President Muhammadu Buhari recently expressed some worries with the slow pace of democracy in the country. The president made his views known on the occasion of his 77th birthday anniversary. There is no doubt that Buhari’s military background might have accounted for his seeing the democratic process as being too slow. It is commendable that the president is learning fast. It is also gratifying that the president used the occasion to vow to ensure that the 2023 elections are free, fair and credible.
According to the president, “what I want to promise Nigerians is that I will work very hard on free and fair election. All those that are going to succeed in the National Assembly and the Presidency, they better work hard because I will make sure, using the law enforcement agencies, that elections are free and fair, nobody uses his office or his resources to force himself on his constituency.” While the nation’s democratic process may appear too slow to Buhari, it is the system of government that Nigerians have chosen in the past 20 years. There is no doubt that democracy, as a form of government, has become the most acceptable worldwide, and every country must strive to uphold its tenets. It is the form of government that encourages the participation of all in the society as well as plurality of views.
Essentially, democracy thrives on the rule of law and equality of all men before the law. Therefore, in a constitutional democracy like ours, anyone who seeks to participate in it must learn to play by its rules. Democracy is also nurtured by the principle of separation of powers in which each of the three arms of government (executive, judiciary and legislature) has clearly stated powers and responsibilities. While the arms of government may work interdependently, they are independent of each other.
There are also three tiers of government, the federal, state and local governments, with their clear constitutionally guaranteed powers and limits. These are some of the nuances of the present democracy, which we practice as a country and which all operators, including the president, is bound to abide by. It is good that Buhari has acknowledged these fine points while decrying the seeming slow pace of democracy in the country. We urge him to be patient with its process and strive to strengthen all democratic institutions in the country. His oath of office enjoins him to do so.
The president has equally complained about the slow pace of judicial process. Despite some lapses, the president’s commitment to the rule of law has not wavered. The judiciary is still regarded as the last hope of the common man. Though the wheels of justice may ground slowly, there is hope that justice must prevail at the end of the day. However, there is also need to hasten the judicial process because justice delayed is justice denied.
We urge the judiciary to use more creative and pragmatic ways to serve the people through the on-going reforms in the administration of criminal justice system and other initiatives currently been implemented throughout the country to rid the judiciary of bad eggs. There is work too for both the executive and the legislature. The latter must take its law-making duties seriously and continue to seek ways to improve the laws of the country while the executive must be patient with the democratic process and not be overbearing on the other two arms of government.
While there is no perfect democracy or form of government anywhere in the world, we must strive to make our democracy better. We urge the three arms of government to be faithful to the tenets of democracy. There is need to build strong democratic institutions which make democracy to thrive. We believe that strengthening the democratic institutions will ensure the survival of our democracy.