Nigerians canvass integrity of the ballot on World Democracy Day
Just a matter of days to the 61st Independence anniversary of Nigeria, and in the spirit of the International Day of Democracy marked on Wednesday, September 15, 2021, some Nigerians have said the country’s democracy has failed to deliver on its basic pillars.
They also canvassed the enthronement of the two pillars of democracy, which are the rule of law and the integrity of the ballot.
X-raying, in particular, the gains or otherwise of democracy to Nigeria since 1999, Martins Onovo, a United States-trained petroleum engineer, and former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP); Okey Ikechukwu, executive director, Development Spec Academy, and Sa’eed Husaini, director of research, Centre for Development and Democracy, blamed political practitioners for the low level of achievements so far recorded.
In an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, Onovo said what may have been termed as democracy at one time or the other in Nigeria since Independence in 1960, was not true democracy. He alleged that the situation had even degenerated since 1960.
“If this was a democracy, I can guarantee you that by the nature of democracy, the interest of the people would be taken care of. We would have made progress if we were running a democracy,” he said.
Onovo pointed out that “The rule of law is corrupted; the integrity of the ballot is corrupted because votes have never counted in Nigeria since independence. Nigeria was founded on election rigging. We have the confession of our colonial officer, Harold Smith on that; that the colonial authorities rigged the first election. So, Nigeria was founded on rigging.”
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He further said: “If we claimed we did not understand our problem, Chinua Achebe explained it in ’83, ’84 in his book, ‘The Trouble with Nigeria,’ and everybody agreed. So, we can no longer claim we do not understand our problem because we agree with Achebe; but we deliberately pursue our own selfish interest to allow the national problem to fester. You can see that it has got worse with time.”
According to Onovo, “If you use this insecurity everybody is talking about as an example; as at the day President Muhammadu Buhari took over power, Nigeria was Number 4 on the World Terrorism Index; today Nigeria is Number 3.
“So, it has got worse. If you look at the poverty data as at the day Buhari took over power, you would see that we were not the global capital of extreme poverty, but with Buhari we became the global capital of extreme poverty. If you look at our Transparent International Corruption Perception Index reading, as at the day Buhari took over, I think we were 136th, today we are 149th. So, corruption has become worse. So, everything has got worse.
“If you look at the economy, it is the same data, forget the 5 percent they are reporting, it is false; because today naira is 550 to a dollar. When Buhari took over, it was 197. Today, your total national debt is nearly N40 trillion and you are going to borrow more; the request is before the Senate. But when he took over it was N12.1 trillion. So, nothing can be more catastrophic than the kind of democracy we think we are practising now.”
Ikechukwu, in a monitored interview on Channels Television, said Nigeria had actually retrogressed since 1999.
“We have actually retrogressed. At the level of fundamentals of democracy – values – we have lost mileage. At the level of incidentals, which include the dividends of democracy, standard of living, among others, we have also lost mileage,” he said.
The political class appears to pursue narrow interest without considering the interest of the people, he noted, faulting the lack of internal democracy in political parties.
“This consensus candidacy has continued from party level even to real elections without giving the people the opportunity to choose their leaders. Democracy is not being deepened when the people are not being given the opportunity to elect those they want to lead them,” he said.
Husaini, who also spoke on the Channels Television programme, noted that Nigerians had become all the more cynical and disillusioned as a result of the activities of those in power, noting that this appeared to have increased the level of apathy in the polity.
“We need a more transparent and workable system. There is a need for more participation across board. What we see today is that people do more of politics than governance,” he said.