Another DEMOCRACY DAY has come and gone. Expectedly, because of the present security situation in the country, celebrations were low key. It’s been like that for the most part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, following the independence day bombing of 2010. Even military parades, a spectacle that Nigerians once reveled in on national holidays have now become faint memories for many, no thanks even to the menace of terror attacks at the hands of the insurgent group BOKO HARAM.
On this day in 1999 power was handed over from the military to civilians, the beneficiary been Olusegun Obasanjo, a former army General. This is the longest Nigeria has stayed under civilian rule, and in that period had three presidents, from the same party, one of which died while in office midway into his first term.
I have used civilian rule so far, because it seems more appropriate a term than “Democratic Rule”, as the tenets of democracy appear yet to have taken firm roots, while democratic institutions continue to be undermined by the powers that be, and the political class.
Though Nigerians may have put behind them, the horrors of military rule, the majority have very little to write home about as regards the benefits of democratic rule, especially with politicians behaving in the way they behaved in Nigeria’s shameful past, that appalled many, and gave the military the excuse to intervene, and the people to wish good riddance to their bad rubbish rather than resist the military opportunists, who turned out to be worse than the politicians they riled tirades against.
The fact that fifteen years down the line in the latest democratic experience, Nigerians are talking in hushed tones and shouting on the rooftops of a possible breakup, emboldened by the uncharitable prediction by an American tink-tank, that Nigeria will break up by the year 2015, a year after the centenary of the amalgamation of its northern and southern parts speaks volumes of the disillusionment many Nigerians feel towards the government as well as towards the citizenship of their country.
This disillusionment may not be unconnected to the frustration many Nigerians feel over the insensitivity of those in power to their plight. Democracy rather than bring smiles to the faces of Nigerians have done the direct opposite to the majority of her peoples.
Those fortunate to find themselves in position of authority, either as politicians, political appointees, technocrats and civil servants have elected to corner resources meant for common good into private pockets and over the years, Nigeria’s ascent in the world’s corruption index has been geometrically steady, to the detriment of the wellbeing and welfare of the people which has consistently declined since 1999.
Interestingly, just a day after the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon listed Nigeria as one of the countries with a staggering poverty index, the government made claims to the effect that Nigeria’s GDP is now the highest in Africa, relating the growth to several sectors of the economy that wasn’t covered the last time the economy was rebased. A reality that has no bearing on the lives of the people, who have nothing to show for any of the growth that the government is bandying about, and cannot even compare with most of the other African countries the government claims we’ve surpassed economically in various ways.
Unemployment is at an all time high, evidenced by the thousands of people who turned up at stadia (after paying several amounts to purchase the employment form, in bribing officials and other sundry) in many parts of Nigeria, for the “Immigration Services” recruitment exercise earlier this year, in which some of the applicants died, for jobs for which only a minuscule of those who attended would be picked, while the majority would be children and wards of the elite and political class, who may not have attended the exercise in the first place.
Education has been in it’s worst state ever. Neither the federal or state governments, allocate to education 26% of the budget as deemed by the UNESCO as minimum to cater for education, especially for developing nations like Nigeria. The university system just resumed recently after another protracted strike nationally, while state universities like in Lagos have continued, agitating for improved welfare for lecturers and a reduction of fees payable by students. Polytechnics and Colleges of education have been shut down for close to a year now, with government shying away from paying any heed to their demands, and in some states like Benue, primary schools have been shut down for months. It’s now trite that Nigerians send their children abroad to study, and neighbouring countries have also benefited from the exodus of Nigerian students to their schools and campuses, especially of parents who cannot afford to send their children to ivy-league schools in the West like the wealthy, government officials and the political class.
As it is with the education sector, so it is with the health and many other sectors. At the heart of all these is CORRUPTION. Unfortunately, like many things Nigerian, even the anti-corruption agencies set up by former president Obasanjo (under whose purview they acted more like witchhunts for those opposed to his government) have now concurred with President Jonathan’s leprosed view that corruption and stealing aren’t the same thing, besides proving to all at the inception of his government by granting a pardon to his former principal, Alameisegha who converted state funds for personal use, that he was unwilling to fight the scourge, amongst other acts which suggest same for which the Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that his body language appears to be pro-corruption. His predecessor, the late President Umar Musa Yaradua appeared to be too ill to be bothered about fighting corruption, seeing that he was propped up by corrupt politicians, who were so powerful to even name the czaress of the anti-corruption agency, and under whose watch legislators allocated to themselves a huge chunk of the country’s budget, which since then has remained irreversible.
The face of corruption appears even now to embarrass Nigeria internationally with the current fight against the heartless and evil insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East, where the drink brewed by northern elite and hegemonists with the aim of actualizing their political agenda went awry, as low morale bedevil members of the armed forces prosecuting the war for which a quarter of Nigeria’s budget has been allocated in the past three years, yet complaints of nonpayment of allowances, delayed allowances as well as lack of equipment and technology to tackle the insurgents remain constant, in the face of betrayals of troops by their commanding officers and colleagues sympathetic to the cause of Boko Haram, for which soldiers have reacted recently by engaging in mutinies, leading to the redeployment of one commanding officer and the arrest for questioning of nine generals for sabotage. Nigeria’s security woes has now made it the butt of jokes of African despots such as Presidents Yoweri Museveni (who found it convenient to forget that just as it was with the girls in Chibok abducted by Boko Haram insurgents, he has failed to apprehend Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army – even with help from military strategists from the United States- who also abducted more than a hundred girls, and it took the bravery of a nun to secure the release of some of the girls) and Robert Mugabe, corruption personified, in a situation akin to the pot calling the kettle black.
In the fifteen years of uninterrupted democratic rule, the Nigerian has become a government to himself, providing for himself all he needs, including those things government ought to have provided. Besides getting himself the basic necessities, he has to dig his own well or borehole and purify his water for consumption. (S)he provides his own electricity (as the investors who bought over the behemoth of corruption that was the state’s power infrastructure have now realized the deep shit they got themselves into, and have continued where the government left off in milking Nigerians by making them pay ridiculous amounts for a service they do not and appear incapable to provide). (S)he provides his own security, sleeping with only one eyes closed hoping and praying that “..a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”
The only benefit Nigerians have so far since the restoration of civilian rule, appear to be the freedom of speech (as rightly noted by Senate President David Mark) the result of which the president broke the unenviable record of being the most insulted leader, cum ruler of any nation.
Recent protests of discontent especially of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, and the #OccupyNigeria campaign before it, for me are test runs for greater ones to come, especially as the 2015 General Elections approach, and may make or mar this entity, and contraption called Nigeria, if the government of the day continues in its aloofness.