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Author Name: Suleiman Nasiru
Number of articles: 76
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Nigeria and her history of democracy
Author: Suleiman Nasiru | May 30, 2014

Certainly the present situation in Nigeria was not what our founding fathers dreamt of; they never envisaged a nation with many troubles like what we are witnessing today. Yes it is true that the marriage that brought us together was hastily arranged without due consideration of many factors, it is true that the consent of the various parties involved in the marriage then was not sought. But over the years we have learnt to tolerate one another, whether sincerely or pretentiously. Nigeria was never at any time perfect, but the past is always rated far and above the present. There was no government that past in Nigeria that was not rated better than its successor except those in the government that will tell you they are doing better compared to the administration that handed over to them. Needless to bug us with too much history, the journey on how we get to this present stage is known by almost every adult Nigeria. Since independent in 1960, from civil to military rule, military to civil, even an Interim government once existed in the history of Nigeria. Presently we are running a democratic government, and this has last 14 years now. Yes since the return to civil rule in 1999 by the military government of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar who handed over power to the then democratically elected President in person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in May 29, 1999, which makes this present democratic government in Nigeria to be the longest running democracy in the history of the country. We have had issues from independence, challenges that has threatened our existence, there was no time we have it so smooth, but all these troubles were managed and put under control as we moved on as a nation. For instance just a year into independence regional and ethnic tensions escalated quickly. The censuses of 1962 and 1963 fueled bitter disputes, as did the trial and imprisonment of leading opposition politicians, whom Prime Minister Balewa accused of treason. On January 15, 1966, junior army officers revolted and killed Balewa and several other politicians, including the prime ministers of the Northern and Western regions. Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the commander of the army and an Igbo, emerged as the country's new leader. On July 29, 1966 northern-backed army officers staged a countercoup, assassinating Ironsi and replacing him with Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon. The coup was followed by the massacre of thousands of Igbo in northern cities. The distrust was built, the continuous suspicious of one another kept growing, the allegation of marginalization and discrimination against each other depending on who is in control of government kept swelling up and Nigerians were taught how to hate themselves rather than live like brothers and sisters. Elections for the Second Republic were held in July 1979. Most parties received votes along ethnic lines, the exception being the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which commanded support from several corners of the country and won the most legislative seats. The NPN fell short of a majority, however, and often joined forces with the Nigerian People's Party (NPP), a mainly Igbo group led by Azikiwe. In the presidential elections, NPN candidate Alhaji Shehu Shagari won the largest number of overall votes, plus 25 percent of the votes in 12 of the 19 states and 20 percent of the vote in a 13th state. On New Year's Eve 1983, army officers led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew the Shagari government in a bloodless coup. Buhari's government enjoyed widespread public support for its condemnation of economic mismanagement, of government corruption, and of the rigged 1983 elections. This support waned, however, as the government adopted a rigid program of economic austerity and instituted repressive policies that included a sweeping campaign against âindiscipline,â a prohibition against discussing the country's political future, and the detention of journalists and others critical of the government. Buhari's support withered and in August 1985, Major General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew him to wide acclaim. Babangida rescinded several of Buhari's most unpopular decrees, initiated a public debate on the state of the economy, and eased controls over business. In early 1989, in preparation for a transfer to democracy, Babangida approved a new constitution that introduced only minor changes to the 1979 constitution. In May he lifted the ban on political organizations but refused to recognize any of the new parties, instead channeling politics into the government-created Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republic Convention (NRC). Federal legislative elections were finally held in July 1992, with the SDP winning a majority in both houses of the legislature. The presidential elections were delayed, finally held in June 1993, and then annulled by the military when initial election results indicated that SDP candidate and wealthy publisher Moshood Abiola had won by a large majority. Babangida, however, claimed he still supported a transition to democracy and in August transferred power to an interim government. The new government lasted all of three months before General Sani Abacha, the powerful secretary of defense, overthrew it and assumed control. Among Abacha's first acts was the termination of all political activity. Finally in 1999, we returned to democratic rule in Nigeria, and the same challenges of old are still the challenges of today. From Obasanjo to Jonathan we have made significant progress, but not yet in our destination. For instance the priority areas promised to face headlong by Obasanjo in 1999 were as follows; The crisis in the Oil Producing Areas; Food Supply, Food Security and Agriculture; Law and order with particular reference to Armed Robbery, and to Cultism in our educational institutions; Exploration and Production of Petroleum; Education. Macro-economic policies - particularly, Exchange rate management etc.; Supply and Distribution of Petroleum Products; The Debt Issue; Corruption, Drugs, organised fraud called 419 activities, and crimes leading to loss of lives, properties and investment. Infrastructure; Water Supply, Energy, Telecommunication, Ports, Airways, National Shipping, Nigerian Railways; Resuscitation of the Manufacturing Industries; Job creation, and creation of conducive environment for investment; Poverty alleviation; Housing both; Civilian Housing Programmes; and Barrack Refurbishment and New Construction for the Armed Forces and the Police; ECOMOG; Health Services; Political and Constitutional Dialogue; Women and Youth Development. For 14 years of this civil rule, the successive governments have made efforts, but many Nigerians will agree with me that these challenges are still standing tall before us. We have made progress, but still standing almost in the same spot. The impact of government efforts in solving some of the issues raised by Obasanjo is grossly insignificant to the chagrin of many Nigerians. For instance in 1999, 12 years after Obasanjo has made these promises, in 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan was reading his inaugural speech, he said the âOver the next four years, attention will be focused on rebuilding our infrastructure. We will create greater access to quality education and improved health care delivery. We will pay special attention to the agricultural sector, to enable it play its role of ensuring food security and massive job creation for our people.â repeating the same promised made by Obasanjo in 1999. It is very unfortunate, that coupled with this mountains of challenges, our democracy is been threatened by a senseless insurgency and killing of innocent Nigerians by a group that has been described as faceless who have killed over 10,000 Nigerians since 2009 when they first revolted. The hope and aspiration many Nigerians had then when we returned to civil rule in 1999 has been dashed. Hopelessness among Nigerians is on the rise as poverty ravaged the larger percentage of the citizens, jobless among the youths is very alarming, as the education system has failed to provides the right human capital needed for the growth and development of the nation. Nigerian depend on import to feed herself, the military and other security forces have shown total incapacity to withstand the security challenges faced by the nation, we are under threat by the Boko Haram insurgency and it seems we have given up despite the promised capacity to withstand the challenges by government. But hear them out this year as we mark the rituals of democracy, President Jonathan said we must remain united to win the war against terrorism. Christians, Moslems, farmers, fishermen, herdsmen, teachers, lawyers, clergy or clerics, the rich, the poor and Nigerians from all sections of the country must work together with our security agencies and armed forces to overcome the terrorists who now threaten all that we hold dear. He continues by saying that the war against terror may be difficult, but the days of peace will come again. Terror is evil; nowhere in history has evil endured forever. The menace of Boko Haram will surely come to an end. I believe that because of your prayers, your courage, hardwork, faith and sacrifice, we will ultimately prevail over the terrorists and all other evil forces. Yes as he said, of course we are a strong, resilient and courageous people. We will continue to partner with the civilized world, to confront international terrorism and every other challenge that comes our way with patriotic zeal and determination. If you believe say amen, I believe and I shout a bigger amen! Nasiru Suleiman is a journalist based in Kaduna and can be reach on 08076307399

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