Our Democracy: Our Gains and Our Pains after 10 Years.

Sincerely speaking, the only gain we have got in the past 10 years of democracy in Nigeria is simply that we have had a civilian regime. Besides it has not been truly civilian in the true sense of it. 8 years out of the last 10 years (Obasanjo’s administration) was a quasi military government because Obasanjo ruled Nigeria like a military head of state. The true civilian rule started since Yar’Adua took over as the president of Nigeria. Whatever positive changes that have taken place since 1999 like improvement in communications, banking reforms, NAFDAC war against fake drugs etc are worthy to be commended. However, I don’t like praising any administration past or present for any positive policy. This is because governance is all about improving people’s welfare. Therefore when government do their work I don’t praise them.

However the mistakes, maladministration and corruption of government officials have always overshadowed whatever good policy they introduce. This has always provoked massive public outcry. The first casualty in the last 10 years has been democracy itself. That is the will of the people has suffered most. Whenever the people speak the government do not listen, rather they impose their will on the people. From 1999 till date, the government has never respected the will of the people. Examples are many. Starting from Anambra state, where Ngige was imposed on the people by his god father with active connivance of the powers that be in Abuja. We all knew what happened. Similar incidents repeated itself in Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kogi etc.

The Obasanjo’s government conducted the worse elections in the history of Nigeria. Even the president (Yar’Adua) was a product of that election and he has come out publicly to acknowledge the anomalies associated with the elections. The voter turnout has deteriorated since 1999. In 1999 the turn out was over 70% registered voters. In 2003 it reduced to about 35% and by 2007 it went down further.

President Yar’Adua has promised electoral reforms. But events in and around him is suggesting otherwise. First is the attempt to doctor some of the recommendations of the electoral reform committee. Secondly the conduct of Ekiti re-run elections spoke volumes about the electoral reforms the president has promised Nigerians. The Ekiti crisis gave Nigerians an idea of what future elections might look like. Ex vice president Atiku Abubakar, former head of state Muhamadu Buhari and many other Nigerians have expressed their concerns about the inability of the present PDP leadership to introduce electoral reforms. The latest revelation came from former president Obasanjo who is also the chairman of PDP board of trustees. He said that he was not aware of any electoral reforms being carried out by the Yar’Adua administration. This explains it all.

The last 10 years of democracy in Nigeria has recorded the highest number of high profile politically motivated murders. Starting with the late Bola Ige (former Attorney General and Minister of Justice), Harry Marshall (former National Vice Chairman of ANPP South South), Funsho Williams (former Lagos state gubernatorial candidate), Chief Anamosokari Albert Dikibo, Sunday Ugwu, elder brother of Nwabueze Ugwu a former legislator that represented Nkanu East LGA in Enugu state, Alhaji Ahmed Pategi, (Kwara State former PDP Chairman), Victor Nwankwo, younger brother of Arthur Nwankwo, founder Eastern Mandate Union, Odunayo Olagbaju (former member Osun State House of Assembly), Barnabas Igwe, former chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Onitsha Branch, and his wife Abigail Igwe, Chimere Ikoku (former Vice Chancellor of UNN), Chief Ogbonnaya Uche (former ANPP senatorial candidate from Imo State) etc. The list is endless and the police are yet to catch the killers.

The last 10 years of our democracy witnessed human rights abuses in large scale. The Odi and Zaki Ibiam massacre, the state using her apparatus killed more than 3000 of its citizens. Cases of this nature deserve probing. In both cases the solders reduced the town to mere rubbles. Yet the country was supposedly under democratic dispensation. At a point the federal government under Obasanjo’s administration withheld the Lagos State local government share of the federal allocation. There were several cases where the previous government never obeyed any court orders/judgements. Yar’Adua’s government has been respecting court judgements. The judiciary under Yar’Adua has performed credibly well. Without them our democracy would have been threatened. The Nigerian press has done very well, the deserve praises.

Law making in the last 10 years have not been fantastic. The National Assembly has not lived to our expectations. Passing the yearly budgets has not been easy over the years. Some bills have spent so much time at the national assembly that one starts to wonder what our law makers are doing. An example is the freedom of information bill. One would have thought that this bill will have express passage but the reverse has been the case. The Senate has requested from the presidency the original version of the electoral committee recommendations. The presidency has granted them their request. Nigerians are watching and waiting what will be the outcome.

The economy has not fared better over the last 10 years. Unemployment is still very high. Government has not done any thing meaningful to reduce unemployment. The power sector which would have helped to boost economic growth was mismanaged by our corrupt leaders. High level official corruption has risen. Crime rates have risen tremendously. Kidnappings are on the rise daily. The Niger/Delta crisis still persists with no solution in sight. There is an on going military operation in the Niger Delta by the Nigerian military as I am writing this article. There is too much tension in the Niger Delta region.

The mood of the nation is low about the Yar’Adua government. People have made several negative comments about his administration. The former chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Thompson Okpoko desribed Nigeria as a sick nation. Lamenting that the nation’s present leaders have lost focus on how to cure the myriads of diseases plaguing the country. His comment was reported by Daily Sun newspapers of Wednesday, December 3 2008, page 10. Campaign for Democracy took stock of 2008 and concluded that “No serious governance actually took place” then it warned that a situation where the country is virtually on auto pilot without serious governance is not healthy” (Daily Independent, Wednesday December 31, 2008 page 1).

Finally there is hope for Nigeria. Nigerians do not have any choice but to make Nigeria rise again. Many Nigerians are tired of the present status quo and are determined to push for political changes. Change is possible in Nigeria. But more Nigerians need to get involved with the political process in Nigeria. With active participation of all Nigerians, political changes will be possible. Changes cannot happen except we work for it. There has to be sacrifices to make for Nigeria. No sacrifice will be too small. Nigerians will have to persevere, like Fidel Castro said, “Perseverance will give us victory” May God bless Nigeria.

Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK

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