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Nigeria’s Democracy: How Well Have We Fared?

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For 19 years successively, Democracy Day has become a special day in Nigeria. It is held annually on May 29. The day commemorates the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office on May 29, 1999. This ended multiple decades of military rule that began in 1966 which had been interrupted only by a brief period of democratic rule.
After attaining independence in 1960 from Great Britain, Nigeria fought a civil war following the first of many military coups in 1966. Democracy was succinctly restored from 1979 to 1983. But for most of its independent history, Nigeria was ruled by a series of military juntas. The last noticeable military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, died on June 8, 1998.
His successor, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, promised a one-year transition to democracy, and accordingly a new constitution was adopted. Elections were held and retired Gen. Obasanjo, who had previously governed Nigeria as a military ruler, was elected the new president.
The end of military rule ushered a new era of regular elections as well as the return of civil liberties, free press and an end to arbitrary arrests and torture, although human rights violations still occur regularly. Nigeria also began a long campaign against corruption that had paralyzed its economy and severely tarnished its international reputation.
Since the inception of democracy and civil rule, how have we fared as a nation? Have we accomplished the goals and objectives we set out to achieve when we aspired to have sovereignty?
In spite of the ups and downs of our democratic experience, one believes that there is at least something to celebrate in that in our 57 years of existence, this is the first time the country has experienced uninterrupted democratic practice for 19 years.
Besides, a feat was achieved in 2015 when for the first time an opposition party took over power after emerging victorious in a general election. This was something thought to be a phantasm. The result of that election improved Nigeria’s image globally and confounded nations which hitherto taught nothing good could come out of the country.
Regardless of such accomplishments several of which are not specified, there are multitudinous challenges confronting democratic consolidation and good governance in the country.
Corruption constitutes one of the greatest challenges and threats to the democratic unification. It reached its zenith when Transparency International in its 2004 Corruption Perception Index report projected Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in the world (132nd out of 133 countries surveyed).
Since the return of democracy in 1999, election and democratic practice have been more of a thing of ‘war’, vendetta and violence. In other words, voting became for most Nigerians a matter of ritual performances than the actual election of leaders.
Elections and democratic practices are personalised by electoral malpractices, political intolerance, economic mismanagement, use of political office for personal enrichment, political thuggery, lack of intra-party democracy, insecurity, manipulation of religion and ethnicity to achieve selfish political ends, among others.
Poverty is another factor that constitutes grave challenges to democratic coalition and good governance. Ironically, Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources, yet its people are poor. The nation ranks among the world’s poorest countries.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (2009), most Nigerian citizens contend with a life of abject poverty. Thus, about 70% of the population are poor. The average Nigerian lives in self-alienation as they lack the wherewithal to afford the basic necessities of life.
The behaviors of the political actors have remained an immutable cause for concern. Like it has been since the First Republic in 1960, political parties are riddled with one crisis or the other. Even with the nearly two decades of democratic practice, indications from the political parties are to the effect that many of them are on ‘life support’.
In advanced democracies, for instance, democratic culture is entrenched through the instrumentality of political party ideologies. But in our clime there is complete absence of party ideologies. That is why political scholars have severally described the character of political parties in Nigeria as a mockery of an ideal democratic system.
Another daunting challenge of the present democratic dispensation is insecurity. Since the return of democracy, the country has been experiencing ethno-religious crises and sectarian clutches exemplified by the Boko Haram onslaughts and the recent herdsmen activities that have claimed several lives. This is a veritable threat to the unity of the country.
There is a presumption that despite multiple expropriations, Nigerians can take solace in the knowledge that they practice democracy. But the kind of democracy practised by Abuja and the states has delivered neither improved standards of living nor abstract benefits such as press freedom or human rights; instead it provides the perfect cover for massive corruption.
I have sensed a disturbing smugness in Nigerian politicians and intellectuals as they attempt to foist democracy on the rest of us. They assume that the mere practice of the system is sufficient for us. Meanwhile the concept as modified in the country stands empty of its substantive content. This misjudgment is indeed disturbing, obscene and offensive.
With such a low dividend on democracy, and with democracy being so costly and toxic to the body politic, it is no surprise that many Nigerians have begun to question their loyalty to the received notion that democracy is superior to its alternatives.
Since democracy brings development and improved living, Nigerians should expect much from it. Therefore, it is time they began to see some of the promised returns. If they don’t, they have a right to question the assumed connection between democracy and development and to become disillusioned.
The truth is that Nigeria’s democracy is fatally flawed and we are all headed for an implosion if nothing is done about it. The disenchantment with our own democratic practice and its many failures is real. We ignore this reality at our own peril.
If we remain averse to the advancement of popular democratic tenets, we will be frequently confronted with crises that endanger the very foundation of the union. After all, what is democracy worth if the way we engage in it imperils our country and its people and widens the crevices that divide us? Would we rather preserve a pretentious democracy and lose the nation?

