……..and the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth”
In 1999, when power was handed over to the people and the kakhi boys were finally sent back to the barracks, we thought it was freedom at last. We would finally have a government of the people. Their rights and decisions will be respected. Elections will be free and fair and the people will be able to elect the leaders of their choice. We said we how had a government of the people and called it democracy.
When in his Gettysburg speech (1883), Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American president defined democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people, he probably pictured democracy to mean everyone. A system that includes every citizen, where the rights and decisions of everyone is respected.
Back to Nigeria’s democracy story. It has been 21 years since Nigeria officially handed power to a democratically elected president and has since then enjoyed uninterrupted flow of civilian rule. 21 years down the road and what has changed? Not so much. Maybe just the yearly commemoration of every 29th day in May and now every 12th of June as democracy day.
In a state where basic tenets of democracy such as press freedom and fundamental human rights are not respected, we should not say we operate a democratic government. In the last few years, journalism has been faced with difficulties arising from gagging of the press. I can remember sometime last year when Fisayo Soyombo, an investigative journalist and former editor at The Cable wrote on his investigation and findings of the rot in the Nigerian prison system, he had to go into hiding because he was going to be arrested, simply for speaking the truth. We hear stories of people who are taken from their homes, without anyone knowing their whereabouts, simply because they criticized the government. We cannot then say we are in a democracy.
Rather than improve, the security system has even worsened. The entire country is taken over by terrorists, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers who put constant fear in the hearts of citizens. The officials of the Nigeria Police Force, who ought to secure lives and properties have instead become a terror to the citizens. Citizen are exploited and the lives of many more, majorly males are cut short under preventable circumstances by the Police. The mere sight of the police springs horror in the hearts of many. Citizens have cried for a help, trending hashtags to put an end to the impunity of the Police. Yet, nothing has been done about it.
It is important for us to speak of how election results and winners are determined even weeks before the elections. We know, we have heard and have even told stories of the ridiculous things politicians engage in to ensure that they assume power, remain there and even incorporate their family members and run the country like a family business.
Can we still chant happy democracy day when there are millions of Nigerians who do not even feel involved in governance? When basic amenities like good road, access to quality healthcare and education, have become a mirage. They are more of privileges than rights. This is probably why it is a common thing to shout “up Nepa”, when power is restored, after weeks or days of power outage. The health, educational, power and other crucial sectors of the economy cannot boast of any significant change since we began celebrating what we call democracy. Our teachers, doctors and civil servants have not stopped embarking on industrial actions and protesting nonpayment of salaries. Sadly, many of them are even threatened with dismissal whenever they ask for what is rightfully theirs. Yet, we say we are in a democratic state. No, we are not.
Most of the times, our voices as citizens of Nigeria do not count because in Nigeria, governance does not seem like it is about the people. All our leaders seem to be concerned about is win elections, and recycle the mantle among the group of people in their small circle. When we begin to ask ourselves the necessary questions, we begin to get the needed answers. Until then, Happy democracy day?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *