• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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June 12, 31 years after: 25 years of democracy

June 12, 31 years after: 25 years of democracy

If a child whose parents struggled to ensure he got all the necessary learning resources from kindergarten to postgraduate level does not have anything to show for it after 25 years, such a child would be a colossal waste of investment.

This is the ironic case of Nigeria: by October 2024, we will have clocked 64 years of independence, while we will have celebrated 25 years of democracy on June 12th. Yet, we are not really independent if a handful of our youths are finding the nearest escape route for a better livelihood abroad (education or work) or the wealthy and politicians are travelling abroad to countries that have good health facilities. Neither are we democratic, not really.

Read also: Strengthening Nigeria democracy: Government-citizen synergies and the spirit of June 12

Children born in the 80s grew up with stories told by their mothers of how they visited new mothers at the hospital with St. Loius sugar, Bournvita, a dozen milks, and bread costing $5, with some change remaining in 1983. A full-grown cow in 1984 could conveniently be bought at $700, transported at $70, while a bag of rice was about $100; #50 was newly printed in 1993 and spent majority by the wealthy; a bag of rice was not even up to $500; in 1999, a bag of rice was between $4000 and $5,000, and even at that, people were complaining that things were expensive; by 2011, a keg of vegetable oil was sold at $7,000, rice, while rice was slightly higher than that.

Welcome to 25th Democracy, where a bag of rice goes for $78,000, oil costs $55,000, a basket of tomatoes is close to $200,000, and prices are unbelievably expensive.

Mothers who once fed their children with eggs because of their inability to afford other proteins can no longer afford to buy eggs. Ponmo of no nutritional value has become a luxury; families now turn to tomato paste and ground pepper in place of fresh tomato and pepper.

Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is a gigantic irony.

Kidnapping has become the norm, as if someone just got posted to the Nigerian Youth Service Corps after graduation—it has become that normal. It is no longer about who is next, but who doesn’t know someone who was kidnapped or killed by chance.

Students of the government used to banter that the worst democracy was far better than the best military regime, but this lived experience Nigerians are facing is definitely not democracy to start with and shouldn’t be described as being the worst.

Read also: Nigeria democracy @25: Growth tainted by worsening electoral process

A country where free press has been unveiled to be a full-blown dictatorship: journalists are abducted and tortured with reckless impunity; indiscriminate bills are sponsored, adopted, and passed into law—bills aimed to stiffen freedom of expression, association, and people’s rights to access information; and, of course, a bill to change the national anthem for reasons called national identity.

What is identity where kidnapping, herdsmen attacks, banditry, and different shades of insurgency are the order of the day?

Countries in the Global North are closing their borders against Nigerians; even if you travel on legal grounds, you face some level of harassment and social injustice because you are Nigerian.

If this is democracy, then what is the definition of a military regime?

If truly the majority of those at the elms of power and their parents’ parents’ parents had benefited from the ingenuity of Shagari, Obafemi, and Nnamdi, we might as well conclude that the labour of our heroes past is in vain; MKO, Fela Kuti, and the others suffered and died for nothing.

And 25 years later, nothing has pretty much changed. What people are seeing unfold before their eyes is an undemocratic government, enveloped in a facade of an unattainable democratic goal…

 

Ifenla Oligbinde is a Nigerian lawyer, writer, inclusion advocate, and politician with over 10 years of experience in project management and community development. She was the first and only Nigeria selected for the McCain Global Leaders program in 2023, and one of 700 African Leaders for the 2023 Mandela Washington Fellowship, to study Leadership in Public Management track at the Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.