As Rivers State celebrates 18 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria and two years of Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration, our team of Reporters: Akujobi Amadi, John Bibor, and Susan Serekara-Nwikhana interviewed a cross-section of stakeholders, who aired their views on the epoch-making events. Excerpts.
The Chairman, Rivers State Local Government Service Commission, Chief Azubuike Nmerukini, said the reason for which Nigerians celebrate democracy in the country is because it brought freedom and self-determination among the various ethnic nationalities in the country.
Nmerukini said without the enthronement of democratic governance, the country would not have witnessed the level of growth and infrastructure development it has seen today, adding that democracy has given opportunity to the minority groups in the country, for their voices to be heard alongside those of the major ethnic nationalities.
According to him, the dividends of democratic governance are visible across all strata of the society, adding that democracy has brought separation of powers into governance.
“Our country’s democracy has come to stay and should be guided jealously by every Nigerian, just as strong opposition and constructive criticism which are ingredients of democracy should be encouraged.
Nmerukini, who is also the chairman, Port Harcourt City Council of Traditional Rulers, however, advocated for declaration of state of emergency in agriculture and education, adding that the two sectors were key to transforming the country.
The traditional ruler further advocated for the strengthening of the country’s electoral system to ensure that the people are respected and protected rather than imposition of political leaders on them.
The Onuowu 1 of Igbo Kingdom in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, Chief Kemakolom Nwanuo opined that the country’s democracy has come to stay, but added that there is urgent need for improvement, especially in the areas of human capital development.
Kemakolom stressed that the establishment of democratic government in the country has encouraged freedom of expression as well as the protection of human rights that were abused during the military era.
He, however, expressed mixed feelings that the less-privileged in the society and people with disabilities were abandoned and excluded from benefiting from the country’s democratic dividends.
“These people are all Nigerians and deserve to partake in the distribution of the national resources. They should not be excluded from government policies”.
He used the opportunity to call on Nigerians to be patient with the government by being supportive and contribute their quota to nation development.
Paramount Ruler of Mgbuesilaru, King Ken Onuonu Iwezor, said that Governor Nyesom Wike has run an inclusive government and carried Rivers people along through various infrastructural projects and regular payment of salaries and pensions.
In the past 18 years, I think we have done well as a nation. Therefore, I urge all Rivers people in particular, and Nigerians in general, to support our political leaders to deliver the dividends of democracy to all, irrespective of political leaning, faith and tribe.
A public affairs analyst, Chinwendu Nwubi, applauded the governments at all levels for their various developmental strides across the country, urged them to create enabling environment that will improve the standard of living of all Nigerians.
Nwubi advocated for the revival of ailing industries across the country in order to create employment for the teeming unemployed Nigerians, saying that in doing so, the economy will be vibrant and attract more investors.
He called for synergy among the three arms of government, pointing out that the dividends of democracy will be available and inclusive, if the executive, legislature and the judiciary work in harmony, even as he called for patriotic zeal among Nigerians at all time.
Paramount Ruler of Chokota community, Etche Local Government Area, His Royal Highness, Eze Ishmael Nweke, said Governor Nyesom Wike was God-sent to the people of Rivers State. His efforts in roads, especially in Igbo-Etche have improved the lives of the people.
The traditional ruler also stressed the need to flag-off the Chokota-Ikwerrengwo road.
“The Voice”, a socio-political organization in the state also joined in commending Nigeria’s democracy at 18, and Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for the level of infrastructural development within the last two years in the state.
Publicity Secretary of the group, Prince Williams Chinwo, commended the governor for ensuring access to justice in the state through the construction of
Moffat Ekoriko, NewsAfrica Magazine,numerous courts and the on-going industrial court building.
Chinwo, however, appealed to the governor to look into the plight of retirees and civil servants.
The Eze Erema Uku of Ogbaland and Paramount Ruler of Erema, Eze Azubuike Georgewill, said that Governor Wike has put to shame his critics, adding that the governor, who inherited an empty treasury, has, within two years, shown that with commitment; a lot can be achieved even in the face of resource scarcity.
Publisher, UK-based NewsAfrica Magazine, Moffat Ekoriko, said: “I want to say that democracy is working, although many people might think there are difficulties, and it is not working, but the truth is: it is working because it takes time for a system to evolve, for laws to be fine-tuned, for some constitutional provisions to be tested in courts, and to be practiced, and for the system to stabilize and run smoothly.
“For our democracy to work as it is working in the advanced countries, you need a few variables: the first is that we need a highly educated population, then the quality of that literacy, because the fact that someone went to school does not mean that the person can take an informed decision about what happens in his/her environment, and as we all know, the quality of education in Nigeria is below standard.
“We also need democrats, who believe in representative government and values of freedom and human rights, and open and accessible political system, but what we have in Nigeria are glorified businessmen, who see government as an opportunity to make money.
For democracy to work, we need an independent press, which is lacking today. We also need a sense of nationhood. The truth with Nigeria is that we are first of all either Ogoni, or Anang, or Yoruba, or Hausa before we formed Nigeria, so, if you have somebody in office, who steals, or is misbehaving, and is sanctioned, what comes to your mind first is: where is he from? If he is from your part of the country, all that you are interested in is the fact that that man is from your place.
For democracy to work, we need strong institutions of state. We do not have that to check abuse of power, and ensure respect for human rights and the constitution, and that every official, including individuals within the state, play according to the rule of law.
However, when we look at the 18 years of democracy in Nigeria, and put everything into consideration, we can say that in Nigeria, somehow, democracy is evolving, it is working and it will get better. It is still the best form and system of government that we can think of.
A Chartered Accountant, Barikpoa M. Nwinee, noted that Governor Nyesom Wike, has, within his two years in office, created great and positive impact in the area of roads construction despite the dwindling economy. He has executed most link roads in Port Harcourt, and particularly, the Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport-Link Road. The Kira-Saakpenwa-Bori Road is on, and he is working to complete the Unity Road (Kpean-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Road).
At the federal level, President Muhammadu Buhari, is also working hard to provide the dividends of democracy to all Nigerians. Thus, the government has made tremendous impact in the area of looted fund recovery through its whistle-blowing policy of paying citizens to report corrupt persons. We all know that one of Nigeria’s problems is corruption, and in a bid to check the trend, the Federal Government decided to try a new approach: allowing citizens who report corruption-related offenses earn a percentage from the recovered loot.
The Bring-Back-Our-Girls campaign has brought about the released of 104 girls out of the over 200 girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, that were abducted by Boko Haram.
I think the Buhari administration it trying in many sectors, and to me, our democracy is working for the good of all Nigerians.
A senior journalist and Editor, Elijah James, said that democracy in Nigeria has really grown, if you remember where we were in 1999, and compare to now, 2017. Although we have made some mistakes, they are being corrected.
On the achievements of the civilian government as compared to the military, democracy is better.
I think there are tremendous achievements. Although there are challenges, but I think whichever way things are, democracy has made us better now than before.