GAINS AND PAINS OF 18YEARS UNINTERRUPTED DEMOCRACY IN FOCUS AS THE NATION MARKS INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY
Democracy is adjudged the best system of government as it guarantees freedom and equality of people as well as ensures the welfare of the citizenry.
Having enjoyed eighteen years of uninterrupted democracy, how has Nigerians faired under this system of government?
The current democratic dispensation started on May 29, 1999 and has remained uninterrupted making it the longest civil rule in the country.
The then Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar conducted election in 1999.
From then till now, four elections with some flaws but steady improvement have been held.
After sixteen years of PDP rule at the Federal level and most of the states, president Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC won the highly contested 2015 election declared by foreign observers and some political watchers as the freest in the country.
Prior to the election, there was great tension and fear of possible break-up of the country.
However, the political maturity exhibited by then President Goodluck Jonathan by calling and congratulating his opponent before the final result was announced doused the tension.
This, the PDP Chairman in Enugu State, Chief Augustine Nnamani said, sent clear signal that the nation’s democracy was taking firm root.
Other respondents described democracy as the best gift to the nation, having brought in reasonable infrastructure development, freedom of expression, massive participation in governance.
They also commend the success recorded in the fight against Boko Haram and corruption.
Apart from electoral malpractices, the nation within the 18 years of uninterrupted civil rule witnessed a number of challenges ranging from imposition of candidates on the people, massive defection of politicians to executive and legislative frictions.
A Political scientist, Professor Sam Ugwu condemned these and called for devolution of power to ensure equity and fairness.
A former Governor in the old Anambra State and one-time Minster and Senator, Chief Jim Nwobodo blamed poor leadership for the pains of democracy.
To evolve a more acceptable democratic rule in Nigeria, the National Assembly has embarked on Constitutional Amendment which if adopted would strengthen the nation’s electoral process.
However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Enechi Onyia alleged that political leaders had both adhered strictly to the provisions of the 1999 constitution and frowned at the zoning formula for political offices which he said brought mediocre into office.
The respondents advised Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable and participate actively in the electoral process to enthrone credible leaders.