Strengthening Nigerian Democracy

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Today is Democracy Day in Nigeria, the day set aside by government to celebrate the return of the country to democratic path after long years of military rule. The day also affords the country the opportunity to reflect on the hard road to attaining democracy in contemporary Nigeria and to recommit to its sustenance.

It is 18 years of unbroken civil rule and the second year of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government in power. While The Tide congratulates Nigerian citizens on the journey so far, we also salute their resilience and patience in the face of the current economic recession in the country.

 Today, smiles on the faces of many Nigerians are disappearing, because of obvious contradictions in the practice of democracy and the harrowing effects on the citizenry.

Now, we celebrate a system which is federal in name but unitary in practice and Nigerians across the various divides are speaking up against the practice which they say, portends grave danger to national unity.
Notable delegates to the 2014 National Conference have called for the implementation of the report of that conference which, we also believe is a nationally accepted template for restructuring of the country along true federalism.
It is also interesting to note that a prominent APC national leader recently voiced out his disapproval against the defective structure of the country and called for restructuring.
Again, in the two years of the current government, it has been difficult for the people to point at concrete dividends of democracy. While the economy is shrinking and money in circulation limited, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) is exhuming dizzying sums of money in national and international currencies from obscured hideouts and houses owned by officials of government.
In 27 out of the 36 States of the federation, the meaning and import of democracy is lost on the citizenry as the States are in a state of insolvency and bankruptcy, owing workers between five to 12 months salaries and pensions. Worse still, the bailout funds amounting to several billions of naira extended to them by the Federal Government between 2015 and 2016 were said to have been diverted by some of the affected State Governors. As we celebrate this Democracy Day, workers in many States of the federation are being owed several months of salaries.
The rule of law is still being breached as many citizens remain in detention unlawfully.
The unimpressive state of our democracy, today, has not been helped by the continued absence of the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari from his duty post due to protracted illness.
All of these coalesce into a democracy in need of strengthening. The government at the centre urgently needs to re-strategise and work towards delivering on its electoral promises and give the beleaguered citizenry a fresh lease of life.
On a more enduring level, it is pertinent that the Federal Government takes a look at the 2014 National Conference Report as a guide to strengthening this democracy and national unity.
We are, however, encouraged that while there may have been little to cheer about, both in many States and at the national level, there is so much to celebrate on this occasion in Rivers State.
In two years of democracy under the government of Chief Nyesom Wike, the State celebrated its Golden Jubilee Anniversary in an unprecedented fashion.
Two projects, namely; the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park and the Ecumenical Centre which Wike laid their foundation stones during his first year anniversary have been commissioned for use.
Beyond delivering on his electoral promises to the people of Rivers State, the governor has promoted the independence of the other arms of government which include the legislature and judiciary, with a view to deepening democracy in the state.
His commitment to the optimal performance of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, is obvious from the reopening of the judiciary on his first day in office, appointment of the State Chief Judge, rebuilding of the old Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, among other commendable initiatives.
As a leading light in the practice of democracy and delivery of democratic dividends, Governor Wike has won not less than four Good Governance awards from reputable national and international organisations.
For these reasons, The Tide joins many well-meaning Nigerians to congratulate  Wike whom the Vice President nicknamed “Mr. Projects” and wishes that, as he continues on this path of infrastructural transformation of the state, the rest of our leaders  in the country will take a cue from him to build on enduring democracy.
Happy Democracy Day in Nigeria. Happy Two Years Anniversary of Governor Wike’s administration in Rivers State.