Nigeria’s Democracy Clocks 22 years

On May 29, 1999, when President Olusegun Obasanjo was inaugurated as president after about 16 decades of military interregnum, positive excitements swept through the nation from urban centres to rural areas; from Lagos to Maiduguri. But 22 years later, each expectation conceived in 1999 was aborted, and the Motherland is now in a very critical condition, facing the danger of fragmentation.

Nigeria’s predicament was foretold, therefore, avoidable. For instance, the then British Foreign Office Minister, Mr Tony Lloyd, in an opinion published in Nigerian newspapers on July 17, 1999, stated: “The government must work for all sections of the populace and all parts of the country. Nigeria has experienced high hopes before, all of which were dashed. This time we need things to differ. Ultimately, the only men and women who are able to build lasting peace, prosperity and democracy in Nigeria are people themselves. However, the UK will probably be with them every step along the way.” According to Mr Lloyd, all the hopes raised in 1999, just like other past instances, were dashed to bits, leaving Nigerians at the nostalgia of the wreck of the past.

These and more have ruined Nigeria beyond expression and excuse. The economy has nosedived, together with manufacturing in various sectors being non-existent or abysmally below capacity. As against all the claims made by successive governments since 1999, the country remains a net importer of consumer goods, and also a dumping ground, a junkyard of Chinese and other Asian countries’ substandard products. Inflation is scandalously so large that the cost of living is unaffordable having an unrealistic minimum wage of about N30,000, less compared to 62 per month. Brazen and unbridled corruption has defied strategies and mechanisms due to the half-heartedness of regulatory agencies and security operatives. Worst of all, the spate of insecurity has not just endangered the lives of Nigerians, it has polarized the country along ethnic, regional and religious lines, where mutual suspicions have jeopardized senseless killings as well as other curricular behaviours unbecoming of a country that claims to function on the brakes of the Rule of Law.

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The Buhari administration, ushered in in 2015, with fanfare and complex relief, to take care of incessant corruption, Boko Haram terrorism, and unemployment, has performed more poorly than many of his predecessors. It’s dropped the unprecedented goodwill by which it rode to power, and become a byword for lost chances and ultimate disappointment. Apart from the strange heights attained in corruption, the government’s lacklustre approach to the fight against bandits and kidnappers has made the country ungovernable from North to South, also generated heroes out of advocates of secession. There’s no symmetry between the federal government and state authorities on how best to tackle the spate of violence and killings, as well as a measure of how they have lost faith in the federal security architecture, state governors are advocating for state authorities and the procurement of weapons such as untrained regional vigilantes.

At the country level, democracy has failed and has been of no advantage to these people. State Houses of Assembly have been emasculated since they’re populated with stooges of state governors. The judiciary is not independent, as judges read the lips of governors before making judicial pronouncements. Persons in states who don’t parrot the hypocrisy and is composed of governors, but rather try to hold them accountable to the people, confront the danger of attack or death in the hands of security operatives or non-state actors, such as thugs and masquerades. Press liberty, a cardinal part of democracy, is non-existent at the country level. Most pathetic is the absence of transparency and accountability from elected government officials at the state level. Governors take part in impunity, squander resources on their vanities, while civil servants are outstanding, underpaid, or sacked without due process, in the title of right-sizing the system. Most infrastructure projects are embarked upon in order to provide paths for siphoning funds from the treasury.

For 22 years, the only indication of democracy in Nigeria is the seamless transmission of power from one government to another. This is not enough. We invite the Buhari government to use the next two years to substantiate a number of the current sufferings. Nigerians deserve a much better setting in a democratic system of government.

 

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