Governments of several states within Nigeria including the federal government celebrated fourteen years of uninterrupted democratic rule yesterday, an unprecedented milestone.
The Imo State government did however celebrate theirs a day before, with Governor Rochas Okorocha boastfully declaring his disbursements to fund several social and welfarist policies of his regime, which ate mostly unsustainable and unlikely to outlive his regime.
Yesterday however, was when most states including the Federal Government celebrated theirs.
There wasn’t much fanfare at the Federal Government side, rather an indoor event was organised to present a scorecard of President Goodluck Jonathan’s achievements in government in it’s midterm report.
I can’t think of an area where the failings of the government were highlighted or the many areas where major achievements were recorded, though intentions towards many things were enumerated. Calling that report midterm may suggest that the administration now knows that the two years after the death of Yaradua amounted to nothing, as little or nothing was achieved.
In Kano, Governor Kwankwanso had a media chat broadcast on National TV in the native Hausa language, making you wonder what the point for taking up slot on national TV (only to disenfranchise a large section of the viewing Nigerian public).
While some of the last Presidents and Head of States were being regaled with the presidents ‘achievements’ in Abuja, former president Olusegun Obasanjo chose to spend his time in Dutse at the Jigawa State Economic Summit, where he helped Governor Sule Lamido solicit foreign direct and indirect investment. People that love intrigues are already reading meanings in to this.
In Lagos State, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola declared open the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge that appears to have been built reduce the time it takes the ‘rich’ to commute between Ikoyi and Lekki.
If we simply go by the presentations and all that the government’s spin doctors will have us believe then we can say that all is well with Nigeria.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case as what we see indicate that Nigerians haven’t felt any better than they were under military rule.
Nigeria’s democracy has only made tin-gods of nonentities and institutionalized corruption, while more and more Nigerians have become hard done by it.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
The inability of government at all levels to embark on massive infrastructural development is a pointer to this fact. It seems almost impossible to expect such when infrastructure built by military governments in the past are hardly maintained.
Even, when these are embarked upon, they take longer than the stipulated time, with adjustments made on the budgets almost annually at sometimes, more than the cost it was initially budgeted for. A good example is the East-West road which was embarked upon in the Niger Delta in the early days of the return of democracy, yet fourteen years after, with more funds from several ministries, agencies and departments it’s yet to bè completed.
Corruption has also impacted in Nigeria’s inability to develop it’s power infrastructure to meet todays’ electricity needs. Stations supplying only meagre amounts in megawatts have been built allover Nigeria, mostly away from source (in the case of gas plants, and without gas pipelines) because political considerations took precedence over commonsense. And while a Chinese company has been contracted to build a hydro power station in Zungeru, Minna, Niger State that will supply 700 MW of electricity, it will interest you to know that the Ethiopians will soon complete with help of the Chinese the biggest of such in Africa that will provide far more than the bit Nigeria will get.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria’s democracy appear to bè powered by corruption with each new administration and government at all levels outdoing the one before it.
Basic tenets of democracy are not upheld nor observed, with the government mouthing a ‘rule of law’ mantra that it flouts at will, with the raiding and arrests of journalists (even though a Freedom Of Information Bill had been passed by the National Assembly and signed by the Presidency), and even in worse cases, the killing of journalists.
The greatest threat to Nigeria’s democracy has remained the violence that has engulfed the nation, for which the security agencies have shown increasing inability to handle (some of them even paying the ultimate price as was a few weeks ago in the Alakiyo forests in Nasarawa State where tens of policemen and secret service men were murdered as they went to arrest a militant group leader of the Ombatse sect).
Even though some militants in the Niger Delta now enjoy amnesty (which includes huge payments to militant ‘Generals’ and award of oil pipeline protection contracts amongst others), piracy, kidnapping and killings remain, even of security forces.
In the South-East, kidnappers continue to hold sway with roots in the high unemployment amongst the youths due to a ban on employment by most states in that region. Unfortunately, there’re no guarantees that victims may get away with their lives or without injury even when ransoms are paid in full.
Armed Robberies are the scourge in the South-West with Ogun State bearing the most brunts till most recently. Lagos State also suffers it’s own share of robberies, kidnaps and murders but it appears that governmental interests prefer to keep things hush-hush in order not to discourage foreign and local investment in the state.
The chief of them all however is the scourge radical Islamist insurgency in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, with other skirmishes between Fulani nomads and indigenes of most North Centra States whose farmlands are destroyed by cattle herded by the Fulani. Lives are lost in their tens when these two groups clash with reports of invasion of some towns by Fulani from outside Nigeria to aid their brothers in the routing of their host communities.
I had earlier mentioned the scourge of Islamist fundamentalism in the North, as typified by the activities of Boko Haram and Ansarul groups, which necessitated the imposition of a State Of Emergency in three states (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa), even though many feel more Northern states should have been included and marital law more far reaching to include the suppression of democratic institutions till the aim of Emergency Rule is achieved.
These and more are what Nigerians have had to live with for the 14 years of Democratic Rule in Nigeria. Credit must go to the resilient Nigerian mind for withstanding all that Nigeria’s version of democracy has thrown at it.