Obasanjo, Wike, Fayemi harp on importance of democratic culture in Nigeria
Former President of Nigeria, Cheif Olusegun Obasanjo, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, have emphasized the need to entrench democratic culture and institutions that will sustain development and security in the country.
Speaking at the Port Harcourt International Conference with the theme: Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security in Nigeria, yesterday, Obasanjo noted that although Nigeria can not shy away from the fact it is not practising true democracy, it has represented and shown tenents of it since 1999.
Obasanjo, who was the Keynote speaker at the conference, in his address titled Respecting the Principles of Democracy, opined that it is not enough to keep recycling activities and debates around liberal democracy, insisting that Nigerians should be prepared to move from democracy to democratization
He described democratisation as a political and social process that is defined as driven, absolved, and monitored by the people in their various communities in the larger interest of the nation, adding that the process gives confidence in building a credible and sustainable foundation for the future.
Obasanjo who also noted that there are no shortcuts, no quick fixes, and no magic wand to fix the country, however, stated that for enduring and thriving democracy that will deliver dividends to the people, there must be systematic and continual development and training of democracy for good governance by all means.
He said: “Democracy is possible in Nigeria and we have the capacity to build a culture of democratization.
“However, we must also appreciate the fact that it does not mean that all of our problems will disappear overnight. Rather, it strengthens an independent institution. The democratic system will empower us to effectively and efficiently manage the contradictions, and challenges in the system.”
He further stated that if the leaders do not retrace their steps, democracy will be entrenched with corruption, noting that the implication will be costly.
“Without retracing our political steps in the right direction, the current process will either not produce the right leader or it will leave so many broken blocks from the path of governance and attract resources and energy away from the task of rebuilding Nigeria and consolidating our democratic practice.
“The result will be a democratic quagmire, it breeds corruption, insecurity and survival of the richest and better connected with little or recognition of merit.
“The implication and cost of such a scenario to our present and future can beat be imagined. I pray that God should grant us the wisdom to do what is right for our nation and people at all times and more so now.”
On his part, Governor Wike noted that the success or failure of the 2023 general elections would have substantial implications for the country, saying the Success will add value by consolidating and strengthening the roots of democracy in the country.
He added that a failure may increase political polarization, exacerbate our social fault lines and set our democracy backwards.
He further stated that when the government compromises the integrity of elections through election management agencies, it denies citizens their constitutional right to elect the leaders they want and can hold them accountable.
According to Wike, Political leaders who emerge from the people’s will are more likely to represent the collective interest, foster good governance, and advance the security and well-being of citizens.
He argued that conversely, when elections lack integrity, the leaders who emerged from outside the people’s will are illegitimate, saying such leaders without trust are likely to be authoritarian, divisive and incapable of effective governance.
The Governor noted that Since 1999, Nigeria has had six general election circles, but none was considered substantially clean and fair, saying: “The outcome of the 2003 general elections was rejected at different levels by the opposition and the losers and litigated up to the Supreme Court.
“The outcome of the 2007 elections led to protests, riots, the loss of several lives, and the destruction of property in particular sections of the country.
“Indeed, President Musa Ya’ardua publicly denounced the process that brought him to power as severely flawed and promised necessary electoral reforms.
“The 2011 general election suffered a similar experience and was litigated by the opposition to the Supreme Court. None of the defeated contestants believed they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, the security agencies and politicians for undermining our democracy with brazen electoral fraud, “he said.
“The 2015 general election recorded some improvements with the introduction of the smart card reader and the emergence of opposition candidates as the winners of the presidential and gubernatorial elections in several States. Still, the outcome was considered rigged in favour of the opposition and litigated up to the Supreme Court.
“The 2019 general election was equally problematic and rejected as highly compromised by the opposition and litigated up to the Supreme Court.”
Governor Wike, however, noted that with six consecutive election circles, Nigeria’s electoral democracy ought to have crystallized. Effective compliance and enforcement of the basic standard rules, processes and preconditions for successful elections should never be challenging to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), the Security Agencies, the Judiciary, and the political parties.
Similarly, the Chairman of the ceremony, Fayemi, noted that there is much work to be done, saying another type of politics is needed.