Since 1960, Nigeria has been on a faltering democratic journey. Some believe that the series of military intervention into the political landscape of the country, the first occurring barely six years after Independence, has dealt a big blow to democracy in the country, influencing democratic practices, maintenance of peace and tranquility and Nigeria’s democratic trajectory.
The democratic journey was truncated many times (1966 – 1979, 1979 – 1983, 1983 – 1985, 1985 – 1993, 1993 – 1999) but the journey continued in 1999 with the election of General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) as civilian president of the country heralding the current Fourth Republic. Remarkably, the military handed over to the newly elected leader on May 29, 1999.
The presidential elections of June 12, 1993 which was widely adjudged to be the fairest and freest election in the country’s history was annulled by the then leader of the military junta, General Ibrahim Babangida and the acclaimed winner, late Chief Moshood Abiola, was never declared. Rather, he was arrested and imprisoned for declaring himself the winner and subsequently died in prison.
It is now 22 years into the Fourth Republic and the journey is still sauntering. To commemorate the democratic election of Abiola, the federal administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had, in 2018, declared June 12 Nigeria’s new Democracy Day as against the former date of May 29, which marks the day the military handed over power to an elected civilian government in 1999, symbolising the beginning of the longest continuous civilian rule since Nigeria’s Independence from colonial rule in 1960, and ending the many decades of military rule in the country.
Buhari’s action was in recognition of the fact that Abiola actually won the 1993 presidential election and was therefore entitled to be seen as such, even if post-humously. The late Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland was also conferred with the national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) in addition to having the national stadium in Abuja named after him.
The brief history is important in letting us know how the journey started and how it has been. But most importantly, it should help us assess the success of the movement so far and chart a way forward. To do so, we may need to ask the basic question, ”What is Democracy?” Of course, there are millions of answers to the question but I like the definition by an American Sociologist, Larry Diamond. He described democracy as a system of government with four key elements: i) A system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; ii) Active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; iii) Protection of the human rights of all citizens; and iv) A rule of law in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
Can we comfortably say that these key elements can be found in the democratic practice in Nigeria? Can elections in the country be considered to be free and fair? How about the killings, shootings, ballot box snatching, rigging and other crimes associated with elections in the country? In a truly democratic nation, the citizens participate in the election process, convinced that their votes will count and that, through the ballot, the necessary changes will be made in the society. Is that the case with Nigeria?
Another feature of democracy, according to Diamond, is protection of human rights of all citizens. Chapter five of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria deals with the fundamental human rights of citizens vis a vis the right to life, right to dignity of human person, right to freedom of expression and the Press, right to peaceful assembly, right to freedom of movement and many more. Are Nigerian citizens enjoying these rights? Last year, some Nigerian youth organised a protest against police brutality and other ills in the land. The #EndSARS protest was peaceful until the government allegedly infiltrated the groups with political thugs, leading to violence, massive destruction, looting, killing and many more.
A similar scenario played out a few weeks ago in Kaduna State during the just-suspended Labour strike. The workers embarking on a legitimate protest over some scores they have to settle with the state government were seen being stoned by miscreants allegedly hired by the government all in a bid to shut the people up and put an end to the protest. The president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Waba, was even declared wanted by the Kaduna State Government. What about the ongoing feud between the social media giant, Twitter and the federal government which resulted in the ban of the microblogging platform in the country irrespective of the effect of such action on the citizens?
The issue of the protection of lives and properties of the citizens is also a big one. Human lives don’t seem to matter anymore in the country. People are being killed every day by bandits, killer herdsmen, unknown gunmen in different parts of the country, yet all the tiers of government whose primary responsibility is to protect the lives of the citizens appear helpless. Politics and other selfish interests seem more important to them than the safety and welfare of the people.
The issue of rule of law is a no-go area because, in Nigeria, it appears there is a set of rules for some people and another set for the rest people. Some have argued that the principle of rule of law, equality before the law, and separation has taken the back stage in the country. And I think this argument has some merit especially in view of the recent happenings in the country – the invasion of homes of judges, those in authority choosing the court ruling to obey and follow, the age-long denial of financial autonomy to the Judiciary which is the crux of the matter in the on-going judiciary workers strike and many more.
The truth is that democracy in the country which is currently under a serious threat can only be saved and entrenched when we as a people and government in Nigeria deliberately strive to adhere to the tenets of the popular government. The United States of America and other exemplary democratic countries in the world did not get to where they are today if rule of law and other principles that make democratic government tick and gratifying were jettisoned.
Suffice it to say that as Diamond’s definition of democracy indicates, the citizens have a big role to play in a democracy. They are expected to participate actively in politics and civil life. As citizens, we cannot continue to sit on the fence and allow a handful of people to determine our fate. The media, civil societies groups, various arms of government, academic institutions, trade unions, the youth, students, faith-based and traditional institutions all have roles to play in making our fragile democracy strong. Most importantly, we have to carry out our obligations as citizens. As John Kay admonished, “The people who own the country ought to govern it”.
Also Fernando Cardoso posits, “Democracy is not just a question of having a vote. It consists of strengthening each citizen’s possibility and capacity to participate in the deliberations involved in life in society”.
