NIGERIA AND THE DILEMMA OF DEMOCRACY

Except for the holiday declared by the federal government to commemorate the nation’s democracy day, no sufficient impacts of democracy have been felt by people. Nigerians are not really happy. Instead of people being happy, discontent and disaffection are visible everywhere due to the observed dysfuctionality in the various sectors of the economy and due to glaring evidence of poor governance in most states of the federation.

 

Three years into the Buhari-led administration, people still have reasons to groan. There is widespread poverty everywhere. Although, the statistics released by the government made us to believe that the economic growth is back and consolidating. Yet, there are clear indications that people are suffering seriously.

The unfortunate reality is that the claim by the government that inflation has fallen for the fifteenth (15th) consecutive months from 18.7 percent in January 2017 to 12.5 percent as at April 2018 had not really had direct positive impacts on the citizens and the purchasing power of Nigeria’s currency.

The story of our nation is that of a country practising democracy without genuine democrats. Across the country, we have governors without democratic credentials. Most of these greedy and selfish governors are still owing  workers despite the fact that Buhari’s administration had extended more  than 1.9 trillion naira to state governments  to enable them meet their salary and pension obligations especially in the face of dwindling oil revenues over the last two years.

 It is disheartening that the federal government has not succeeded in suppressing the menace of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen completely despite the military campaigns and international support so far mobilized. However, the commitment of the present government to halt the menace cannot be underestimated.

In terms of education financing, the government has not in my view scored a pass mark. When one evaluates the quality of Nigeria’s education system, it is abysmally low. The prevailing situation across the country is that  some institutions including public and private ones  lack the quality personnel and facilities for effective teaching, research and community services. Worse still, factors of dissatisfires  such as irregular payment of salaries and allowances of workers, arbitrary  delay in giving promotion to deserving workers  and lack of opportunity for training and development have made many of the  universities and polytechnics staff to be unproductive and inefficient.

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By measure of Nigeria’s performance in international relations, the efforts of President Muhammad Buhari in this respect  are worthy of commendation particularly with bilateral agreements signed with China, United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK),  Morocco, Switzerland and United Arab Emirate (UAE). Yet, average Nigerians are still striving to feel the direct positive impacts of all these bilateral agreements.

One other cause of dilemma as the nation’s democracy grows is the issue of local government autonomy. In the present democracy, local governments are mere appendage of the states.  It can no longer be regarded as a third tier of government. The Buhari’s administration will do the country good, if local governments can be made to be autonomous through constitutional and legislative processes.

Despite the earlier pointed dilemmas, it will be unjust not to commend the present administration’s effort on fighting the war against corruption. The way the government has been handling it’s whistle blowing policy gives hope for a better future for the nation. By extension, the fiscal reforms and plugging leakages in government finances are part of areas where Buhari’s administration had succeeded.

Again, executive recklessness and excesses continue to jeopardise the practice of democracy in the country as observed through the conducts of most of the state governors.  With the enthronement and sustainability of democratic norms, principles and institutions in our country, the good people of Nigeria ought to have began reaping the fruits of democracy. Also, the governors of states have become overlords such that most of them now control the state assemblies of their respective states. It will be difficult for any state to experience good governance where governors would not allow the state assemblies perform their legislative functions without interference. Most of the state Houses of Assembly are toothless bull dogs.  The National Assembly that ought to offer a sort of solace are also operating as enemies of democracy. The current National Assembly are dominated by brigandages.

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In the present order, most members of the National Assembly give preference to oversight functions at the detriment of primary legislative responsibilities. This is a country where legislators feel the only measure of their performance is through empowerment projects. Obviously, the so called empowerment programmes are nothing but ruse. Until when true democrats in terms of ideological inclination and practice are encouraged to venture into politics, our lamentation will continue. Except we allow people with sound minds and ideologically inclined have the opportunities to occupy elective positions, people will continue to groan and our democracy will remain in a state of dilemma.

By: Rahaman Onike,

Author and public administrator,

from Oyo, Oyo State.

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