June 12, 2020, was like no other year in the annals of Mandilas International Trade Centre, Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, as the traders rolled out the drums to celebrate Democracy Day.
Speaking on the occasion, the president of the international shopping mall, Chief Tony Okeke, said the traders were celebrating because democracy has liberalised their businesses. He added that democracy was one of the best things that have happened to the Nigerian trading community.
Chief Okeke, who often acts as spokesperson for the major markets in Lagos State, said one of the things that the trading community has benefitted from democracy was discussions among the arms of government before major decisions, unlike under the military where decisions were taken by fiat.
For this reason, he said the business community would defend democracy by all means
Okeke noted that, in democracy, if certain policies do not go well with them, they could lobby lawmakers for change or amendment, unlike under the military.
However, he said, even though some milestones have been reached in the last 21 years of democracy, a lot still needs to be done.
“Trading community has seen 15 years of military rule, starting from December 31, 1983, when the Shehu Shagari administration was overthrown, to 1999, when Abdusalami Abubakar handed over to an elected administration, which was led by Olusegun Obasanjo, and from then up to now. So, we have married two systems of government and can without mincing words say that civilian administration is far better than military government. Under the military, the trading community had no say in issues that concerned them. We were not allowed to make inputs on what concerned us neither were we carried along on anything at all. It was soldiers who knew next to nothing about commerce that were dictating to us. But now we can at least say that we don’t like this or that policy or that this or that policy should be amended,” he said.
Chief Okeke stressed that democracy has brought more opportunities and respect to the Nigerian trading community. According to him, under the military regime of General Sani Abacha, there were a lot of restrictions for those in commerce.