On Wednesday next week Nigerians will celebrate 20 years of unbroken democratic rule. The journey to this dispensation started on May 29, 1999 when the then military government of Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd) handed over power to the then president-elect, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, after years of pro-democratic struggles that prevailed following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election believed to have been won by the late business mogul and politician, Chief MKO Abiola.
The Federal Government under President Muhamadu Buhari last year recognized June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day and made it a public holiday to be observed annually. The first June 12 Democracy Day will be celebrated this year with much fanfare. That is why Buhari has opted for a low-key inauguration on May 29. While May 29 will remain as the inauguration day for elected president and most governors, June 12 will be marked as Democracy Day.
It was hitherto celebrated on May 29. It was the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that made May 29 our Democracy Day. October 1 every year is observed as our independence day having secured self-rule from British colonizers on October 1, 1960. As we mark our 20 years of civil rule, it is important that we examine our politics and know exactly where we are at present and where we want to be in future. I say this because an unexamined life is not worth living.
Just like an individual, a nation should examine its life after a while and see where it is succeeding and where it is failing and make necessary amends. There is no doubt that we have made some modest achievements in our 20 years of democracy. We have phones to talk with one another and even to people outside our shores.
It does not matter that we use the phones to abuse one another at times. The GSM phones have revolutionized the way we think and do things. They have reduced long and unnecessary journeys from one part of the country to another to deliver urgent messages. The phones have affected businesses, works and human relations.
We have built more universities, hospitals, roads and bridges. We have built more beautiful cities with modern edifices. However, there are many problems starring all of us in the face. Our politics is still prebendal and corrupt. We now buy votes and deploy thugs with AK 47 rifles to disrupt voting in our opponents’ strongholds. We shout change in our opponent’s territory and sing continuation in our domain.
This is sheer hypocrisy. The godfathers of Nigerian politics are still alive and kicking strongly. It is not going to be easy to dislodge them so soon. They are everywhere. They have the war chest and willing supporters to ensure that their word is law. Some Nigerians because of their ethnicity were excluded from participating in the 2019 election in some parts of the country and where they were allowed to vote, their votes were not made to count through the tampering of the collation process.
During the 2019 polls, some state actors worked tirelessly to ensure that they impose their successors. While some of them had their way, others could not. Sadly, the political space is being dominated by the wrong ones while the good ones are chased out of the field of play. At times, the rules of the game are changed midway. Our electoral system is all but fair and free. Many things about our democracy are quite undemocratic. The selection process is faulty through and through.
This is probably why Nigerian politicians fight for positions and want to capture power by all means. This is why our politics is still a ‘do and die’ affair. This is why we are having so many election cases at the tribunals. There is urgent need to sanitize our electoral system and make it more transparent and democratic. We need electoral reforms to redefine our leadership selection process. We should stop this pretence on being democratic whereas we are not. It is time we tell ourselves the home truth and stop playing the ostrich.
Our politics is still characterized by failure of leadership at all levels. And because we do not have exemplary leaders at all levels of governance, things have continued to fall apart in the country and with no hope that things will change for the better so soon. Our roads and bridges are still crying for attention. It is not yet Uhuru in the power sector. The same can be safely said of the education and health sectors.
In fact, it can be said of all other sectors. The nation’s railway project is still at infancy and some significant parts of the country were left out of the railway project.
Therefore, as we inaugurate a new president and new governors next week, let there be a change of attitude towards governance. Let our leaders think of the people always from whom they derive the power to govern. Those in governance must be abreast of the primary objective of government, to ensure the security and welfare of the people. But in our country, this primary duty has been abdicated hence the rising insecurity and poverty all over the country. Bandits and kidnappers are having a field day and visiting their vengeance on a nation that seemingly neglected and abandoned them.
For our 20 years of civil rule to be meaningful, we must go back to the drawing board. We must know where the rain began to beat us. We must go back to the dreams of our founding fathers and incorporate them in our national agenda. We must unite the country and a make every Nigerian, male and female, a partaker of the national enterprise. We must do away with unbridled ethnicity, religious bigotry and clannishness that do not advance the cause of our nationhood. Let us work on things that unite us and eschew those that divide us the more.
As we mark our 20 years of democratic rule, we must open the political space and make it more inclusive. Deliberate effort should be made to make our politics gender friendly. Nigeria will not develop when its half (the female) is excluded from its politics. Our lawmakers should make laws to this effect and correct the anomaly. They should make laws that will advance our nationhood. They should make laws that will heal the wounds of the nation.
Our politicians ought to know that true federalism is the only road to a glorious future. We should only neglect it at our own peril.
The need for a restructured polity is more imperative now than ever before. It remains the just way to a bright future. Those pretending on the issue are just postponing the doom’s day. We have squandered our yesterday. Let us not also squander our future.