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Previewing Nigeria’s New Democracy Day

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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

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2023: ‘Unknown Persons’ Stole My Academic Certificates, Tinubu Tells INEC

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The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his academic certificates were stolen by unknown persons while he was on self exile.
Tinubu, a former Lagos State Governor, was one of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Chieftains who fled the country under the regime of the late General Sani Abacha.
Abacha had clamped down on academics, activists and other technocrats opposed to his regime.
In his sworn affidavit in support of his nomination form for the office of the president, Tinubu said he “went on self exile from October 1994 to October 1999 (and) when I returned and discovered that my property including all the documents relating to my qualification and my certificates in respect of paragraph 3 above were looted by unknown persons.”
While Tinubu skipped information regarding his primary and secondary education in the INEC form, he, however, said he attended University of Chicago between 1972 and 1976, where he obtained B.Sc in Economics.
He also said he had B.Sc in Business and Administration, as well as certificate in Public Account.
Tinubu’s latest claims appear to contradict his previous election submissions, especially in 1999, when he ran and won the Lagos State governorship election.
He had said then that he attended St Paul Children’s Home School, Ibadan, between 1958 and 1964; while his secondary education was at Government College Ibadan (GCI), between 1965 and 1968.
Following a backlash, the former governor withheld his primary and secondary schools academic records when he recontested in 2003.
He had claimed that from Ibadan, he proceed to Richard Daley College, Chicago, from 1969 to 1971.
He finally said he attended both Chicago State University and the University of Chicago.
All the submissions were, however, challenged as fraudulent by a prominent Nigerian lawyer, late Gani Fawehinmi.
Fawehinmi, who argued the matter up to the Supreme Court, which dismissed the case on technical grounds.
In his forms, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presented the Master’s degree he obtained in 2021, as his highest educational qualification.

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PDP Chieftain Hails Aduda’s Emergence As Senate Minority Whip

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A chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Honourable Hellen Taiwo-Adebakin, has congratulated Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda on his emergence  as Senate Minority Whip
Adebakin, while rejoicing with the Senator said, Aduda’s elevation was a great honour for the good people of the FCT that he represents, who daily yearn for effective inclusion in the affairs of Nigeria.
Hon Adebakin, Secretary of the former and current ex-National ex-officio members of the PDP also described the new feat attained by the Senator as a product of loyalty and consistency to the PDP.
“I am using this opportunity to rejoice with one of our leaders in PDP, Senator Philip Aduda over his emergence as the Senate Minority Whip. Your elevation to this enviable position was a product of hard work, commitment to legislative duties and loyalty to the party. I pray to God Almighty to continue to guide as you assume this position,” Adebakin said.
She, therefore, urged him to continue to be a good ambassador of the party, stressing that the Senator will move to a higher position in the Red Chamber when the PDP returns to power at the centre in 2023.

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Senate Lauds Gbajabiamila’s House Leadership As Speaker Turns 60

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The Senate has lauded House of Representatives’ Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila on his 60th birthday.
The Senate gave the commendation in a statement by its spokesman and Chairman, Media and Public Affairs Committee, Senator Ajibola Basiru in Abuja.
The statement reads: “The upper legislative chamber, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to congratulate an outstanding achiever, an astute legal light, a man of exemplary social standing and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Right Honorable Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila on his 60th birthday.
“Achieving this major milestone – a perfect 10, six times, over which you have attained calls for recognition and celebration; especially having achieved so much for yourself, the society and the nation.
“The Senate recognises you as a man of good upbringing and a well-bred personality who had traversed the universe in search of education and had achieved so much in your chosen legal career before making outstanding pursuits in legislative politics.
“Your services as an extraordinary lawmaker have been impeccable rising from being a member of the House of Representatives to becoming the minority leader, majority leader and then holding the prestigious position of the Speaker of the elite Assembly”.
“Your being one of the two longest-serving members of the House of Representatives also calls for all accolades that can be showered on you today.
“You have surely had many adventures in life but we still see you travelling farther to further stabilise the Nation’s polity and we pray for long life and good health for you as all things get better with age for you.
“While we rejoice with you, we hope you will have an amazing birthday. Congratulations!”

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