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Published On: Tue, Sep 16th, 2014

How far have we gone with Nigeria’s Democracy

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Jonathan-2015By Evelyn Okakwu

On the 15th of this month, Nigeria and indeed the rest of the world marked the international Democracy day. Consequently, we analyze the views of some stake holders on the impact of Nigeria’s democracy towards national development.

According to the encyclopedic dictionary, Democracy is a theory of government which in its purest form, holds that the state should be controlled by all the people, each sharing equally in privileges, duties, and responsibilities and each participating personally  in the government.

 In fact the word Democracy was first coined from two Greek words; namely “demos and kratos”. ‘Demos’ refer to majority of people, while ‘kratos’ referred to administration or rule. Put succinctly, it meant a system of administration that was propelled or determined by the will of the majority of people or inhabitants. There are various definitions of democracy; although the most famous is that given by President Abraham Lincoln of the United States of America, which defined Democracy as “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

From its definition, Democracy is a government in which every process, from start to finish, should be largely controlled by the people.

Observer and stake holders within the country in this report, state various accounts about their views of Nigerian’s Democracy.

According to the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, “There is continuous progress in Nigeria in the last 15 years. We have seen expansion of economy.  Also In 1999, we had a debt of almost 40 billion dollars. But today, Nigeria is no longer under the weight of the debt burden.  We have become the number one economy in Africa. In the last four years the economy has grown on a steady 7 per cent per annum.

Economic growth has overtaken population growth. Social services are coming back, railway is coming back and our roads are better now”.

However the executive director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Mr Frank Tietie has stated that the Democracy, as it is practiced in Nigeria, has been anything, but good.

“Democracy has been welcomed in Nigeria; but the major players have ridiculed our Democracy. The executive arm of government is overriding the other arms of government and that makes nonsense of the principles of checks and balances, which is typical of a Democratic setting. So far, our Democracy has been at the mercy of politicians; and if it continues that way, it will get to a point where it will become difficult for them to agree and resolve issues, such that this Democracy we have had since 1199 will be lost, says Tietie. Adding, when we say that

Nigeria is a federal republic; what it means is that we are a country governed by law, it’s not a Monarchy or an Oligarchy, where either an individual or a few, will be at the helm of leadership.

 What we should have is a state that looks after the welfare of its people. A state with three arms of government; the executive, the legislature and the Judiciary, which all exist for the benefit of the people.

However, in an event where the executive is lawless, the legislature does little or nothing about it and the Judiciary is impotent, then the tendency will be high for people to take decisions that will be brutal, thereby leading to a political enclosure that could destroy the democracy we have worked so hard to have.

The concept of Democracy exists under the principle of the rule of law. So far; the essence of law has not been typical. The principles of law have been relegated to the background.

For example, the impeachment proceedings of the Adamawa and Nasarawa elections; the law clearly states that the persons to be appointed by the chief Judge to investigate the conducts of the governor, should, according to section 188, be persons not in any way connected to the

government. The chief Judge instead decided to appoint persons under the payroll of government and could be sympathetic to the plight of government.

The only thing that will spare our democracy is a culture that allows the law to reign, as against the reign of a group of stakeholders”. In the few words chipped in by Dr Stanley Ngwudo; a medical practitioner based in Abia state; he corroborates that saying of Mr Tietie regarding the present state of Nigeria’s Democracy; “Corruption is making a mockery of our Democracy”.

 But regarding the reign of terror, as a threat to Nigeria’s Democracy, Mr. Tiete, disagrees; “I do not agree that terrorism is the greatest threat to Nigeria’s Democracy. It is certainly the greatest threat to the existence of Nigeria as a state, but not to our Democracy.

When it comes to the practice of Democracy, the greatest threat is the politicians. They are worse than terrorists and should be viewed as the ones terrorising Nigeria’s Democracy.

These politicians are the members of the three arms of government that have failed to allow the reign of the rule of law in the country.

On the other hand, the Secretary General of the Universal Peace Federation, Dr Raphael Oko, says his score card for Nigeria’s Democracy is certainly good.

“Well I think that our Democracy has so far been good. This is because it is the first time we are having 15 years of uninterrupted civil rule.

The whole concept of democracy is aimed at establishing civil leadership. In that light, we have done well. We have been able to keep the military from taking over, despite our challenges.

We live in an age when the country is still guided by the principles of independence.

At the beginning, we thought that all we needed was a national independence. Now people are agitating for state independence. Even individuals are clamoring for independence.

We are in the stage of growth. Ours is a growing Democracy. In fact many people did not believe that our democracy would come this far.

President Obama once said that what Africa needs now is not strong leaders but strong institutions. We need to strengthen institutions of civil leadership. We need also to intensify political education. Our people do not have a common vision. Where are we headed as a nation?

We need to determine those things.

How many of our National Assembly members read law?. We need to build political parties with strong ideologies for the growth of the nation”.

During a conversation with one of the delegates at the  just concluded National Conference, Barrister Hauwa Shekarau, she stated that; “There is no gain saying that Nigeria is going through difficult times,  the security  challenges and even the problem of distributing the common wealth of this country, and so the opportunity that it gave us to sit down and discuss the problems, the challenges and the way forward is a very good opportunity which  cannot be wished away”.

Some observers have stated that the national confab was also a part of measures aimed at strengthening the unity of Nigerians thereby improving upon government and consequently upon our Democracy.

According to Samuel Dankat, a student of Political Science from the Kaduna state polytechnic, Nigeria’s Democracy has its many challenges and so much has been said about the various challenges of Nigeria and indeed, its system of government. What is now left is an implementation of matters discussed.

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