Strengthening Nigeria’s Democracy

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June 12 is a significant date in Nigeria’s history. It represents a crucial moment in the nation’s democratic journey, symbolising the triumph of the people’s will over oppressive rule. This date, officially recognised as Democracy Day in Nigeria, is a day to celebrate the Nigerian people’s resilience and reaffirm their commitment to upholding democratic principles.

On that day in 1993, the Nigerian electorate turned out to cast their votes in an epoch-making presidential election widely regarded as free, fair, and peaceful.

It was a defining moment, a collective expression of the desire for change and a deliberate push to strengthen the nation’s democratic values. However, the military regime led by then General Ibrahim Babangida ill-advisedly annulled the election results, denying the people the chance to witness the realisation of their democratic aspirations.

Yet, the Nigerian people refused to accept this injustice, embarking on a long struggle to assert their rights to be part of a process to decide who their leaders ought to be.

Leading this struggle was the iconic figure, Alhaji Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the presumed winner of that election. His courageous defence of democracy, subsequent arrest, and detention solidified his place as a symbol of Nigeria’s fight for democracy, inspiring future generations.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari’s recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day is a beacon of hope for Nigeria, reaffirming the country’s commitment to democratic ideals. It represents a turning point in the nation’s history, intended to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those who fought for democracy and honour the memory of those who lost their lives during the struggle.

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As we mark this momentous occasion, it is crucial to reflect on the progress we have made and the challenges we face. After 25 years of unbroken democracy, it is disheartening to realise that true Democrats are scarce in the genuine sense of the word. Many politicians engage in actions that are contrary to democratic principles, exploiting perceived divisions of ethnicity and religion to gain unfair and undue advantages.

In our opinion, such behaviour should not be tolerated in a system that makes democratic claims. Furthermore, politicians must learn to abide by the rules, and the inclination to win by any means necessary should be condemned and punished.

Moreover, the increasing role of the judiciary in the electoral process in those 25 years gives real cause for concern. While we acknowledge that this trend may be a response to the deviant actions of some politicians, it contradicts the essence of democracy, where the people should have the final say in determining who governs them at all levels.

This trend, we insisted, must be discouraged as we must strive to uphold the true spirit of democracy, where the will of the people is paramount.

However, we are persuaded that the elections, in terms of integrity and transparency, have a long way to go to attain the desired level of acceptability. What this entails, therefore, is that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) still has a lot of work to implement innovative measures to minimise rigging, thuggery, and electoral violence. To this extent, all hands must be on deck if we must safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

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Furthermore, it is undeniable that Nigerians have not yet fully experienced the dividends of democracy. Insecurity has been pervasive, with more Nigerians losing their lives due to the criminal activities of non-state actors. Experts argue that insecurity has been more pervasive in the past 25 years than during all the military administrations combined.

This is unacceptable, and we urge President Tinubu to prioritise strengthening institutions that are indispensable for establishing democracy.

In addition, we implore the President to steer the country toward a sustainable economic path. The removal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the naira have made life difficult for the average Nigerian, and it is crucial that measures are put in place to alleviate the burden on the populace. Economic prosperity and stability are essential foundations for a thriving democracy.

Moreover, we strongly recommend the swift implementation of the proposal for the establishment of state police. We believe it will go a long way in addressing the twin problems of banditry, kidnappings, and other security challenges in the country. A secure and stable environment is a prerequisite for the effective functioning of a democratic system.

As we commemorate June 12 as Democracy Day, let us reflect upon the progress we have made and renew our commitment to the ideals of a free, fair, and prosperous Nigeria.

We must work together to build a stronger and more inclusive democracy, one that upholds the principles of justice, liberty, and equality for all. We also implore political leaders to embrace democracy’s true essence, respect the will of the people, and govern with integrity, transparency, and accountability.

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It is pertinent to stress the urgency of prioritising the nation’s well-being over personal interests. Similarly, as a collective, the nation must strive to create an environment where every Nigerian can thrive and realise their full potential.

 

 

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