Last Wednesday, May 20, 2019, marked 20 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria. This dispensation, popularly termed Fourth Republic, took off on May 29, 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo, former General and ex-Military Head of State took over the reins of governance.
Between then and now, Nigeria has been ruled by politicians. Apart from Obasanjo, a ‘born again’ democrat, the country had been ruled by Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhamadu Buhari, who last Wednesday was sworn in for a second term.
However, the pertinent question Nigerians have been asking is: How has the country fared as a democratic nation during this period?
Nigeria Fared Better Under PDP Rule – Trade Unionist
Comrade Eric Nosa Igunbor, a Benin-based trade unionist, said: “I will say Nigerians have every reason to thank God to have witnessed 20 years of uninterrupted democratic governance. It is a big achievement that requires celebrations because since 1960 when the country got her Independence from Britain, this is the first time the country will practice democracy for 20 years without military intervention.
“On how the country has fare, I will say there were some visible progress before the arrival of the present APC controlled Federal Government. Many people may be condemning the 16 years of PDP government for the alarming corruption. But, the present APC government is not helping matters or entirely free in that aspect of corruption as we have also seen some high level corruption in the administration now being investigated by the EFCC.
Notwithstanding, in all, I will say that the country did not fare badly, at least to have stopped military intervention is one of the successes recorded. I know majority of Nigerians are not happy with the Buhari administration because of its inability to find lasting solution to the unabated insecurity. But, I still believe that Mr. President will see this as a priority in his second term because the nation cannot continue to witness this blood bath all over the country with IDP camps springing up in all the nooks and crannies of the country as if the country is fighting a civil.
“I will advise the President to sit-up and find solution to insecurity, power problem, corruption, education, roads, healthcare and employment for the teeming youths all of which were neglected in his first four years.”
We Are Still Learning The Ropes – NIP Chief
Chief Ubawike Okoro Ohajiuka, chieftain of National Interest Party (NIP), Orlu LGA in Imo State, said: “For the first time in the history of this country, we have achieved 20 years of unbroken civilian administration, unlike the past republics that were truncated by the military.
“Although we are still learning the ropes, I congratulate Nigerians on this. Our institutions such as the INEC, the judiciary and the legislature have been growing from strength to strength despite some hiccups.
Nigeria Still Has A Long Way To Go Democratically – Women Leader
Chief Mrs Blessing Adanna Akudinilo, Women Leader, Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Owerri North, Imo State, stated: “Granted that the military has not intervened again, we still have a long way to go democratically. The wheel is still wobbling. Killings, electoral malpractices, imposition of candidates by political parties are still on.
“Our leaders still rule us with iron hands and freedom of expression is not yet guaranteed, while defections borne out of selfish interests are yet to subside. I will score the nation 30%. The action of the president by not talking us during his inauguration was a slap on our face. Have you seen where this has happened before?
“We have had elections which ushered in new administrations and the political class is learning their lesson. In particular INEC and the judiciary have made us to understand that it can no longer be business as usual. Look at what happened in Zamfara, Rivers, Bauchi and of course our state, Imo. The electoral body said NO to rascality and did the right thing. This and many more are indications that we have not failed.”
The Nation Has Been Retrogressing – Lawyer
Abdulrasaq Adediji, a legal practitioner, has observed that Nigeria democratic setting has been progressing in the last 20 years, but not yet advance.
Adediji said that the nation has been retrogressing more than the spate at which we developed democratically.
According to him, the development recorded since the return of democracy in the country is insignificant that one does not notice the impact we have made.
Adediji declared that the country would have moved far beyond the present status only should past administrations had done their part very well and new government sustain the achievement.
He said: “What we are experiencing in the country is that the political class only professes that governance is a continuum but indeed it is not because of lack of sustainability of past achievements.
“Politics in Nigeria has been monetised to the extent that we are not getting results. Those that occupy the driver seat of the government are the few hustlers who are able to muzzled or garner money through any means to get to the political office.”
He explained that once the leaders get to the political office, they forget all the promises they made with the people and begin to struggle to mop up money to their advantage and to the detriment of the poor masses.
The political class piloting the affairs of Nigeria is selfish and lack fear of God. They are not committed to the welfare of the poor masses, not to talk of bailing them ut of the problems challenges they are facing.
“The most unfortunate aspect is that of the lawmakers who are not ready to make good laws for the country and even if good laws are made, the political class don’t considered themselves obeying the laws they had made.
“The political class will want to continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor through their legislations and worse still reap all the money meant for developmental projects.
“The feedback mechanism is poor and once they (politicians) are elected into office, they become so powerful and stronger that people could not challenge or ask them question them on their electoral promises.
“To be candid, the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari has tried its best on infrastructural facilities, but needs to do more to alleviate the suffering of the people.
