• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Celebrating 25 years of Democracy amidst challenges: A call for reflection and action

Celebrating 25 years of Democracy amidst challenges: A call for reflection and action

On June 12th, Nigeria marked a significant milestone—25 years of democracy. This day, rooted in the historic events of the 1993 presidential election, symbolised our nation’s enduring quest for democratic governance and the spirit of its people.

As we celebrated Democracy Day, it was crucial to reflect on the current state of our nation, the trials we face, and the path forward.

Nigeria’s path to democracy was fraught with challenges and triumphs. The annulment of the June 12, 1993, elections, widely regarded as one of the freest and fairest in our history, led to widespread protests and a national awakening.

Read also: Presidency says ‘no issues’ as Tinubu falls during Democracy Day celebration

It was a period marked by intense struggle and sacrifice, with many Nigerians paying the ultimate price for the restoration of democracy. The eventual transition to civilian rule in 1999 was a hard-won victory. Since then, Nigeria has held several elections, each improving the democratic process.

Over the past 25 years, we have seen significant progress. Institutions were strengthened, civil society became more vibrant, and there were notable improvements in freedom of speech and press. However, this progress was marred by persistent challenges that threatened the very fabric of our democracy.

Today, Nigeria faces severe socio-economic challenges that cast a shadow over our democratic achievements. The depreciation of the naira to an average of N1500/$1, high inflation at 33.69 percent, and escalating food prices with a food inflation rate of 40.53 percent have pushed many Nigerians into deeper poverty. The high cost of transportation further exacerbates the situation, making it difficult for citizens to afford basic necessities.

Reform policies introduced by the current administration, while well-intentioned, have had mixed results. The removal of fuel subsidies, aimed at freeing up resources for development projects, has led to increased hardship for ordinary Nigerians due to the rise in fuel prices. This had a ripple effect on the cost of goods and services, contributing to the inflationary spiral.

The agricultural sector, which should be a cornerstone of our economy, is in disarray. Farmers are increasingly discouraged by the threat of kidnapping and banditry, which endangers their lives and disrupts food production and supply chains. This insecurity has dire consequences for food security and exacerbates hunger across the country.

Policy inconsistency is another significant issue. Frequent changes in government policies create an uncertain environment for businesses and investors, stifling economic growth and innovation. The ongoing dispute over the minimum wage between the government and labour unions highlights the deep-rooted structural issues in our economy and the need for a more sustainable approach to wage policies.

These socio-economic challenges are not just economic issues; they pose a direct threat to our democracy. Widespread poverty and hunger can lead to social unrest, weakening the democratic fabric of the nation.

When citizens are preoccupied with survival, their ability to participate meaningfully in democratic processes is diminished. Furthermore, policy inconsistencies and economic instability undermine public trust in government institutions, which is essential for a functioning democracy.

Read also: Democracy Day: Tinubu vows to protect rights of every Nigerian

The issue of security cannot be overlooked. The pervasive threat of kidnapping and banditry not only affects economic activities but also undermines the rule of law and the authority of the state. When the government fails to protect its citizens, the legitimacy of the democratic system is called into question.

As we celebrated 25 years of democracy, it was imperative to take stock of these challenges and chart a course forward that strengthens our democratic institutions and addresses the root causes of our socio-economic problems.

First, there must be a concerted effort to stabilise the economy. This requires sound monetary and fiscal policies to curb inflation and stabilise the naira, as well as combating the vandalization of oil pipelines.

The government must work towards creating a more predictable policy environment that encourages investment and economic growth. This includes addressing the structural issues that lead to frequent policy changes and ensuring that reforms are well-communicated and implemented consistently.

Secondly, improving security is paramount. The government must prioritise the protection of its citizens, particularly in rural areas where farmers are most vulnerable. This can be achieved through a determined fight against security saboteurs, better funding and training of security forces, and community-based initiatives that involve local stakeholders in security efforts.

Furthermore, it is essential to promote inclusive growth that addresses the needs of the most vulnerable populations. This involves investing in social safety nets, healthcare, and education to ensure that all Nigerians have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from economic growth.

As we celebrate this significant milestone, let us honour the sacrifices of those who fought for our democracy by recommitting ourselves to the principles of justice, equity, and good governance.

The challenges we face are formidable, but with collective effort and unwavering resolve, we can overcome them and build a Nigeria that is prosperous, secure, and truly democratic. Current leaders must remember their duty to uphold democracy and the welfare of all Nigerians, steering clear of actions that erode the democratic gains we have made.

The spirit of June 12 should inspire us to reflect deeply, act decisively, and ensure that our democracy remains resilient and vibrant for generations to come.