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16 years of unbroken democracy

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Obasanjo

 

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YarAdua

 

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Jonathan

 

IF any success has been recorded in the last 16 years of Nigeria’s current democratic experience, it is that the country has, against all odds, sustained the democratic culture to continue to strengthen the pillars of participatory governance in the largest concentration of black people on the globe.

The nearest the country got to the current dispensation was at the dawn of nationhood when a six-year period of civil rule was truncated by the January 15, 1966 military intervention that abruptly stalled democratic growth of a young state with the highest potentials for socio-economic and political development in Africa.

During the following 13 years of military interregnum, the fragile foundation of Nigeria’s democracy was further weakened and the federal arrangement, which formed the structural base of the country, was substituted with a unitary system in consonance with the pyramidal arrangement of military command.

After a 30-month civil war that nearly tore the country into two, three coup d’états which claimed the lives of two Heads of State and floundering attempts at strengthening the fabrics of national unity amid demands by the political class for the return to civil rule, democracy was restored in 1979 to be truncated yet again four years later by another military intervention.

Sixteen years down the line, the reality is still being sustained and even though the country has been having a bumpy ride on the road to perfection especially in attempts by politicians to thwart the process, the experience gathered so far is already strengthening the system to create a mechanism for protection.

Except for a three-month break of a face-saving interim government under the shadow of the military, the country was dragged through the dark tunnel of dictatorship for another 15 years during which several attempts at replanting the seeds of democracy did not come to fruition.

The deceits of military leadership oiled by massive corruption and collaboration with a section of the political class took the country to the edge of the precipice when the ruling junta annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which came after a tortuous transition programme.

The love of political and civil freedom by an exasperated population that was tired of dictatorship and brazen impunity of military rulers coupled with debilitating socio-economic yoke and decaying infrastructure caused by unbridled corruption in the system, led to massive agitation for the return of democracy.

As the darkest part of the night is just before dawn, the last lap of military dictatorship was the most repressive and under it, several martyrs whose blood were used to water the ground of civil defiance were made out of the struggle for freedom and several pro-democracy figures and activists were hounded into prisons or exile.

In 1999, power was relinquished to the civilians and in order to pacify a section of the country with the most frayed nerves in the struggle for democracy, ex-military ruler, Olusegun Obasanjo, emerged as the winner in an obviously one-horse contest thereby realizing the dream of making Nigeria the largest democracy in the black world.

Sixteen years down the line, the reality is still being sustained and even though the country has been having a bumpy ride on the road to perfection especially in attempts by politicians to thwart the process, the experience gathered so far is already strengthening the system to create a mechanism for protection.

Perhaps if the opportunity presented by the aborted Third Republic during which effort at political re-engineering of the polity was embarked upon, Nigeria would by now be stronger in representative government.
During the period, a Centre for Democratic Studies was established and because of the historical facts of the country’s multi-party system having the tendency of being reduced to a two-party structure in practice, two political parties founded on different ideological lines, were foisted on the nation.

New innovations were also brought on the electoral system to reduce incidences of rigging and to encourage transparency and integrity of the ballot paper in a country where election crisis had been a major contributing factor to the periodic termination of civil rule.

However since 1999, the country has been moving on in the task of consolidating democracy and some improvement have been recorded in the strengthening of democratic institutions particularly the body saddled with the conduct of electoral exercise.

Because election is the major pillar of democracy as the process in which the choice of the voters is expressed, the conduct of election is a barometer to measure the success of democracy in the last 16 years.

From all indications, the preparations for tomorrow’s exercise have been the most elaborate in the history of election conduct in the country thereby strengthening democracy the more.

The deployment of technology in the use of the card readers and in the compilation of the voters’ register and the manning of the headship of the electoral body by people believed to have integrity, have increased the confidence of Nigerians in the system.

The increase in the number of prospective voters and enhanced interests of the people in the system also highlighted the fact that the democratic culture is gradually finding roots in the country, a further testimony that if the current experience is allowed to go on without interference, Nigeria would soon get its acts together.

But if the Nigerian voter is gradually imbibing the culture of democracy, the same could not be said of the members of the political class who, at election periods, always look for ways to subvert the system to have an upper hand against opponents.

Because of unbridled ambition for political power, the political class, in and out of government, has been taking advantage of centrifugal factors that could divide the country, to feather their own nests.

In 1993, the Nigerian electorate voted across ethnic, religious and regional lines but instead of members of political class in government to use the development to further cement the unity of the country, embers of disunity were fanned to the extent that today, 22 years after, these factors are still issues in the current campaigns.

With commitment to build the institutions of democracy, establishing a credible electoral structure and insulating the system from military intervention, which is the greatest threat to the polity, the Nigerian democracy will be further strengthened and Nigerians will continue to enjoy the dividends of representative government.



2 Comments
  • Ejiofor

    TRIBUTE TO OLUSEGUN OBASANJO
    Obasanjo should take the singular credit for this historic feat of unbroken sixteen(16) years of democratic rule in Nigeria. He has been an exceptional leader enigma, nationalist, patriot. If not for his honest and genuine commitment to democracy, the story may have been different today. He alone was able to clip the wing of ambitious military brats that would have destabilize our polity. Little did we know that he saved us from all these political tension and uncertainty about 2015 election, when he seamlessly made GEJ president in 2011. Against all odds he ensure that President from all section of the country emerge without rancour….(Yaradua -North, Jonathan – South and most likely back to the North). BABA OBJ, your place is secured in our heart and history as a great gift not just to Nigeria but Africa. A Prophet they say is without honour in his place. Once again many thanks for your unparalleled contribution to democracy in Nigeria since 1979.

  • OBASOLA OSIDELE

    GOD ALONE SHOULD TAKE THE GLORY, WHO ENTHRONED OBASANJO? DID HE RELEASED HIMSELF FROM PRISON? WHO SUGGESTED HIS NOMINATION? WHO FUNDED THE CAMPAIGN EXPENSES? WHO ARE THOSE THAT VOTED FOR HIM INITIALLY? IT WAS GOD THAT MADE IT POSSIBLE. MY PEOPLE. GOD BLESS YOU ALL IN JESUS NAME. NIGERIA SHALL PROGRESS AND ALL OF US SHALL SUCCEED. LET US ALL LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITHOUT DICRIMINATION.