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Nigeria’s democracy is a failure, an illusion, says Kokori

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Former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori said democracy in Nigeria is a failure that none of those who struggled and laid down their lives for it would be happy to discuss.

Kokori whose leadership of NUPENG became a potent force to demand representative government during the difficult days of military dictatorship said judging from what the country is currently going through, the battle for the entrenchment of democracy has been in vain.

In a phone interview with The Guardian, Kokori said what is happening to the country under the current democratic dispensation is a disaster that is persistently disturbing the minds of those people who risked their lives to confront the military strength several years ago to demand civil rule.

To him, there is nothing concrete anyone could point at as a gain under the democratic system adding.

“Although, that is not to say I am approving military regime but one would have expected Nigeria to have moved beyond where we are since 1999 when we drove the military out of governance.”

According to him, “The situation is so bad at present that one could hardly get anything from the government except through private, otherwise you pay for it. That was not our dream or anticipation when we faced the military might in the 1990s to demand civil rule.

“For 16 years the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could not do anything meaningful to transform the country.

But our hope and expectation was that President Muhammadu Buhari, being the kind of person he is, would have been able to change the country for good. But here we are three years after, things appear to be the same.

“Many of his supporters are beginning to have the feelings he is slow and not active as expected. Yes, Buhari is not corrupt and he is not amassing wealth, one of the factors that endeared him to some of us in 2015. But for how long are we going to wait on that if the country continues like this?”

The former NUPENG scribe decried the high level of corruption in the system, saying almost every official who has participated in government at whatever level since 1999 is multi-millionaire.

He also condemned the spate of insecurity in the country, stressing, “Nigeria is gradually becoming synonymous with crime, terrorism and all manner of insecurity just because of bad governance.”

According to him, “Why would there not be crime when there are no jobs for our young and able-bodied men and women? Are we celebrating democratic rule of joblessness or insecurity? These are the key questions we should ask ourselves. I can describe where we are today as a drawback and I have my reasons for saying so.

“Those of us who grew in this same Nigeria during the 1950 and 1960s have a different experience to what we are witnessing nowadays.

For instance, I got a job even before I left school in the 60s and not only that, I also did well and was happy with what I was doing then. Is the story the same today? The answer is absolutely no. In that case, are we not drawing back?”

Kokori also flayed the security situation of the country particularly the new wave of terrorism and Boko Haram insurgents, which he said have dented the image of the country among the comity of nations.

On where the fault lies, Kokori, who played significant roles along with other individuals in the quest to re-validate the June 12, 1993 presidential election, acclaimed to have been won by the late Chief MKO Abiola but was annulled by ex-military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), said the three arms of government in the country since 1999 have not lived up to expectations.

According to him, “If after 20 years of democracy Nigeria is still held down by this kind of cat and mouse relationship among the three major arms of government, instead of constructive and progressive engagement like we have in the advanced world, then something is critically wrong.

I challenge anybody to fault my view if it is possible for Nigeria to move forward with the kind of frosty and suspicious relationship between our executive and the legislative arm.

The three arms of government need to show more discipline in their approach to governance.

“I think the three arms of government should be more business-like and not what they are currently doing as if there is nothing at stake.”

He also expressed concern over the level of corruption in the country stressing, “Graft has gone too deep in the country beyond reasonable imagination.”

Another issue he said was posing threat to Nigeria is the over-bloated population, which Kokori said nobody is courageous to address in the country.

He said: “We don’t really need the type of population we have at present and I noticed that everybody is afraid to discuss the issue. I think Nigerians should begin to cut down on the numbers of children they bear if we really meant well for this nation.

To me three to four children is enough for any reasonable couple instead of a situation where some people bear as many as eight to ten children or more.”

But when asked if he would support his position with legislation, Kokori said, “The danger is any legislator that raises such a matter in the National Assembly would definitely not return or get frustrated. It is only the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) that can sponsor such a bill.

On how the country can move forward, Kokori said, “It is unfortunate Nigeria lacks real leaders yet. The best we have at present is still President Buhari. To make the matter worse, the cost of contesting an election in the country is too high.

As a matter of fact, you can’t even win a councillorship election without money. This is the reason good and disciplined people cannot run.

The likes of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi as popular as he was could not even win an election in his ward at Ikeja when he contested. This is a big challenge.”


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