• Making Democracy Day worthy of celebration

    Making democracy day worthy of celebration - nigeria newspapers online
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    As the Federal Government plans to mark this year’s Democracy Day on June 12, it is reasonable to assert that the hope of those who struggled for enthronement of democratic government in 1999 is being threatened by the way the country is being governed.

    After many years of campaign and protests against military rule by Nigerians, the country returned, once again, to civilian administration in 1999 with the hope that it will lead to rapid development of the country and better welfare for the citizens. But about 25 years after, what is in the mouth of Nigerians are songs of disappointment and frustration caused by the greed, unprecedented level of corruption, selfishness, mediocrity and bad characterof the people in the political offices. Majority of Nigerians are now worse off, with some of them surreptitiously preferring return to military rule, an aberration that they terminated in 1999. It is a sad situation.

    Recently, the Federal Government inaugurated a 17-man inter-ministerial panel on 2024 Democracy Day charged with the responsibility of organizing memorable and befitting celebrations. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, while inaugurating the committee in his office in Abuja noted the importance of the celebrationas an opportunity to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices of the nation’s national heroes and heroines who fought for the entrenchment of democratic rule in Nigeria.

    In a statement by Segun Imohiosen, the Director of Information and Public Relations in his office, Akume added that the yearly celebration would also afford the country the avenue to showcase its achievements in dealing with myriad of challenges in social and economic sectors confronting the nation.

    Indeed, Democracy Day which is celebrated on June 12 of every year is an important day for Nigeria. The restoration of democracy in 1999 was a watershed in the political history of the country, the year that over a decade of intense and dangerous struggle culminated in return to democratic administration, and the military was expelled from political governance.

    The agitation against military rule was replete with killings and imprisonment of those in the frontline of the struggle but they were resolute and unswerving.

    A lot of people who went on the streets on Ikorodu road in Lagos to protest against the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election that has now been declared won by the late Chief M.K.O Abiola were killed by agents of the military. Some notable agitators for swearing in of Abiola as president of Nigeria, including the current President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, were forced to go on exile so as not to fall victims of the military bullets. The truth is that Nigerians suffered greatly to get the current democratic dispensation in place.

    While planning to celebrate the product of the great sacrifices that were made for enthronement of democracy, it is reasonable to ask some questions: since return to democracy about 25 years ago, what has been the living condition of the people? Are Nigerians better off than when they were under military rule? Is what we have today the dream of those who fought, including those who died, for democracy? What level ofdevelopment or special achievement has the country recorded that can be attributed to the return to democracy?

    Sadly, today, it is tales of disappointment and woes for Nigerians who had fervently expected civilian government to transform the country and make life more meaningful for them. One of the disappointments is in the greed of those elected to governing the country, who, instead of exhibiting uncommon wisdom, empathy, love for fellow citizens, patriotism and good character in their various offices, are showcasing their ‘stealing ingenuity’, polluting the character of the youth who read stories about their corruption, and thereby setting agenda for destruction of the future of the country.

    After terminating military rule that facilitated looting of the nation’s coffers, political offices have been commercialized in the democratic government that replaced it. It has been an avenue to amass unmerited wealth at the expense of the security and welfare of the people which the constitution says is the primary purpose of government.

    Most political office holders now loot the treasury with impunity. It seems that their first task in office is to empty the coffers to become billionaires and establish strong financial base for themselves. And then they are secure, even if any unexpected happens. The most worrisome consequence of the unprecedented corruption in Nigeria today is that there is no money left to develop the country.

    Even the loans taken by the government are not adequately accounted for, and now the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow may live the rest of their lives repaying loans taken by today’s leaders who would die not explaining what was done with the money. Shockingly, some leaders who are invited to explain some things that happened when they were in office are stupendously rich to mobilize all manner of people to protest against such invitation by government agencies. What is most shocking is that the body language of those who ought to ensure that the law takes its course suggests that they approve of the show of shame, and gives the impression that some people are above the law. This happening in a democratic setting means that the Rule of Law, a crucial pillar of democracy has fallen.

    A major tenet of democracy is periodic elections in which the will of the people, that is the collective desires and preferences of the voting citizens, are expressed and celebrated. It is the time that voters exercise their political right to choose who represents them in government, or retain who has been representing them through unbiased electoral process. In Nigeria today, the will of the people, and their choices are openly truncated in elections that are often replete with irregularities and fraud. Unfortunately, the winner of an election in which millions of dully registered voters participated is determined by a few judges in a court of law, no matter the will expressed by the voters through their votes.

    Another sad development in the struggle for political office is that the moneybags have captured the democratic space, dashing the hope of majority of citizens who are willing to serve their country and turn things around. How many Nigerians can afford the millions of naira being paid for expression of interest form in the political parties? The import is that no matter how good your intention and how capable you are to make your country grow and make life better for your country men and women, if you are not financially buoyant, you cannot get there. Political offices now seem to have been permanently reserved for rich people, mostly looters of commonwealth, and their families.

    Certainly, all these were not envisaged by those who staked their lives for the government of the people by the people and for the people to be firmly rooted in Nigeria.

    The government should allow liberal democracy to work in the country. Nigerians are suffering greatly. Millions of the people are struggling to provide food, shelter, security and other basic things for themselves and their families. The government must substantially mitigate their suffering. Corruption must be fought to a stand-still, and looting must stop so that there can be money for development projects and programs that will positively impact the masses.

    Nobody should be above the law if the nation’s democracy is to yield dividends. There is need for sincere political reform that will make it possible for more people, irrespective of financial background and other discriminating and limiting factors, to participate in the governance of the country.It is when this atmosphere is achieved that Democracy Day celebration can have meaning for Nigerians.

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