Journalism in the service of society

Towards a more perfect Democracy (1)

To ensure that June 12’s essence and even magic are not wasted or regretted, those who care about democracy must remind themselves and educate others that democracy is a spirit-like process that needs to be continually nurtured and worshipped. Those with clarity of mind and courage of voice need to remember at all times that the minimum and the best they can do for all is to work towards a more perfect democracy by improving on what we have and making sure the good in democracy does not turn to evil

Dear Readers

IN the last two weeks, we witnessed two significant and related Republican events in Nigeria.

May 29, 2024 marked the one year in office of the present government led by President Bola Tinubu. Lest we become guilty of what we accuse others of, it is crucial to remind all that the same date also marked the one year in office of most state governors across the federation. So far, governors in Nigeria tend to enjoy so much power and so little scrutiny and accountability.

More than about celebration, my take is that the one year in office should be more about responsibility for the service of the government of the day than any other theme. If you are not a family member, friend, or beneficiary of those elected into office, a year in office should be more about accountability and reflection than celebration for you as a citizen or a legal entity.

June 12, 2024, marked 25 years of uninterrupted democratic rule in Nigeria. For me, June 12 is a date truly worthy of Republican celebration and reflection for all, regardless of our proximity or stance to the government of the day.25

Aptly described as “Democracy Day”, June 12 (1993) was the day an extraordinary majority of Nigerians with one voice and in clear terms expressed the way they wanted to be governed and thought they would get it, but alas, very few people annulled the legal and clear will of the very many. Readers of these notes will know how critical we have been here of former President Muhammadu Buhari, but we must readily admit that it was his administration that recognised June 12 as Democracy Day.

As I have said elsewhere, June 12 is a memorable date and a symbol of national expression of desire and vision, a collective action of resistance and resolve, and a personal tragedy for many.

The story of June 12 is a personal tragedy for many who lost their lives in the battle to defend the democratic choice that Nigerians made on June 12 and for families who lost their loved ones.

It is also the day Nigerians, with one voice, regardless of their ethnic and religious divide, clearly expressed their desire and vision of the kind of Nigeria they wanted and who they wanted as the leader of such Nigeria. Sadly, very few annulled that clear decision and vision of the very many.

June 12 then became the rallying point of those who decided to resist the imposition of the very few on behalf of the many. It is important to note here that not all resisted; some sat on the fence, and some even conspired with those who were against the people’s will. To each its own. We celebrate today and forever all those who stood for something noble when it was challenging and risky to stand for the common good. Allow me to pay special homage to those who, since 1993, have not allowed time and the opportunities and challenges of life to blur their vision or corrupt their souls.

Twenty-five years later, we have an uninterrupted democratic process to celebrate because of those who resisted, dreamed of, and fought for a democratic system of government. Any capable and objective observer will agree that we still do not have the kind of democracy that was dreamed of and fought for thirty-three years ago.

Unluckily for the ego of those in power and, unfortunately, for the sanity of the rest of us, there is a general tendency to interchange democracy for good government. The expression for good democratic government in Nigeria is “dividends of democracy”. In the context of the prevailing mindset that equates good government with democracy, it is easy to see why we cannot but observe that we still have a lot of issues alien to democracy afflicting the people of Nigeria. I refer to issues of police brutality, dysfunctional bureaucracy, nepotism, corruption, distrust among ethnic groups, religious division, and a federation that is not genuinely federal, not to mention the dire economic condition of most Nigerians today.

Yes, it is safe to say that while some things have been done, much more needs to be done for our democracy to be a true democracy we can trust and be proud of.

To ensure that June 12’s essence and even magic are not wasted or regretted, those who care about democracy must remind themselves and educate others that democracy is a spirit-like process that needs to be continually nurtured and worshipped. Those with clarity of mind and courage of voice need to remember at all times that the minimum and the best they can do for all is to work towards a more perfect democracy by improving on what we have and making sure the good in democracy does not turn to evil. These will, of course, require sacrifice and vigilance.

An excellent place to start is to push for a people’s constitution that allows the people of Nigeria to democratically decide the kind of country they want to live in, the rules they want, and how much power they want to cede to the federal, state, and local governments.

This year, the Patriots, led by Chief Emeka Anyaoku and the June 12 Movement, once again resolved to help create the atmosphere for the emergence of a people’s constitution. I want to call on people of goodwill to join us in working towards a people’s constitution that will create a Nigeria that respects our diversity and is designed for our peace, progress, and prosperity in dignity.

A true reflection on our twenty-five-year democratic journey towards a more perfect democracy requires us to consider how some critical participants in the democratic journey have fared so far. If done honestly and deeply, such reflection will allow us to see what we must reconsider and pay attention to in our democratic process.

Let’s delve deeper into these political events and their implications. Join me on Twitter @anthonykila to share your thoughts, ask questions, and continue these engaging conversations.

  • Anthony Kila is an Institute Director at CIAPS. www.ciaps.org

 

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