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Democracy: Twenty Five Years On



Democracy: Twenty Five Years On


This year’s anniversary of Democracy Day is unique, historic, and its essence is not lost on the discerning category of our compatriots. Despite differences in opinions, worldviews, and persuasions across the country, there’s a consensus among the populace on the relative growth of the democratic order birthed twenty five years ago. We may not have had sterling performance by most elective office holders yet the unobstructed growth of civilian governance, culminating in its survival for a quarter of a century, provides a reasonable basis for celebration.

Prior to May 1999, achieving the feat of unbroken democratic practice, even for a decade, was unlikely in view of our past experiences. So, the thrills of the day lend credence to Nigeria’s status as a growing democracy effectuated by the exit of military dictatorship. An emerging measure of confidence in the survival of democratic governance is quite evident and it partly emanates from the apparent disposition of the military establishment to rid itself of adventurist proclivity that propelled its previous incursions and dominance of the polity for twenty nine years.

Granted, the return of democracy is a boost to Nigeria’s image in the comity of nations, but it is not yet El Dorado in the homeland. While the years of civilian rule are pleasantly elongated, the problems of the country which are mostly congenital had grown in depth and complexity. There are drawbacks like ethnic animosity and sheer injustice which feed centrifugal tendencies besides prioritisation of religion and region over competence as a basis of leadership selection, and long absence of a unified vision to propel the country beyond the hackneyed promises by the leadership.

Nigeria’s problems are however intertwined hence the protracted rudderless political direction is linked with the deterioration of the economy. It’s a cause for concern that Nigeria’s economic condition has worsened in the past twenty five years. Rather than democratise prosperity in the form of satiable goodies for the citizenry, a larger number of Nigerians are mired in suffocating poverty worse than what we had in 1999. The progressive impoverishment of the citizenry, the fallout of poor leadership, besets the country like a terminal ailment. The emphasis on the centre as well as the reverberation of its policies at the sub-national level arises from the distorted federal structure which, unlike the quintessential model elsewhere, portrays the centre as a behemoth while the states grovel as puny entities.

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Unarguably, a combination of inchoate ideas and policy reversals by successive administrations has enfeebled the articulation of microeconomic and macroeconomic policies to grow the economy and enhance the living standard of the populace. With a runaway inflation of food prices exacerbated by banditry and herdsmen onslaught, growing unemployment and devaluation of our once-strong naira, lamentably prostrate vis-a-vis global currencies, the present path is dark and the route to the future perceptibly bleak.

Of course, a critical appraisal of the current course of the Bola Tinubu administration in the past year shows that Nigeria is in for a bumpy ride. With an inclement economic weather created by the twin policies of petrol subsidy removal and naira floatation and obsession with taxation, ostensibly at the behest of the Bretton Woods institutions, we need not be imbued with clairvoyance to decipher the likelihood of worst hardship awaiting majority of Nigerians.

Yet, it is not all gloom since 1999. The tenures of the four elected presidents that preceded Tinubu left remarkable achievements. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo piloted the country on the path of recovery and restoration with payment of the huge debt owed the Paris Club. The late Umar Yar’ Adua showed some promise of conciliatory leadership even in his short-lived tenure. While Dr. Goodluck Jonathan partly built on the tenor of his immediate predecessor, his concession of electoral defeat to his successor burnished his image as a leader who’s not desperate to cling to power in contrast with the unenviable trend on the African continent. Ex-President Muhammadu Buhari is credited with road infrastructure across the country, but his insular and ethnocentric inclination left an indelible stain on his sheet of achievements.

Outside the federal level, a number of states such as Delta has had considerable harvest of benefits accruing from democracy. The emergence of four governors who were obviously inspired by the loftiest ideals to serve our people made it possible. In the class of the rare privileged Deltans are Chief James Obori, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and the incumbent, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori. As each of them was confronted by the manifest needs of Deltans they rose to the occasion and left their marks so noticeably in the period under review. Although space constraint is a hindrance to the itemisation of those projects, each of them was conscious of the invaluable mandate they received from their compatriots.

A pathway to further consolidate Nigeria’s democracy can be bolstered by substantial amendment of the constitution to accord with the reality of the times and improved conduct of elective office holders that aligns with the demand of the people for fairness, justice and accountability. A conscious effort to humanise the democratic content is direly needed to improve the living conditions of the people. It is therefore imperative for the Tinubu administration to review its economic policies so that a large number of vulnerable Nigerians would not be strangulated before 2027.

*TONY EKE, a journalist, writes from Asaba, Delta State capital.


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