Nigeria Democracy Day is June 12
Nigeria is a great country, but with many defects than accomplishments. We have tasted victories, but our flaws are overwhelming. We wallow in bewildering deficiencies despite our quantum resources.
It is evident that our dear country is no longer the “Giant of Africa” because of our mystifying woes. These woes are what we have in stolen elections and broken promises.
To refresh your memories with the meaning of democracy. It is the system of government in which the people have authority to choose their governing legislation, that is the authority vested with the power to share the core issues upon which are cornerstones like freedom of association and speech, inclusiveness and equality, membership, consent, voting, right to life and minority rights.
But, what do we get as a democracy in Nigeria today? What are we celebrating as a nation? Do our democracy possess these fine qualities?
This democratic dispensation began on the 29th May, 1999 when the last Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar (rtd) handed over power to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo making this fourth republic 21 years old on the 29th May, 2020 and the longest republic in the Nigeria’s history.
Hence every 29th May had been our Democracy Day until it ceased to be in 2018. June 12 is chronicled our Democracy Day since 2019 when President Muhammadu Buhari declared that in 2018. The President took the giant decision to honour the struggle of the democratic principles and struggles of the late businessman and politician, Chief M.K.O Abiola; but it was a sheer national mockery to accept that as we knew that the intent of Mr. President was to appease the Yoruba political gods in his bid to secure the second tenure in office.
What June 12 Democracy Day really recaps was the monstrous anguish that could have ever befallen a people when there was the termination of hopes – the presidential election that was the freest and fairest in the history of this nation when Chief MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defeated Alhaji Bashiru Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).
Unfortunately, the results were annulled by the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida claiming there were irregularities. It was a definition of broken promises and stolen elections. The annulment of the results of June 12, 1993, presidential election upon which the country triggered protests and unrests, agitations and activisms, leading to loss of lives including that of Kudirat Abiola, MKO Abiola, Alfred Rewane and others, has bought us this democracy, but what do we get in return?
What have we have achieved as monumental projects or legacy to bequeath to the coming generations? Can the masses be excited that dividends of democracy are bountiful to address economic and social challenges? How many practical economic reforms and political ideologies have our stakeholders proposed to alleviate poverty and misery in this country? They disdain selfless service and mock the few that exhibit a commitment to magnanimous strides. This is the tale of a nation celebrating a democracy of over two decades.
What we celebrate in this Democracy Day are many shattered assurances. How many will I state here? Do we need to discuss the N2.7 billion Police Pension Fund diverted by former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, or the alleged stealing of $2.1 billion earmarked for the purchase of arms against Boko Haram by the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki?
How about the N4.7 billion that former Defense Minister, Musiliu Obanikoro allegedly shared among some persons including former Governors of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose and former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Iyiola Omisore? Space will not permit me to discuss the $250 million allegedly stolen by former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori in 2012. Nigeria has not yet recovered from the shock of $20 billion missing under the watch of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. The summary is that corruption has bedeviled this democracy of ours, and the reason we languish in pains than gains.
I cannot mention the killings of thousands of souls by Boko Haram and herdsmen, including banditry; infrastructural deplorability, repeated industrial actions embarked upon by lecturers, medical doctors and other civil servants; unemployment; hijacking of ballot boxes and harassment of voters as national burdens since inception of democracy in 1999. And, recently foreign borrowings have featured in our national mishaps. Again, these are the fallouts of stolen elections and broken promises. These are the results we get as a people when we elect insensitive leaders to office. Another question to ask is, if they are elected by the masses or selected by the few.
These anomalies are quite disheartening as an Insurance practitioner, Elder Babatunde Thomas told Nigeria Today that “Democracy is all about the wrestling for power by politicians to take over the resources of the state and use it for the growth and development of the people. But what do we really find them doing? They wrestle power in order to amass wealth and enrich themselves using the instrumentality of the government.
“Travel the length and breadth of Nigeria, the dividend of democracy that placates our memoirs are dilapidated roads, first aid centres called hospitals, the darkness in the cities as if it is a village of yesteryears, kidnapping, banditry and many more. It was and still a show of shame that the pandemic has revealed the rot in government through the outbreak of COVID-19. They could not even provide palliatives to reasonable numbers of the vulnerable. There is little or nothing to show for 21 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria,” he lamented.
The democracy we celebrate in this part of the world is that favourtism and nepotism, insecurity, and insensitivity. We watch campaign promises of creating 3 million jobs yearly through industrialisation, public work, and agricultural expansion only on papers. The creation of a mortgage market by reforming land ownership to give ordinary Nigerians easy access to title deeds is a mere theory.
Politicians flood the streets to beg for votes as they promise the masses heaven and earth only to get to power devising means to the purse of the commonwealth of the citizenry. What do we call party manifestoes which have become norms without thoughtful plans and programmes to implement them in offices? Aren’t they mere devices to steal elections? Do they not all end on broken promises?
The truth is that problems always have solutions, therefore the remedy to our predicament lies with us as people to have a mindset shift. According to a Life coach and Brand strategist, Omolara Idowu-Amubieya, “If we are going to get our democracy right, the place to start is the mindset shift. The critics need to educate the electoral populace well before the electoral process. Make the Almajiris, market women, conductors and vulcanizers you patronise every day to understand the true meaning of democracy and what their vote means.”
She further stressed that, “We have abdicated power to those who do not understand the relevance of democracy. We need to help them unlearn the mindset of the bag of rice, and its short term relief. Until the Nigerian populace stop playing the victim and start taking appropriate actions, our so-called democracy will continue to be fraught with inadequacies.”
On a final note, the current and potential leaders cannot perform productively at the corridors of power if they lack political ideologies. A Lagos based journalist, Dayo Emmanuel affirmed that, “Sincerely for Nigeria to be great again, our political leaders must have ideology.
“If we look at the first and second republics, we’ll discover that the political parties had ideologies they ran with. These days, an elected officeholder may jump from party A to party B even without consulting those who voted him in and nobody cares.
“Again for our democracy to function well, the electoral law must be amended. The leaders should reach out to the political scientists and the grassroots to fashion out what works for us. A lot of people still have no voter’s cards after weeks of stress, this is absurd.”
“How do you want those people to participate in the electoral process?” He questioned. “It still boils down to the fact that we don’t have accurate data. Then while some have no card to vote, some children were alleged to have voted in some places. So a lot still needs to be in place.”
This 21st anniversary of our Democracy Day should be used as the time of abstemious reflection. A country operating on erroneous frameworks cannot produce remarkable results, and this is a clarion call to all that June 12 should be used by our leaders at all levels to institute and implement heroic projects that would commend the struggles of the past heroes and redefine our course as a truly independent nation.