“President Buhari must in his second term improve on the social amenities and create jobs for the unemployed youths and as well fight insecurity and corruption to standstill.”
Nigeria Has Not Fared Well – Commentator
Chukwuma Ugwu, a public affairs commentator, believes that Nigeria has not fared well in the 20 years of its democracy.
Ugwu recalled that expectations were very high when democracy returned to the country, but 20 years down the line, the spirit of Nigerians has been dampened.
He noted that the state of infrastructure and social amenities in Nigeria was pitiable despite the trillions of dollars the country gained from crude oil sales.
Ugwu said corruption has continued to soar in the country, especially among those holding political offices.
He said after 20 years, there was nothing to point at as the achievement or legacy of those who have been in power.
There Is Room For Improvement – Architect
Biola Aje, an architect, stated: “Democracy in the past 20 years or so has been impressive. All the leaders who came on board as Presidents came with different administrative policies and programmes, including different approach to tackling the myriads of problems bedeviling Nigeria within the period under review.
“However, there is room for improvement, especially in areas of what I would call entrenching moral values in politics and making it unattractive to reduce issues of this winners takes it all, desperation in politics and above all, discarding this use of youths to perpetrate crisis among opponents. It is no longer a secret that most of the thugs are armed and funded by political opponents, after doing dirty jobs for them they will become too powerful for the politicians that armed them to handle.
“Boko-Haram, we all know, started as a political pressure group said to have been nurtured and armed by a former Governor of Borno State. But today, they are now a national security concerns, so also some regional groups.
“What I am saying in essence is that we should by now have outgrown this concept of insisting that either we have it or we scatter it when it does not favour a particular segment or individual. Peace and unity of Nigeria should be paramount to the minds of every Nigerian that wants to contest any position and by so doing we can attain desired political goals.”
Bad Governance Is The Order Of The Day – Niger Delta Activist
Comrade Austin Ozobo is a Niger Delta activist and Nigeria People’s Congress (NPC) House of Assembly candidate for Burutu North state constituency and National President Ijaw People Development Initiative (IPDI). He said: “We have not fared well, Nigeria’s development is deteriorating. Bad governance is the order of the day, with nepotism and political hegemony still rife. Leaders do no act according to national interest. They play regional, ethnic and community politics, politics of winners-take-all.
“Nigeria’s 20 years of democracy is not far from the military regime. There has been no meaningful development. Poverty, hunger, starvation, deprivation, joblessness and oppression are on the increase. Democracy has made things worse for the minority tribes. Corruption is on increases.
“There is sharp increase of sectional politics and military brutality under democracy. Nigerians are still being killed. Insecurity and religious killings are on the rise. Nigerians still wallow in darkness, with substandard roads, epileptic power supply, poor standard of education, increase in fuel price, transportation, poor health services and bad governance.
“The only thing Nigerians are enjoying is freedom of speech. Nigeria leaders have to do more to make things work. The country needs to be restructured through a national conference, while minority tribes should be given a sense of belonging.”
It Has Been A Learning Process After Military Rule – Veteran Journalist
Remi Akano, a veteran journalist and public affairs analyst, stated: “Well, we give thanks to God because He alone would have made it happen. It is not that democracy was God’s drive. Remember, there was theocracy. But, God wants to give his people freedom.
“The first 20 years provided the learning period after the military rule. We have been learning in these 20 years. We make our mistakes and correct them. But, the democratic culture is yet to take its roots. In the 20 years, we have been ruled by people who were in the military and this could be seen in the way they reel out policies or orders on the people.
“But, it is of interest to see symbolic things like former Generals like Olusegun Obasanjo and the others bowing before the Senate. These are people who saw Senators as ‘bloody civilians’. But, they take the budget to the National Assembly and bow before presenting it.
“The process of learning things can be very tough. When we had our independence, we had to sign to free ourselves from colonial rule. We had to start the process of the struggle for independence. We continued till the military took over. We were decolonising our attitude.
“The military came and brought ‘With Immediate Effect’ syndrome. So, things did not follow the proper and well defined process. That is what is happening in the first 20 years of democracy. This is because most of the people who run the affairs of the country were the same set of people in the military.
“So, it means that democracy will take time to take its roots. Some of the decisions are not in line with the tenets of rule of law. It will take another 10 to 20 years for Nigeria to find its feet. An example is the release of Executive Orders.
“In the United States of America, they still struggle for certain things, even during this period of Donald Trump. In U.S, there is the argument of whether the Executive should answer the Parliament, or whether the Parliament should summon the Executive.
“So, we still have such issues in developing democracies. In Nigeria, we have not arrived yet. But, in the next 20 years, we may have some consensus in behaviour and not what is happening now that certain views are polarised almost 50-50.”