Today, millions of Nigerians are celebrating unbroken record of 23 years of democracy. But are we truly a full blown democratic nation? The answer is capital NO.
We can’t continue this small piece without acknowledging the great sacrifices of heroes of democracy like Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Pa Alfred Rilwani, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome Kuti, Chief Anthony Enahoro, PA Abraham Adesanya, Chief Adekunle Ajasin and others too numerous to mention. Although, they are all gone; their memories live with us as heroes of democracy.
MKO Abiola and other heroes of democracy sacrificed their lives so that we can begin to enjoy this small democracy we are enjoying today.
Twenty three years after the birth of democracy that ushered in the 4th Republic, do we really have anything near real democracy in Nigeria like it’s obtained in developed nations such as UK ,USA ,Canada and others? My response is absolute, NO.
At best, we can describe our current practices in Nigeria as ‘wobbling and fumbling ‘ democracy’ but with a lot of hope even as we all know that there is no perfect democracy anywhere in tbe world. Not even in the so-called advanced democracies.
What is Democracy? If a may ask. Great scholars and social scientists like Karl Marx and others have variously described’ Democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people. But the idea behind this concept of government is to unleash limitless opportunities therein for the social and economic wellbeing of the citizens across the globe.
Twenty three years is a long period in the life of any nation. Singapore came from a state of emptiness and attained prosperity within 20 years under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yeu’. Why is our country still wobbling and fumbling, despite 23 years of democracy?
Nigeria as a nation might have recorded some growth in the last 23 years but this is not commensurable with our expectations as citizens of the most populous black nation in the world. At the twilight of the 4th Republic, we all anticipated freedom, economic growth ,improved life expectancy, social cohesion among citizens, infrastructural growth, , poverty alleviation and prosperous nation like Malaysia and others. Are we there yet? No. Then why? It’s largely because we are not yet a full blown democratic nation. Yes, it’s easy for us to mouth democracy but in practice, we are not yet there.
If we look around the world, democracy is actually driven by institutions and not by ‘man’. In Nigeria, although we are moving away from the massive impunity with which we conduct state affairs, we are largely far away from where we ought to be. Our country is largely built on powerful individuals rather than institutions driven by laws as the case in advanced democracies.
In the last 23 years ,the democratic space has been dominated by retired army generals whose training is by command. Although they often mouth themselves as converted Democrats, you and I know that their claims have remained deceitful. Our 23 years of democracy has been a harrowing experience in the hands of retired army generals, removing their army uniform today and tomorrow they claim to be converted democrats.
In the last couple of years ,they have ruled the country with impunity, undermining the rule of laws, conduct state affairs with flagrant violations of human rights.
The 2023 general elections is therefore loaded with high expectations more than ever as our country will be ushering in a full blown democratic leadership with democratic characters.
This is when federalism structure will be invoked, rule of law will be allowed to prevail, citizens will exercise their fundamental human rights unhindered, society will thrive on equity, justice and fair play and society will flourish with prosperity
The flagrant impunity with which some government officials run the affairs of this country will come to an end. Nigeria will be run according to the law and not according to any man. This will ultimately throw up nationhood and trigger limitless opportunities for the socio and economic wellbeing of the citizens.
We know our story and characters behind the democratic struggles for this country. We knew the story of certain people in this country that trooped to their region in 1993 when June 12 election was injuriously annulled by IBB when others sacrificed their lives for democracy to have root in Nigeria.
Politics, to me, is usually a serious business so it’s time to reward the living author of modern progressive politics and symbol of democracy in Nigeria. With Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as president in 2023, we can be sure of a steady move to full Democracy.
.Otunba Sola Olatunji, Chairman Ikale Heritage Development Association, IHDA, writes from Lagos.