21 years after: We’ve fought for democracy, let the youth sustain it —Lamido

YCE, Ningi, Yakassai, others also speak

’YOMI AYELESO and ISHOLA MICHAEL report that there are different shades of opinions on the state of democracy in the country today after more than two decades as politicians share their views on the state of the nation.

 

FRIDAY, 29th May, was exactly 21 years since democracy made a return to the Nigeria political landscape. Since then, the country has not remained the same again – for better or for worse – depending on what every individual is looking at.

While many Nigerians believe that a lot of progress has been made, many others believe otherwise.  For this latter category of Nigerians, the country has remained largely stagnated with very little progress made in more than two decades. Some others even believe the country has retrogressed on many indices.

A former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, in an interview with Sunday Tribune, expressed his opinion on democracy in Nigeria and how the journey has been 21 years down the line. According to him, the older generation of politicians have done their best by fighting for the return of democracy in the country, it is therefore the duty of the younger generation to sustain it.

Lamido said: “For me and people of my age, we have less to do in the sustenance of the Nigerian democracy because age is not on our side. We did all our possible best; we struggled and fought for democracy. We returned civilians to governance in 1999 and we have made sure it’s still the same today.”

“We are all living witnesses to the maximum development in human, economic and infrastructure capitals in all parts of the country since the return of democracy 21 years back.  Our own role now is monitoring and supervising the running and development of democracy and, at the same time, advising and guiding the young ones.”

Also speaking, a former member of House of Representatives (Guri/Kirikasamma federal constituency, Jigawa State), Honorable Abba Anas Adamu, expressed fear on the future of democracy in the country. He said: “The problem is that we moved one step forward at the early stage of our democratic dispensation. Now we are moving two steps backwards. There will not be a good and ideal democracy without vibrant political parties.”

Speaking further, he said: “Look at how political parties were formed and registered. See how political parties operate and candidates in elective positions are being fielded without merit and consideration for the needs of the majority. It is sad.”

For the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), the country has not made good progress and the major blame, according to the group, can be put on the 1999 Constitution, which it said was “dumped on the country.”

The Secretary-General of the YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, in an interview with Sunday Tribune, noted that the successes recorded so far ought to have been more had it been the constitution was people-centered.

According to him, “No doubt, we have made some progress but we ought to have gone farther than this as a nation, especially if we had the people’s constitution. You cannot compare democracy to dictatorship. At least, people are not given the opportunity to elect their leaders, though (it is) not perfect.”

“The foundation of the current democratic experience was very faulty because the constitution dumped on us is like we were embarking on a blind journey. Nonetheless, we have made some progress and it is written all over the world that we are practising democracy, no matter how defective it is.

“The people’s voice is being listened to, especially in the few years [of democracy] and a lot of public awareness are in place. There have been series of improvements in the areas of infrastructure in the last few years and, God forbid, this progress must not be truncated like it was in 1966.”

Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi, a former leader of the House of Representatives and later Deputy Senate leader, also believes that Nigeria is not doing badly except for some hiccups in governance which, to him, is to be expected.

Senator Ningi noted that Nigeria’s democratic journey in the past 21 years has been full of ups and down. He, however, believes that democracy is gradually becoming stable in the country.

According to him, the executive and the legislative arms of government have made tremendous progress compared to what the situation was in 1999.

He added that one major goal of democratic rule is the ability of Nigerians to vote for candidates of their choice and to see that the votes counted.

“This has been achieved to a large extent and this had seen many sitting elected politicians voted out of office, including even a sitting president,’’ he said.

Speaking on the issue of electoral reforms, Senator Ningi believed that though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had done its best, the situation could still get better with a little more attention and determination to give Nigerians free and fair elections and credible results. He concluded that with what has been achieved politically so far, democracy has come to stay in Nigeria.

As for Aminu Mohammed Tukur, a politician from Bauchi State, Nigeria’s democracy should no longer be referred to as nascent because after 21 years, democracy has become strong and stable, advising that everything should be done to maintain it.

Speaking on the country’s electoral process, Tukur said a lot could still be done to strengthen it, adding that the electoral laws should be reviewed them make then more workable as it is done in other democracies of the world.

Pinpointing the dividends of democracy, Tukur noted that freedom of expression and association has been upheld to a certain extent, though a lot could still be done to improve on the observance of fundamental human rights and the fight against corruption which he said should be holistic.

Shehu Musa Gabam, also from Bauchi State, agrees that democracy is truly becoming more entrenched in the country and that Nigerians have come to the realization that democracy is the best form of governance.

He is of the opinion that with a little push and determination,  “the country’s democracy will thrive to become equal with the so-called advanced democracies. All that is required is focus and constant practice of democracy.”

He expressed the confidence that the next general election in 2023 would further show the direction the nation’s democracy would follow.

However, it is not all a glowing tribute to democracy in Nigeria in the last 21 years. The chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Sokoto State chapter, Dr. Abubakar Sabo, in his remarks rated the leadership and achievements so far recorded very low compared with the available resources.

The ASUU chairman said though democracy remains the best form of government across the world, the only thing worth being celebrated by Nigerians is life, which is actually the grace of God, adding that the economic sector has not yielded the kind of robust achievement expected of it.

He accused the current leaders in the country of introducing policies which would not lead the country anywhere, especially in the education sector when compared with what was witnessed in the last few years.

“If I am to give a verdict or make comments on the whole aspect of governance in the country, I tell you nothing is working as expected in Nigeria. This is because none of the sectors has been able to translate into benefits for the average Nigerian.

“There are some areas that the government is trying its best: for example the transport sector, with the improvement and workability of the railway system.

“The establishment of some institutions like EFCC which has given us the opportunities to expose the way things were mishandled in the past.

“In terms of general assessment, specifically the financial sector, successive governments have not been able to address the challenges of Nigerians.

“If you look at the health sector which is the most hit, the pandemic we are seeing today has been able to expose the weaknesses and decay in our health sector over the years, as well as in the education sector.

“Unfortunately, policies that were meant to develop these critical sectors of the economy have not been given the kind of support that will help in giving the desired result.

“Today, it is unfortunate that those that are saddled with the responsibility of managing the economy of this country do not have the interest of the country at heart.

“Look at what is happening now with the issue of policy called IPPIS. It has really bastardise the remnants of achievements of tertiary institutions of Nigeria.

“I am telling you that we have achieved the best policy somersault that has ever affected the education in Nigeria with the introduction of this so-called IPPIS.

“COVID-19 pandemic also has equally exposed the weaknesses of the health sector itself. Unfortunately, those who are charged with the responsibilities of these policies normally put personal interest above the political or general interest of Nigerians.

“With the lockdown and what have you, it shows that the government is not sincere. I tell you, if this pandemic extends by another one or two months, Nigeria will crumble,” he added.

Former Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to late former President, Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, in his own view said Nigeria is not where it should be.

According to him, “thank God for making it possible for us to witness 21years of democracy. We have the opportunity to build our country ‘s democracy like those of developed countries, but unfortunately we had never utilised the chance to make it worked well for the teeming masses.

“It is a leadership problem. I hope that Nigerians would resolve to make sure that from now, those they would vote to lead them would not be based on sentiments.  Nigerians should base their priority on leaders who can deliver, not on parochial sentiment or what individuals could gain from such leaders.

“Once we have the right leaders in the right positions, we will be able to make progress and I am sure in no distant to time, we will be able to overcome our problems. For now, we are not where we are supposed to be. We could have been far ahead of where we are here today.”

 

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