 

 

Arnold Alalibo

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Trans-Kalabari Road: Banigo, Stakeholders Condemn Abduction Of Expatriate

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Kalabari traditional rulers and stakeholders have condemned the recent abduction of an expatriate staff of Lubric Construction Company working on the Trans-Kalabari Road.
Speaking at a meeting at the Government House in Port Harcourt, last Friday, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo said she was deeply pained by the unfortunate incident carried out by unknown miscreants.
According to the deputy governor, who said that the State Chief Executive Officer, Nyesom Wike, was desirous to bring more development projects to Kalabari Kingdom, regretted that this act was capable of discouraging him.
“I want to reiterate that our governor is very desirous to do more developmental projects in our communities, there are many more things he has in the card to do for us, and if we allow this ugly thing to surface, that attitude will discourage him”, the deputy governor noted.
Banigo, who said that perpetrators of the heinous crime did not drop from the sky, insisted that they were community people, and must be fished out and dealt with decisively, while calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the abductee.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, expressed regrets that a project as important as the Trans-Kalabari Road would be tampered with by persons who do not mean well for the Kalabari people.
“If their intention is to run down the good works of our dear governor, over a project which the Kalabari people have been yearning for over the years, then, I am sure God Almighty will not allow them to get away with this dastardly act of kidnapping one expatriate”, Alabraba stressed.
Alabraba further said, “It is important that we talk to ourselves and ensure that everything possible is done to ensure immediate release of the victim, and ensure that measures are put in place to forestall this type of thing in the future”.
Presenting a seven-point communique, Amanyanabo of Minama, King Iboroma Talbot Pokubo, who represented the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disreal Gbobo Bobmanuel, demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of the expatriate, and reassured Governor Wike of their unwavering support for the governor.

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Buhari Approves Incorporation Of NNPC, Appoints Board Members

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President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited be incorporated.
He also approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as chairman.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, was appointed chief executive officer.
This was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, saying that the president acted in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, has directed the incorporation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
“This is in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, which requires the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited within six months of commencement of the Act in consultation with the Minister of Finance on the nominal shares of the company.
“The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kolo Kyari, has, therefore, been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the NNPC Limited is consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.
“Also, by the power vested in him under Section 59(2) of the PIA 2021, President Buhari has approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited, with effect from the date of incorporation of the company.
“Chairman of the board is Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, while Mele Kolo Kyari and Umar I. Ajiya are chief executive officer, and chief financial officer, respectively.
“Other board members are; Dr Tajudeen Umar (North-East); Mrs Lami O. Ahmed (North-Central); Mallam Mohammed Lawal (North-West); Senator Margaret Chuba Okadigbo (South-East), Barrister Constance Harry Marshal (South-South); and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South-West).”

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Reject Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request, SERAP Tells NASS

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; to reject the fresh request by President Muhammadu Buhari, to borrow $4billion and €710million.
SERAP said if such request must be granted, the Federal Government should publish details of spending of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015.
The group also expressed fear that if the fresh request is granted, it may take Nigeria’s to over N35trillion.
Buhari recently sought the approval of the National Assembly to borrow $4,054,476,863 and €710million, on the grounds of “emerging needs.”
The request was contained in a letter dated August 24, 2021.
In an open letter dated September 18, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”
SERAP said, “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.
“The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.
“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education”, SERAP added.

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