“Going forward, we should be prepared for 2023 by first demanding the immediate passage of the Electoral Act, and then commence the process of selecting a leader with a good pedigree who can assemble the best of Nigerians to solve the most of our problems; a leader who will convene a genuine process for the restructuring of Nigeria.”
What change we’re hoping for- same actors since 1960s — CAAPA
The Director of Programmes, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, Philip Jakpor, said, “As a nation we have moved fast in the wrong direction in terms of putting in place the structures that deepen democracy. Instead the same ethnic sentiments and corruption that plagued the first, second and third republic are back on the saddle and threatening to sink this ship again
“There’s a fundamental problem in the Constitution that we are running on. I believe the best constitution we ever had is the 1963 constitution but there is a need to tinker with it to reflect the reality of the times.
“Then there were regional governments but today we have states and agitation for more states which cumulatively reflects that there are injustices in the current structure that are fuelling calls for more. There is also the call for us as a nation to revert to the derivation principle when it comes to the revenue generation.
“There is also the issue of state religion which may be the reason behind some of the religious crisis across the nation, especially in the northern part of the country where, despite the claim that we operate a secular constitution, allows Sharia to be practiced and raised to the standard as State religion.
The Jakpor concluded, “The structure is faulty and must he reviewed for us to get out of the mess we are in today. The more we delay it, the more we delay our ascension to the place we should be after 61 years of independence.
“As you can see, the same actors in the political space in the 1960s are still there today. Look at the democracies we want to emulate if it is the same?”
There is no rule of law under this democracy — CSCCS
The Convener, Civil Society Consortium on Civic Space, CSCCS, Mbasekei Martin Obono, said, “Nigeria’s democracy under General Muhammad’s Buhari has been nothing but a military rule. We have practically moved back to the pre-1999 era. There is no democracy without rule of law.
“Buhari has failed to uphold rule of law. On a daily basis, he has consistently failed to uphold the tenets of democracy and accountability. Our democracy has been rolled back to military era.”
Our 22 years of democracy sheer waste — OLF
The Founder and President, One Love Foundation, OLF, Patriot Patrick Eholor, said, “We have wasted 22 years without achieving anything. There is no freedom yet in Nigeria.
“People do not have the freedom to gather; the press is not free, the military and police are still intimidating Nigerians, votes don’t count and the people cannot decide who govern them.
“After 22 years, there is no electricity, no portable water, our roads are not motorable, our hospitals are not working; in fact, our leaders are still patronizing foreign hospitals despite the trillions allocated to hospitals.
“Our education system has collapsed; Nigerians now flood Benin republic, Ghana, Togo, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Gambia for their tertiary education. That’s shameful!
“We have not made any progress at all. Politicians are still cross carpeting to loot and share our common patrimony with reckless abandon. It is a shame.
“At 22, we are still operating a constitution written by corrupt military men; we cannot travel from Benin to Abuja by train; or even Abuja to our oil headquarter (Port Harcourt) by train. We have wasted this opportunity and allowed it slipped from us.
“We are still playing with everything; placing religion and tribalism above everything; encouraging nepotism and division, building more churches and mosque instead of schools and industries.
“At 22, Agric ministry is building mosques as a project and the government is banning Twitter that has helped our youths to be employed. We have along way to go because this is 22 years of shame and disgrace.
“We want restructuring, decentralization of power, abolition of federal character, honestly fighting corruption, free medical care, student grant, reform of the banking system, limiting financial contribution to political parties, reforming the police, a bend for Cross Carpeting, and jail sentence for election ringers.”
True democracy in Nigeria threatened by recurring political efforts to shrink civic space-CISLAC
The Executive Director, CISLAC, and Head of Transparency International in Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said, “We, without hesitation, state that true Democracy in Nigeria is threatened by recurring political efforts to shrink civic space, growing ethnic intolerance, disobedience to citizens’ human rights, lingering socio-economic injustice, poor policy response to diverse agitations, and mismatched political ideology by successive administrations.
“While Nigerians were hopeful for renewed dynamism in addressing the myriad problems bedeviling the country following the return of Democracy in 1999, we are concerned that they are today compelled to endure growing socio-economic and political challenges presented by successive administrations. These include endless insecurity, pervasive corruption and mismanagement, rising poverty and unemployment, non-observance of citizens’ human rights, and total disobedience to the rule of law.
“We observed that effort at citizenry levels to protest and express dissatisfaction with governance is hampered by threats that currently manifest in media harassment and intimidation, unlawful ban of a social media App, constant harassment of Human Rights and Anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations, illegal ban on protest, and arbitrary arrests. These without doubt, are basic symptoms of the lack of necessary democratic values in Nigeria.
“We on this note express total disappointment at unlawful actions of some individuals or groups to undermine Democratic values, inflame mayhems and public disorder as recently demonstrated in unconstitutional restriction of fellow citizens’ rights and freedom, targeted destructions to lives and public property, and unguarded divisive utterances, primarily to aggravate ethnic tensions and communal instabilities.
“We are more concerned that the democratic values which were meant to enhance socio-economic opportunities for betterment of the marginalised, promote peaceful co-existence, secure citizens’ rights and freedom, and protect the vulnerable groups are mistook by some individuals or groups to exacerbate insecurity, inflict tensions, killings, destructions and instabilities; as recently observed in some parts of the country.c v
“We reiterate concerns over shaky credibility and integrity that dominates Nigeria’s electoral system and process. This accompanied by electoral irregularities including fraud, vote buying and rigging as well as massive deployment of hoodlums in elections, continues to impair reform, justice, transparency and accountability in electoral process, while breathing public distrust in political institutions.”
22 years after, we’re in a fix — HOMEF
The Director, Health For Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Arc Nnimmo Bassey, said, “June 12 marked a major turning point in our conflict-ridden paths to democracy. 22 years after, we are experiencing a dramatically constricted civic and democratic space. We are living in a situation almost akin to the autocratic days of the jackboots. Why are we in this fix?
“We celebrate June 12, but political leaders still see themselves as military leaders or emperors who must be obeyed without question and who are not accountable to the people.
“We have got to a juncture where the economic space is closing even for the majority who depend on informal jobs and livelihood pursuits. Farmers, fishers and herders cannot pursue their trades without fear of getting kidnapped, raped or murdered.
“Going to school these days exposes students and teachers to unimaginable risks. Lawlessness is fast becoming the norm due to a gross loss of confidence in the system across board.
“We got June 12, but the political system remains fixated in the pre-June 12 era. The very mentality of governance remains both colonial and despotic. Governors still receive so-called security votes which the military probably used to buy allegiance and to generally corrupt the system.
“We have arrived at a time when citizens insisting on their right to share opinion are threatened with prosecution and are told they will know the law under which they will be prosecuted only when they get to court.
“Another election is coming soon, but only the incurable optimists can believe that their votes will really count or that the lessons of June 12 will moderate the political behaviour at the polls and in the processes of results collation.
Bassey cautioned, “Unless we build a true democratic system in which the rights of the people are fully respected, we may as well erase the lines of our National Anthem which states that the “Labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”
Democracy goes beyond conducting elections, needs deeper roots — Yiaga Africa
The Programme Manager, Yiaga Africa, Paul James, said, “The worst democracy is better than a military dictatorship. We are not where we ought to be yet, but we have made remarkable progress to keep the ship sailing uninterrupted for the last 22 years.
“However, we need to have frank conversations and ask pertinent questions about the brand of our democracy. Democracy goes beyond merely conducting elections and having transitions to ensuring that power truly belongs to the people.
“The tenets of democracy needs to take deeper roots, our democratic institutions must be strengthened to enable them implement their mandate independently without interference.
“Nigeria needs a democracy where fundamental human rights will be respected and there will be absolute supremacy of the law over the leaders and the led. We are indeed a long way to go with the current trends of situation in the country.
“Citizens’ right to life and freedom of expression must be sacrosanct in any democratic setting. Thus we need to return to the Constitution and ensure an amendment that guarantees the sanctity of institutions in the country.
“There is no gainsaying that, for a democracy to thrive, citizens rights and aspirations must be at the center of all decision making process in the country.”