THE declaration of a new date as ‘Democracy Day’ marked yesterday set perceptive and right-thinking Nigerians to take a hard look at the essence of day as Nigerians began to wonder aloud and question the correlation between the time-honoured practices of presidential speeches at the elaborately prepared swearing-in ceremony, signifying a flagship of better days ahead for the country with a phony term called ‘Democracy Day.’ In this interview, Dr. Nnanna Egwu, a politician, who was former chairman of Awka North Local Government Council, Anambra State and a management consultant. He pointedly described ‘Democracy Day’ as a farce and it ought to have been jettisoned into the garbage of history. He spoke to POLYCARP ONWUBIKO. Excerpts:
Sir, how did you feel when President Muhammadu Buhari failed to deliver his speech after the swearing in ceremony and Nigerians were made to wait till June 12, which is the newly declared Democracy Day? When actually did Nigerians know what is democracy and democratic government and is there really the need to commemorate that day as Democracy Day with a declared public holyday?
Let me start with a clear and unambiguous fact that military intrusion into governance is a monstrous aberration. The military, by their orientation, should have nothing with the nitty-gritty of governance with its systems namely: democracy, theocracy and monarchy.
So for a former military head of state who by twist of fate, became civilian president to have woken up from slumber and proclaimed ‘Democracy Day’ on May 29, when a military man handed him power after election in 1999, would have made Nigerians to appreciate his flawed intellectual calculation which made him not to remember when Nigeria secured political sovereignty and the underlining factors that led the founding fathers of Nigerian independence to choose not only democracy as a system of government and also federal system of government [which people now refer to as ‘True Federalism’ as a result of its bastardization by the aberrant military regimes].
So that craze of commemorating ‘Democracy Day’ on May 29, thoughtlessly changed to June 12, shows the devastating impact on the psyche of Nigerians by virtue of military incursion in government in Nigeria. This is frivolity and should be dispensed with to save the country from being a butt of international jokes and ridicule.
Let me quote The Nation Sunday columnist, Tunji Adegboyega, who was abhorring the so-called ‘Democracy Day’ when he rightly said: “So, as we mark 20 years of the return to civil rule (yes, civil rule not democracy], let us resolve to be putting our rulers [again, yes, our rulers, not leaders] on their toes”.
Therefore, what am I really saying? I advocate that the supposed Democracy Day should be done away with because there is no advanced democracies in the world and even the emerging democracies in Africa where the military had intervened in government due to one concocted reason or the other like socio-political upheaval and mindless corruption and killings emanating from election malfeasance and later handed over the reins of power to democratically elected government, has declared the day of handover as “Democracy Day”.
So to that extent, the supposed Democracy Day in Nigeria should be thrown into the garbage of history because it emanated from deeply flawed perception and brazen distortion of political history. It is a farce, a mental frivolity which is one the silly things observed during the military regimes and unfortunately continued by the unthinking or the apologists of military regimes.
By extension, the commemoration of the so-called “Democracy Day” since 1999, by the civilian government made up of educated personages has made Nigeria to be a butt of international odium, ridicule and opprobrium.
Systems of government are mere concepts viz: democracy as contrasted with autocracy, theocracy and monarchy. Democracy has never been a living object that could be felt by hand, hugged, admired and set a day for celebrated. It has been part and parcel of brazen frivolities and inanities that have hobbled meaningful and sustainable growth and development in Nigeria.
In effect, are you suggesting that President Buhari did not think through the decision to skip a fundamental aspect of swearing-in component which is inauguration speech and believed his minders that the speech is better appreciated on the supposed Democracy Day recently shifted to June 12 to appease the soul of the acclaimed winner of 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola?
I place the blame at the doorstep of his minders and speech writers because given his military background, which did not expose him to the political history of the country, he would not know that democracy started in Nigeria in 1960, with the attainment of political sovereignty and independence, and in 1963, attained Republican status.
Due to muddling in governance and crass impunity at the corridor of power at Aso Rock, he might have been told that the swearing-in ceremony is not a proper place to deliver his second tenure inauguration speech to unfold his much-trumpeted ‘Next Level’ package. He assured Nigerians that the ‘Next Level’ package would solve all the problems in the country having identified his shortcomings in the past four years of leadership.
How will Buhari link his ‘Next Level’ packages with a phony and venal brain-wave termed Democracy Day which has never featured in any political discourse anywhere in the nations that adopt democracy as a form of government? Like Charly Boy said, “Our mumu don do” and therefore, Nigerians should collectively say “to hell with the phantom called Democracy Day. President Buhari should select a fresh day to unveil his much expected ‘Next Level’ speech to enable Nigerians know his directions for the next four years.
It is very sad and unfortunate that sentiment has taken the better part of thinking faculty of many Nigerians and somebody would cajole us to be celebrating a person who committed felony by declaring himself president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because the powers-that-be did not countenance the presidential election result which he purportedly won.
Granted that Chief MKO Abiola purportedly won the presidential election which was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida military regime, it stands to reason that two wrongs don’t make a right. He was misguided to publicly declare himself president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and was instantly arrested by the military government and clamped into detention from where he met his fate.
The rest is history as it were. He committed monumental blunder by openly challenging the military jackboot which bared its fangs on him.
So what I am saying in essence is that it is patently wrong for the country that boasts of enlightened people and political scientists to continue making a mockery of itself by sustaining a nebulous term Democracy Day and go to a ridiculous extent of skipping a fundamental component of presidential inauguration speech for that revised day from May 29,
to June 12, to honour a person who fell foul of the law in his ill-advised bid to right a perceived wrong done to his political aspiration. Nigeria should stop making a mockery of itself and be seen as a country of unthinking creatures, being used by the civilized world as opportunity to crack jokes and laughing heartily in derision.
It is high time the traces of the military crude brain waves and calculations are thrown into the scrap heap of history.
The devastating challenges Nigerians are passing through have their source and spring from the brazen bastardization of the principles of federal system of government and enthroning federal-unitary contraption backed by the military imposed 1999 Constitution.
Of course, we are aware that most of the things done by the military regimes had the blessings of the so-called ‘Northern Establishment’ ostensibly to be controlling the country directly and indirectly.
For instance, the intractable and pervasive insecurity in the country today stemmed from centralizing the security architecture contrary to decentralized security in federal polities the world over.
That is why restructuring of the federation and governance remains a pathway to reinvent Nigeria. Buhari must walk the talk on his declaration that he has appreciated the imperative of true federalism.