By Victoria Ojeme
Nigeria is in the spotlight for good over its sustained period of democratic rule at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament’s summit on 20 years of democracy in the region.
Participants said Nigeria’s enduring period of democratic governance is a model for West Africa.
In an interview, ECOWAS lawmakers called for more powers to be vested on the ECOWAS community, the Parliament, Commission and Court to take firm actions on situations in member states.
Specifically, Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante representing Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency, Rivers said that Nigeria’s democracy has recorded huge successes, a model ECOWAS could use as a guide to other countries in the sub-region.
“In Nigeria for the past twenty years, we have been able to sustain civilian rule, democracy and I think that is what we should celebrate first.
“Hoping that all hands will be on deck to turn the tides and ensure that the very pedestal demands, and challenges are overcome.
“ECOWAS as a body of State can help to encourage each other by doing exactly what we are doing, peer review essentially, to copy the best practices from other persons, and improve upon what we are doing.
“There is a saying that no matter how bad democracy is, it is still better than other forms of governments,” Abiante said.
Abiante said that more powers should be given to ECOWAS as it does not have that strength in terms of the legal instruments to take firm actions
“At best that we have today, it still remains persuasive. Even if we make the laws, how many countries are willing to surrender their sovereignty into this and say come in and do whatever you want to.
“As of today, the status does not guarantee that anybody can say ECOWAS will come in. All ECOWAS could do was to advise, work with the regime and demand expectations within timelines.
“If they do not comply, the best you can do is suspend them from the body and that does not solve the problem.
Hon. Oluyemi Adewale-Taiwo representing Ibarapa East/Ido Federal Constituency, Oyo said that twenty-two years after, Nigeria is far ahead of other ECOWAS States in terms of development and imbibing the culture of democracy.
Adewale- Taiwo said that Nigeria’s democracy witnessed its climax when an incumbent President lost an election and relinquished power peacefully to the opposition, this he stressed should be emulated in ECOWAS countries.
“Looking critically at other West African States, you will say that what operates in other West African States cannot happen in Nigeria.
“In this century, you will see coup de’ tat in other smaller countries, I do not think that can happen in Nigeria and I think we are moving in the right direction.
“We have seen a situation whereby a ruling party was defeated in an election and handed over without any crises.
“I believe taking Nigeria side by side with other West African countries we are doing pretty well, though there is still room for improvement”, Adewale-Taiwo said.
He said there is urgent need for legislation to be made to give ECOWAS more power of authority to operate, adding that it is the only way the body can be more effective.
He however commended the strides also achieved by ECOWAS in the past two decades.
“What I can say about ECOWAS in the past two decades, I could have given a pat on the back to ECOWAS if not for these incidents that happened in Mali and Guinea.
“I believe ECOWAS should be given more power. I can liken ECOWAS to a legislature that can only advise the government but cannot take proactive actions to enforce what the legislative arm does.
“If this is given I cannot see a situation where there will be a Coup d’état in a country and ECOWAS cannot come in to restore back the democratic structure in that country,” he said.
Hon. Kolawole Taiwo representing Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency, Lagos said Nigerian democracy has scaled almost all hurdles and sustained its democracy.
Said that Nigeria has also effectively dealt with an attempt to amend its constitution for tenure elongation by an incumbent President.
“We have seen a situation where an incumbent tried to increase the term from two to three and the National Assembly stood their grounds against it. When you look at what the panel has been discussing, it is like looking at Nigeria, we have seen it all but we have been able to get out of it. And we are trying to encourage the Parliamentarians that the way we stand against anybody that wants to use up the polity,” Taiwo said.
Taiwo urged ECOWAS to ensure democracy is sustained in Member States to ensure development and prosperity of its citizens and sub-region.