WE DON’T HAVE DEMOCRACY YET – Lawyers, activists react to May 29 Democracy Day

15 years after Nigerians welcomed the restoration of democracy in the country, following a 16 year military rule, Nigerians are struggling to identify the benefits of the democracy they rejoiced so much at its return.
The Chief Olusegun Obasanjo PDP regime was regarded as messianic, raising the hopes of the masses who have felt the brunt of the prolonged military junta.
However, 15 years after that glorious return of democracy to Nigeria, with three successive PDP governments at the helm up till now, Nigerians cannot really say if they are actually better off today than they were prior to 1999.
Chief among the achievements to point at is the fact that we have had peaceful transitions from one regime to another and the fact that Nigeria is still existing as a nation despite the many challenges it has faced and is still facing.
Beyond these few positives that can be drawn from 15 years of democracy, Nigerians have been left utterly disappointed with the situation of things due to the poor leadership we have had over the years. There isn’t much infrastructural development, there are no remarkable achievements to point to either. The biggest challenge facing the country now is insecurity in many parts of the country, especially the North where thousands have died as Boko Haram’s reign of terror continues unabated.
After 15 years of democracy, Nigerians are poorer than they were in 1999, unemployment is on the increase as can be attested to by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) stampede, while corruption in the public and private sectors have also increased even though the president has said stealing is different from corruption.
Addressing the nation on May 29, President Goodluck Jonathan mentioned that democracy in the last 15 years has been a blessing to Nigerians even as he expressed optimism that all the country’s challenges would be overcome.
He said, “Our dear nation, Nigeria, has certainly come a long way and made notable progress since our first democracy day on May 29, 1999, when the military finally relinquished power and handed over to a democratically-elected government, marking the true beginning of a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
“Although I have ordered a low-key commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day in deference to the current mood of the nation, there can be no doubt that the past 15 years, the longest period of sustained democratic governance in our country, have been a blessing to us, as a people.
“As we commemorate 15 years of our Fourth Republic today, therefore, I believe that it is fitting that we pay tribute once again to all those who played a part in restoring our nation to the true path of democratic governance, built on the foundations of rule of law and freedom of expression.
“Yes, we have challenges but we will surely overcome. Nigeria is our country. Nigeria is blessed. We will all collectively protect, defend and develop this country for ourselves, and our children.”
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with some stakeholders in the affairs of the country, including politicians and activists on their view on Nigeria at 15.

We don’t have democracy yet, it’s just a civilian rule. The 15 years of so called democratic rule has been a waste for the masses of this country. It’s been 15 years of corruption and ill gotten wealth for those in political offices and their business cronies, not democracy. The period has not changed the standard of living of average Nigerians. The only way forward is for the masses of Nigerians to rise and choose a leader that will represent their interest.

If you look at it critically, it might look as if we haven’t made significant progress from when we got a civilian transition from military rule but like any new thing, you have to give it time to be able to understand the rudiments and I think that is what we have been doing for the last 15 years. I agree that things have even gone worse than what we had in the military system but I believe we are still learning democracy, let’s give it time and learn the process. I think today, there is more awareness, people can talk more now. If you see the way people are bashing the president, you know it couldn’t have happened under the military regime but now people are freer to talk, they can say whatever they want to say without fear. The court system is now working, yes, there might be few lapses here and there but rather than use your military godfather or your military uncle to terrorise people, they would ask you to go to court. I think we are learning the rudiments of democratic rule. I know it’s slow but what do you expect from someone who is just 15 compared to democracies that have been there for almost a century. 2015 will not fix it whether it’s APC or PDP that wins the elections. We need to give it maybe another 10 to 15 years from now before we can start asking for dividends of democracy. If you look at it, how many contestants did we have in 1999, or how many people went to vote? Today, more people are ready to vote, we are learning, people are asking questions now, more people are going out to register. We will get there but we need time.

Democracy Day is June 12 – FASHEUN
As democrats, we bear no grudge against those celebrating democracy day on May 29, but June 12, is the authentic Democracy Day and on that day, we shall come out fully to celebrate with other democrats.

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