June 12, 2024

Dour Democracy Day

What is choking Nigeria’s democracy?

FOR the first time in Nigeria’s history, we have practised unbroken democracy for a quarter of a century. Since the movement of the seat of the Federal Government to Abuja in December 1991 by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, democracy has been given an uncommon impetus to flourish and bear the fruits romantically associated with it, for the people.

By 1999 when our current journey started, we had spent 28 of our 39 years under military dictatorships. By the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerians had gotten tired of Army rule. They wholeheartedly embraced the military’s transitions to civil rule. Pro-democratic forces confronted the military and eventually forced the General Abdulsalami Abubakar regime to hurriedly give up power.

We fought for democracy, convinced that it was the best form of government. Unlike the military which ruled with impunity and had no terminal date except when they chose to go, a democratic model of governance features elections through which the people supposedly choose and replace their leaders. There are checks and balances, whereby the Legislature is empowered to act as a check on the Executive, and the Judiciary interprets the Constitution, to curb excesses, especially corruption.

Democracy was also associated with many dividends for the people. Part of these is respect for civil liberties where the due processes of the law and the constitutional/human rights of the citizens are upheld. Media freedoms are guaranteed and citizens are free to speak out and thus hold government to account to ensure good governance. With good governance, rapid development and better life for the people are assured.

Twenty five years down the line, can we say we are living our democracy dream? We should strive not to make Nigerians cast envious glances at West African countries that have returned to military rule. 

Never in any previous period have Nigerians been subjected to the current level of hardship and extreme hunger arising from harsh government policies. Insecurity has overwhelmed the whole nation. Our security architecture has proved incapable of securing the country and protecting its people. Politicians live large on public resources while the people are mercilessly saddled with the excruciating burdens of economic “reforms”.

The Electoral Umpire and the Judiciary are deemed to have become so compromised that Nigerians have lost faith in them. They have also been accused of robbing the people of their right to choose and reject leaders. Where is the fabled “dividends of democracy” which we fought for?

Many who were in the trenches for our democracy 30 years ago are now in government perpetrating impunities, corruption and cluelessness worse than the military ever dared to.

June 12 should not be allowed to lose its value!