Over the years, Democracy Day had been dominated by events marking the inauguration of the President and state governors during which they recount their yearly milestone achievements. Other than lectures, talk shows and street processions by pro-democracy groups which are often very few and far between, there is hardly anything in the form of celebrating attainments in democratic governance.
Being the first time the Day will be celebrated separate from the May 29 Inauguration Day, it is expected that more colour will be added to the occasion. But again, that is if the current security situation and the attendant movement restrictions in many parts of Nigeria permit.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Kano Tribunal Judgment, Slap On Constitutionalism, Rule Of Law -NNPP
The New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) has described the judgment of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that nullified the election of Governor Abba Kabiru Yusuff as a slap in the face of constitutionalism and the rule of law.
In a signed statement made available to newsmen by its acting national chairman, Abba Kawu Ali, the NNPP said its candidate won convincingly in the March 18, 2023, election, which it described as free, credible, and globally acclaimed as a fair election.
He said the pronouncement of the 3-man tribunal is laughable and a pure miscarriage of justice, which is capable of eroding the confidence of the electorate in the judiciary.
He, however, called on the party’s supporters across Nigeria to remain calm as the party will appeal the tribunal’s judgement.
“The New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) receives with utter incredulity and disbelief the judgment of the Kano State Election Petition Tribunal on the March 18, 2023, Governorship Election.
“The reported judgement nullified the free, credible, and globally acclaimed fair election of our gubernatorial candidate, Engr. Abba Kabiru Yusuf, and brazenly awarded the election to the APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna.
“The Tribunal arrived at this unjust judgment by unfairly subtracting 165,663 votes from the governor’s tally to enable it to unfairly award the result to the candidate of the ruling APC.
“In doing so, the tribunal obviously affirms its belief that the vote tally of the APC candidate was sacrosanct.
“The judgment of the 3-man Kano State Governorship Election Petition is laughable and nothing but a pure miscarriage of justice.
“The decision of the Tribunal is a slap in the face of constitutionalism and the rule of law and is capable of further discouraging the electorate from having confidence in the judiciary.
“The NNPP recalls with regret that this Tribunal has simply replayed the unholy script of 2019 by overturning the will of the people and awarding results to those who evidently lost the election.
“The NNPP will appeal this most unfair judgement.
We call on millions of our supporters in Kano and in the rest of the country to remain calm and maintain peace. A lopsided judgment cannot stand on the altar of justice”, he said.
Ondo Assembly Moves To Impeach Dep Gov
Indications emerged on Wednesday, that members of the Ondo State House of Assembly have commenced the process of impeaching the state Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
This is coming following an emergency plenary session summoned by the House of Assembly on Wednesday, with heavy presence of security men at the Assembly gate.
The Tide source gathered that at least 23 lawmakers have already appended their signatures, supporting the impeachment notice against Aiyedatiwa.
A source disclosed that the Deputy Governor is under investigation for alleged gross misuse of office and might be eased out of office through impeachment.
According to the source, trouble started when Aiyedatiwa reportedly approved the sum of N300 million for the purchase of a bulletproof SUV for his personal use.
The source said the approval was allegedly given while the state Governor was recuperating in Germany and it was approved without the knowledge of the governor.
He said the Deputy Governor further complicated matters when he ordered that the N300 million should be sourced from the Palliative fund.
He said “This fund, provided by the Federal government, was intended to support states in addressing the needs of their citizens.”
The source said the impeachment proceedings underscore the Assembly’s commitment to accountability, even at the highest levels of state governance.
Further developments in this case were being awaited as the situation continued to unfold.
Bauchi Tribunal Upholds Gov Mohammed’s Election
The Bauchi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the victory of Governor Bala Mohammed in the March 18, 2023 governorship election.
Delivering the judgment on Wednesday, Chairman of the three-man panel of the Tribunal, Justice P.T Kwahar, dismissed the petition of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakr (rtd), who challenged result of the election.
The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, electoral irregularities as well as bypass of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (B-VAS) machines in some polling units of Toro, Dass, Zaki, Itas-Gadau, Alkaleri, Bauchi, Tafawa Balewa, Ningi, Dambam and Ganjuwa Local Government Areas.The Tribunal held that there was no tangible evidence to show that the BVAS was truly manipulated.The judge explained that the witnesses brought by the petitioner presented evidence based on hearsay as they were not present at the polling units, “they have failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the APC candidate won the election.”
“This court therefore returns the second respondent as the elected governor of Bauchi state by the first respondent in the conduct of the governorship election of the 18th of March, 2023,” he held.
Editorial5 days ago
That IGP’s Directive On Illicit Arms
Niger Delta5 days ago
Bayelsa Poll: Group Cautions Stakeholders On INEC Rules, Regulations
News3 days ago
NAF To Intensify Surveillance, Precision Attacks -CAS
News3 days ago
Tinubu Rings NASDAQ Closing Bell In US
Sports5 days ago
Oluwole Eyes History At Gotv Boxing
News5 days ago
Aviation Company Denies Tampering With Adeleke’s Aircraft Engine
Niger Delta3 days ago
Obi Unveils LP Candidate’s Manifesto, Campaign Office In Bayelsa …Tasks Citizens On Electing Responsible, Accountable Leaders
Metro3 days ago
World Peace Day: Rotary, Peace Corps Walk for Peace In PH