June 15, 2024

How to protect Nigeria’s democracy, Obasa, Fashola, diplomats, others


•Lagos Assembly passed 300 bills, 2,000 resolutions in 25 years – Obasa

By Clifford Ndujihe

Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Mudashiru Obasa;
former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN; Consul General of the French Embassy in Lagos, Laurent Favier; and Consul General of Germany, Weert Börner, have canvassed the protection of Nigeria’s democracy to entrench good governance.

According to them, Nigeria’s unbroken 25-year democracy must be protected by all citizens in spite of its challenges.

They spoke at events organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly to commemorate the country’s 25 years of civil rule just as Speaker Obasa disclosed that the Assembly had passed 300 bills and 2000 resolutions since 1999.

Obasa said some of the bills and resolutions were historic because they had impacted residents greatly as well as people outside of the state.

Protecting democracy

Speaker Obasa, Fashola, foreign diplomats, and business experts argued that democracy has benefitted Nigerians since 1999 when the country began its Fourth Republic.

Others who spoke at a cocktail dinner on Wednesday at the Assembly complex, Alausa included Professor Eghosa Osaghae of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA; Dr. Muda Yusuf, former chairman of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce; Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM, boss.

Dr. Obasa said Nigeria deserved to celebrate because in the last 25 years, the country successfully transferred power from one administration to another, upholding the principles of representation, accountability, and the rule of law.

His words: “Our democracy has endured despite challenges and setbacks. We have faced elections, protests, and debates, but our commitment to democracy has remained unwavering.

“We have demonstrated that democracy is not a destination but a journey, and we are proud to be on this path. We must continue to guard it jealously, for it is the foundation upon which the fabric of our nation’s progress is built.

“We must continue to promote democratic values, protect human rights, and ensure that our democracy remains perpetually unbroken,” the Speaker said while recalling the struggle and sacrifice made by well-meaning Nigerians during the struggle for democracy.

Obasa noted the roles played by the state legislature in the scheme of Nigeria’s progress to include promotion of good governance, accountability, and the rule of law as well as passage of bills that have transformed the lives of citizens.

“As a transformative and people-centric legislature, the House of Assembly has delivered impactful laws and representation, reforming justice, social welfare, and security systems, and driving tax reforms, infrastructural development, and transportation improvements.

“These have attracted significant attention from local and international admirers, leading to frequent visits from international representatives and private citizens seeking to learn from us, exchange ideas, conduct research, or participate in exchange programmes,” the Speaker said.

He urged Nigerians to continue to support state Houses of Assembly to further deepen democratic values and bring governance closer to the grassroots.

Democracy provided platform for effective representation —Fashola

Also speaking, Fashola said 25 years of democracy has provided an opportunity for effective representation of the people and freedom to make laws.

He enjoined Nigerians to hold on to democracy very jealously, arguing that the federal system practised in Nigeria remains important to the country’s growth.

“For those who are understandably impatient with democracy, I hear them. It can be a tedious way to govern. There is no better way to order our affairs. I will not trade the liberties it offers for anything else.

“We are a federal state and let me tell you why. We have multi-level legislative houses from the local councils to the National Assembly. We have multi-level judicial system.

“We also find different levels of government exercising different forms of responsibilities and this you can find in the exclusive and concurrent lists and, of course, what you can’t find in those two lists, is the residual authority that resides in the states. For example, the Senate cannot make laws on landlords and tenants laws and rent control,” he said.

On some changes in Nigeria in the last 25 years, the former Works, Works and Housing minister recalled the ‘famous resource control case’ which was resolved through the constitution making some states earn better now. He also recalled the matter relating to local government creation during the administration of Senator Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos.

“As at 1999, if you wanted to build a house in Lagos, you would go and get permit in Abuja. It was the Lagos State government that went to court to stop it,” he said adding that the cases were fought and won because of the quest for a perfect union.

Urging support for President Tinubu’s administration, Fashola expressed optimism that wages and salaries and issues with the creation of state police would become reality.

Diplomats speak

The Consul General of the French embassy in Lagos, Laurent Favier, congratulated Nigeria, saying: “Democracy is not a state of perfection but something people have to fight for at all times. It is a political structure that must be deepened.”

He expressed satisfaction with how democracy in Nigeria has ensured freedom just as he urged the country not to relent in making citizens happy.

Consul General of the Embassy of Italy, Ugo Boni assured that the government of his country will continue to be a trustworthy companion of Nigeria while the British Deputy High Commissioner, Lagos, Jonny Baxter, said: “In these challenging times, it is important that we support each other in our shared commitment to democracy.

“Nigeria’s democratic resilience and significance in West Africa serves as an example to other nations seeking to strengthen and protect their own democracies.”

“The UK looks forward to partnering with Lagos and Nigeria in the next 25 years and more.”
Michael Ervin, political and economic section chief at the US Consulate General, Lagos, said Nigeria is an example of how diverse people can unite and ensure freedom for all.

He congratulated Lagos Assembly and noted that Lagos opens the door to the development of Nigeria.
On the other hand, Weert Börner, the Consul General of Germany, said his country with 16 states, practises same federal system as Nigeria adding that this results in healthy competition for growth.

He averred that Nigerians enjoy freedom of opinions, one of the characteristics of democracy.

He commended Nigeria over its Electricity Act which gives states power to generate electricity noting that Germany followed same part 25 years ago resulting in about two million electricity producers in the country.