Democracy Day in Nigeria is a day set aside for celebrating the presence of civilian government in the country. It was first celebrated on May 29, 2000, as being exactly one year after the military returned power to a democratically elected civilian government in 1999, many years of military regime in the country. Since then, it has been marked annually on the same date, but on June 6, 2018, President Muhammad Buhari changed the date from May 29 to June 12, in honour of late Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election which was eventually annulled. As the country’s democracy uninterruptedly clocks 23 this year, UCHE KALU, IZUNNA OKAFOR and CHARITY UZOAGBA sought opinions of some Nigerians on the shift of date and other burning issues in the country.
Democracy, best option for Nigeria – Nworah
THE MD/CEO of Anambra Broadcasting Service, Nze Uche Nworah views democracy as the best option available for Nigeria as a country, as against military rule. His views:
“If we say that we don’t want democracy, which other option would we prefer ? So, looking at it from that angle, you can see that democracy is the best choice.
As to how democracy has fared over the years, I can say that there are some improvements.
“Of course, for those of us who witnessed and experienced the era of military regime, we know what it means to have freedom, especially freedom of speech, because anybody may now freely go to social media or any online platform and write or post certain things; even against the government.
“Also, now, anybody who wants to obtain certain documents or information on government operations can easily and freely go to the concerned ministry, agency or office and access it.
“But then in the military era, such things were not obtainable.
At least, I still remember that in one of those days, we were heading to Aba, from Enugu, and some soldiers at the expressway just stopped us and commanded all of us to alight from our vehicle and lie down on the main road, for no just reason. And we all obeyed, because we knew what doing otherwise would result to.
“So, there have indeed been some measures of improvements in the democratic system of the country, compared to before.
What we should now focus more on are the challenges that threaten this democracy in our country and how to improve on it. And of course, there have been some.
“As for shifting the democracy day celebration to June 12th in honour of MKO Abiola, I think there is no much difference, because it is just a matter of change in date, which people will also be used to, in a couple of years. Hence, there is no cause for worry, as I have seen some people reacting unnecessarily to it.
Nigeria’s democracy, uninterrupted but halting – Obaze
SHARING his own views on Nigeria’s 20 years of democracy, Chief Oseloka H. Obaze, a diplomat, writer, public policy expert, politician and patriot, says the country’s democracy has been uninterrupted but halting, maintaining that it has been not-so-smooth, and hence laggardly. He says:
“I can describe Nigeria’s democracy so far as uninterrupted but halting. As you may have observed, today’s Democracy Day celebration was muted.
“While generally, there is a sense on democratic continuity, which is positive, in the scheme of events, potentials, aspirations, and dividends, our democracy has been not-so-smooth and hence laggardly.
“Of late, our democracy has manifested certain troubling traits of lliberalism. But as the cliche says, democracy, even in its most ill-adjusted form is to be preferred over all other forms of governance.
“Of course there are grave and great challenges threatening Nigeria’s democracy. There are also some clear and present threats and danger.
“Democracy is hard work. We can’t take that for granted. We must continue to work hard on it. It’s about inclusivity and not a zero-sum-game. A critical component of democracy – elections – remains a source of our trepidation, challenge and high dissonance. It ought not be.
“If Nigeria and those charged with elections will guarantee the holding of periodic and genuine elections bereft of ‘rigging’ and ‘election theft’ controversies, we will make a headway…
“As for changing of the democracy day, I can say that Chief MKO Abiola deserves this honour recently accorded to him… Yet one can’t shirk the feeling that such a symbolic gesture was politically motivated, but that ought not to diminish its reconciliatory and overall value, even if only psychological.
“Other than that, the swapping of dates is purely administrative. Still what Nigeria needs is a national day that is collectively observed, owned and celebrated…”
No group should be favoured above others – Anaege
THE Head of Operations (HOP), Umuawulu Microfinance Bank, Awka South LGA, Arinze Anaege explained that democracy in Nigeria has fared well having been sustained for 20years but the tenets of democracy where govt should allow the people to have say in the nation’s governance is missing, emphasising that most times, govt policies are against the interest of the masses, geared towards personal satisfaction rather than protecting the masses.
“From the developed society where we borrowed our democracy, individuals don’t just come to serve for their personal interests but that of the masses and where they are not able to perform, they resign. In Nigeria, such is not obtainable, leaders even when they are indicted; they still sit tight in their positions with impunity without regards to the people who elected them.
“If we really want to practice democracy, we should copy it to the letter what is obtainable in developed countries. For instance, in Britain, the current prime minister, Theresa May came to power with the intention of achieving the Bre-exit but because she cannot secure a deal on that, she is now trying to resign. In Nigeria, such cannot happen; a failed leader would want to continue from one tenure to another, amassing wealth for himself. We still have a long way to go,” he noted.
Concerning the shifting of democracy day from May 29 to June 12, the HOP explained that the shift does not make any difference. According to him, “the day you celebrate something is not as important as how you practice it. We should focus more on living out the tenets of the system we claim to practice, not necessarily celebrating it.”
Moreover, Arinze spoke on the issue of establishing the Islamic radio and funding the Miyeti Allah group with N100 billion, describing it as unfortunate and saddening.
There should be equity and fairness in ensuring that the commonwealth of this nation is equitably distributed among the diverse groups, be it tribe, religion or people. Everybody that is supposed to be part of this nation should have equal right.
We have made some progress so far – Moshood
Affirming that Nigeria’s democracy has recorded tremendous progress so far, Mohammed Moshood, a Public Affairs Analyst, acknowledges that the country has taken many steps backward in other areas.
He said, “So far, we have made tremendous progress in our political sojourn. But like every other race, while we make progress in some areas, we have taken many steps backward in others within certain other areas. “Now, we have a record of uninterrupted democratic rule for 20 years. The longest in the history of the country. No doubt, Nigerians have made it possible and a few leaders have sacrificed their ambitions too for this.
“But then, the leaders we have today are those who seek to supplant the whole benefits of democracy that was well suffered and fought for by our heroes past for selfish agenda. These are elements that Nigeria must deal with, to move forward. The country and her people must not relent if we want to see a robust democracy because leaders in every part of the world cannot be fully entrusted with the role of governance.
“Though, changing of the democracy day was largely a move aimed at scoring some political points, it is a step in the right direction. MKO is someone I adore so much, even in death.
“When people are appreciated, during their life or posthumously, it sends a message to the people, most especially the young people. They are therefore influenced to do more for the country of their original.
Our democracy has been good so far – Oranezi
A FORMER member of house of Representatives, Dr. Harry Oranezi describes Nigeria’s Democracy as nascent, and evolving with its teething problems.
This notwithstanding, he maintains that some measures of improvements have been recorded so far, even as he notes that changing of the democracy day in honour of MKO Abiola was not the posthumous honour he deserves. His views:
“As a nascent democracy that’s evolving with its teething problems, the journey so far is good.
“The main threat is impunity and abuse of rule of law and breach of the constitution without recourse to the aftermath.
“These challenges and threats can be resolved by every person with authority to align themselves with the letters and spirit of the constitution.
“In my opinion, I think it doesn’t really matter whether the change of the democracy day in honour of Chief Abiola was political or not. The most important thing is that Nigerians have come to appreciate the day.