22 years of unbroken democracy: So far, so bad!
What can we really and honestly make of twenty-two years of unbroken democracy in the country? When Babangida and his military travellers wanted to bequeath their brand of democracy to us, many were deceived to believe that they meant well for the country. From 1985 to 1993, the nation was dribbled the way the Maradona and his kitchen cabinet knew best! From Option A4 to two political parties (Social Democratic Party and National Republican Convention), we were all fooled. June 12, 1993, was to be a watershed in the annals of our political evolution, but it was destroyed.
The presidential election of June 12, 1993, produced M. K. O. Abiola with Babagana Kingibe, his running mate both Muslims as winners of the annulled presidential election. God bless Nigerians who put aside religious bigotry and sentiment and voted in Abiola and Kingibe. Regrettably, for illogical, self, and unpatriotic reasons, Abiolas mandate was scuttled. Then the macabre dance started. Earnest Shonekan, a lawyer and businessman was brought in as the Head of the Interim Government with General Abacha superintending over his affairs. It was the worst scenario that ever emerged in the nations political history.
For three months, the nation became rudderless, and anarchy took over the land. The people took to the streets demanding the restoration of the mandate freely and fairly given to Abiola. Capitalising on the situation, Sani Abacha dislodged Shonekan. He became the Head of State from November 1993 until his death on June 8, 1998. Abdulsalami Abubakar was sworn in to assume the leadership of the country following the mysterious death of Abacha. Abubakar was in a hurry to hand over and in the process, left many things undone. And things that were done were full of the contraption and land mines.
The worst document ever bequeathed to a nation was a fraudulent Constitution that has become our albatross. General Abubakar assaulted our intelligence and collective aspiration by giving his own brand of the constitution that was never discussed, debated, and agreed upon by the people of this country nor its representatives. No referendum. Indeed, it was after Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in on May 29, 1999, that the voodoo Constitution surfaced. The euphoria of the newfound democracy, even with the time bomb, prevented the country from demanding a Peoples Constitution. We are now carrying the cross of our naivety, indiscretion and unbridled trust of the military leadership that ruled the country despite their notoriety for deception, maladministration, and mind-management.
Since May 29, 1999, the country has been plagued by monumental problems making the essence of democracy largely a mockery. Obasanjo presided over our new democracy like a ruthless and uncompromising leader. He hardly spared any opposition. The Odi people, the Zaki Biam massacre, the dislodgement of Southwest (save Lagos State) governors through deception, the turbulence in the National Assembly, the abduction of Governor Ngige, and other atrocities perpetrated during his regime did no credit to him. The privatisation programme of his administration was a disaster. To his credit, he got the country off the hook of the World Bank and the International Monetary Funds debt debacle. The global system for mobile telecommunication (GSM) was introduced during his administration.
After eight years (remember the Third Term Agenda that the full and true story is yet to be revealed), Obasanjo foisted Umaru Musa YarAdua on us. A calm, humble but sickly man, he could not achieve much before he transited to the world beyond. His short administration was characterised by policy somersault as his medical condition could not allow him to firmly take charge of the administration of the nation. His deputy, Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in with the invocation of the doctrine of necessity, as the country’s President. It is however, on record that he addressed the Niger Delta imbroglio.
Jonathan started well but events later proved that he was ill-prepared for power. He had too many powerful people with different agendas in his administration. He was portrayed as a weakling. Despite his claim to scholarship as the first President with a Ph.D degree (Zik never had a Ph.D degree), his administration was bereft of intellectual concord and direction. It is lamentable that his administration produced the worst set of treasury looters in the country infamous history of treasury looting and decimation of our common patrimony. However, Jonathan was not arrogant with power. He was a gentleman who never believed that his ambition was worth the blood of any Nigerian. The Boko Haram sect that levied war on the country from the era of Obasanjo was critical to his fall from power.
General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president on May 29, 2015. Nigeria and Nigerians craved for change in our socio-economic, political, security, and structural arrangements. Unfortunately, the last six years have been quite harrowing, excruciating and debilitating. Initially, we were confronted by the declining health status of our President. After several months of treatment, he was stabilised. But the country health was devastated in the process. Many critical issues could not be attended to, and the nation was left in mumbo jumbo.
The six years of PMB has been a mixed bag. In the provision of infrastructure, we must give it to his administration. Many of our critical but neglected infrastructures are being attended to. The road, rail and air transportation systems are being given fillip. Attempts are being made to get some of our poor people out of poverty.
On the downside, the economic situation of the country is still comatose and has defied solutions. Our monetary and fiscal policies are intractable leading to the pauperisation of the citizenry. The country’s currency is now akin to the old Italian lira and Ghanaian cede! Our external reserves are on the downward swing. Most states in the federation are heavily in debt and can hardly survive without massive borrowings. The country is heavily indebted, yet we are behaving like the proverbial prodigal child by attempting to extend facilities including rails services to the Niger Republic when we cannot satisfy the nation!
Insecurity has plagued our nation and the worst is happening under the administration of PMB. No part of the country is immune from insecurity. Insecurity rears its head in different perspectives including kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, insurgency, internecine conflict, and the rest of them. They all appear intractable despite the enormous resources being deployed to combat them.
Poverty and unemployment have taken over the country, notwithstanding what the government is telling us. It is now so bad that our country has been labelled the poverty capital of the world. Our youths are moving out of the country in droves because of unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Corruption, despite the claim of government, is still hydra-headed and untamed.
Perhaps the worst legacy being bequeathed to us as a nation is parochialism as the government of PMB is not remorseful about concentrating major appointments to his part of the country. This attitude is affecting national cohesion and integration. Members of his cabinet and close aides only tell PMB what is pleasing to his ears. In his own case, PMB appears unperturbed about the happenings around him. We cannot continue this way.
Our country is not a federation. Neither are we practising true federalism. Restructuring that most parts of the country are craving for is being ignored. Things are definitely falling apart in the country, and it is only desirable that we wake up from our lethargic status.
A new Constitution for the people by the people to replace the voodoo and pseudo-Constitution foisted on us by General Abdulsalami Abubakar is the only way to security, sanity, good governance, and development. The twenty-two years of unbroken democracy have been a curse to the nation. We can turn things around by doing the right things. If the right things are done, the country can take its pride of place in the comity of blessed nations.
Democracy should be a blessing, not a curse. It is so far, so bad!
Yusuf, Ph.D, is a lecturer at the University of Lagos.