• Thursday, December 07, 2023
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Nigeria’s democracy and the metamorphosis of our activists and democrats

Nigeria’s “performance democracy”: Transcript of my keynote address (1)

Nigeria’s democratic history, unarguably, is chequered. When Nigeria became a sovereign country in 1960, she showed great promise that her democracy would stand the test of time given the type of politicians, who played politics, then.

Those politicians possessed intellectual heft, political ideologies, moral probity, sagacity, and political vision. At that time, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Mathew Mbu, Anthony Enahoro, Nwafor Orizu, and others dominated the political space. And Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC and Tafawa Balewa’s NPC formed a political alliance with Alhaji Tafawa Balewa becoming the Prime Minister of Nigeria while Nnamdi Azikiwe emerged as the president of Nigeria, a ceremonial head.

Unfortunately, the first republic was truncated by a military putsch on January 15, 1966, which led to the thirty-month Nigeria-Biafra civil war. Then, we had the military interregnum, which lasted from 1966 to 1978, after which the second republic was birthed in 1979.

In the second republic, Balarabe Musa, Jim Nwobodo, Sam Mbakwe, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Melford Okilo, Joseph Wayas, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ambrose Ali, and others contested for different elective posts. And the leading political parties at that time were NPN, NPP, GNPP, PRP, and UPN.

But the first republic and the second republic had one common similarity: as Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was clandestinely helped to become our prime minister in 1960 by the British imperialists so was Alhaji Shehu Shagari installed in office in 1979 by the king makers in Nigeria. They were not the best political leaders in Nigeria at the time the leadership of Nigeria was entrusted in their care.

So when the beret boys sacked the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in December 1983, it was not unexpected. His government was characterized by political ineptness, massive corruption, and lack of political vision. So RTD Gen. Muhammadu Buhari threw many of the second republic politicians into jail after setting up a military tribunal that tried them for corrupt enrichment. And Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled Nigeria with iron fist based on military decree, was ousted from power in August 1985.

The second wave of the military hiatus, which started in 1983, save for the brief period when Chief Ernest Shonekan held sway as our national leader, ended in 1998 with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerging as the president of Nigeria.

Before then, the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was adjudged the freest and fairest presidential election in our political annals, was, presumably, won by Chief MKO Abiola. But that presidential poll was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, who formed an interim government and installed Chief Ernest Shonekan as its head.

But Sani Abacha, who had vampiric, sanguinary, and thieving tendencies shoved Ernest Shonekan’s interim government aside and clamped MKO Abiola into jail for declaring himself the President of Nigeria. His arrest and detention of Abiola set the stage for the fight for the revalidation and restoration of Chief MKO Abiola’s stolen political mandate. The Yoruba political elite and their sympathisers, which included the Igbo folks, formed NADECO as a platform for the fight for the restoration of MKO Abiola’s stolen political mandate.

But Sani Abacha killed some members of NADECO, who opposed his incarceration of Abiola and plot to transmute to a civilian president. Notable among those killed by the Abacha junta were Mrs Kudirat Abiola and Pa Rewane. Abacha’s crackdown on members of NADECO forced many of them to flee abroad for safety.

When, in 1998, Sani Abacha and Chief MKO Abiola died one month of each other, Abacha’s successor, Abdusalaam Abubakar, conducted a general election, which saw Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former prisoner of conscience, becoming the president of Nigeria in 1999. Since then, and till now, we have been enjoying democratic government, uninterruptedly.

Now, as the political leadership of Muhammadu Buhari is an abysmal failure, millions of Nigerians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds want to see his back. Based on the indices and metrics for judging good political leadership, his political leadership of Nigeria is a monumental failure. His political administration, which failed to pass muster, is the worst in our political annals.

To make matters worse, his administration conducted a general election that did not meet the minimum acceptable International standards. Incidents of electoral malpractice and violence marred and marked the general election, which took place on February 25, 2023 and March 18, 2023, ruining its credibility and acceptability.

During the election, many people were disenfranchised for unjust reasons. In addition, not a few people were brow-beaten to cast their votes for political candidates, who were not their political choices. And during the presidential election, the BVAS was not used to upload election results to IREV to mitigate incidents of election rigging, as it should have been done.

Read also: Democracy and dividends of diversity

Not taking cognizance of those ugly incidents of electoral malpractice and violence, which tainted the credibility of the February 25 presidential election, some democracy activists, who earned their pips as activists during the heady days of the Sani Abacha inglorious and bloody reign, have been postulating that the election was free and fair. They have queued up behind Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the president-elect, and the beneficiary of the February 25, 2023 presidential election heist.

But it is ironical that some defenders of the February 25, 2023 presidential election heist fought ceaselessly, tirelessly, and fearlessly for the revalidation of the MKO Abiola’s stolen political mandate. And their efforts yielded positive result.

Can anybody gainsay the fact that the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as our president in 1999 was an appeasement of the indignant Yoruba people whose son, chief MKO Abiola, was denied the presidential seat in 1993? The above question is a rhetorical question, the answer to which is well-known to us.

Sadly today, Bayo Onanuga, who was among those who staked their lives to end despotic military rule in Nigeria, is at the forefront of the battle to rape and rubbish our democracy because he has put the factors of his personal interests and ethnic origin above our collective good. Chief Bayo Onanuga has, undoubtedly, lent himself to the ruling APC political apparatchik as a tool for the enthronement of the Yoruba political hegemony at the detriment of our democracy.

Chief Onanuga uttered incendiary, hateful, and inciteful comments against the Igbo people, which stoked up tension between the Yoruba people of Southwest, Nigeria and the Igbos of southeast, Nigeria. His unseemly, despicable, and unpatriotic actions have portrayed him as a hypocrite and Jekyll and Hyde personality, who is not a true democrat and activist.

But the actions of some of the June 12, 1993 presidential election democracy activists regarding the February 25, 2023 presidential election have raised this poser as well as conundrum: are they truly democrats and activists?