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Democratising Nigeria's Democracy

Democratising Nigeria's Democracy

The need to uphold the tenets and spirit of true democracy has become imperative with the rising complexities of our society. Democracy has been recently endorsed, the world over, as the only form of government that guarantees freedom of speech, promotes the rule of law and public opinion as well give the citizens the right and the opportunities to exercise their political participation.

Democracy in Nigeria can be traced to the First Republic in Nigeria, when Alhaji Tafawa Belawa and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were elected prime minister and president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1963.

However, true democracy could be traced to 1999, when General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over the mantle of leadership to a democratically elected government, headed by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Earlier on June 12 1993, a presidential election which was adjudged the freest and fairest, believed to be won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, was annulled by the then military government, headed by the first and only military president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and the crisis and bloodbath that followed the annulment of election was better imagined than experienced.

In fact, those who witnessed the Nigerian Civil War noted that the ravaging effects of the crisis was another threat to the sovereignty and the continued nationhood of the political entity called Nigeria, hence the need to remember and recognise June 12 as Nigeria's Democracy day.  

Whatever reason necessitated the annulment, the lessons are that democracy remains the best for today's Nigeria and the larger world.

True Democracy should be maintained and protected as the form of government that respects the rule of law and rights and dignity of the citizens. It guarantees, press freedom, judiciary independence and ensures the citizens right to participate in decision making and governance. It gives the citizens the right and opportunity to choose who leads and represents them.

Across the country, the next phase of the country's democracy is gaining grounds, with the inauguration of the various houses of assembly in the states. This week, the 9th National Assembly will also be inaugurated.

There have been concerns that the government in power at the executive level may have been trying to impose a leadership on the National Assembly. Ditto for the states. Stakeholders, particularly members of the various legislative bodies have raised the alarm and have insisted that they should be allowed to choose their leaders.

In some states, there have been reports of how the executive control the legislative arm, using the lawmakers anyhow they want. There have been instances where bills are sent to some houses of assembly in the morning and the bill would be made to pass through all the legislative stages and passed into law same day, without contributions from members of the public, as prescribed by the law.

This cannot be democracy in the real sense of the word. Also, a situation where the executive sends a bill to the Assembly and gets it passed the way the governor wants it cannot be democracy at its best.

Nigerians will like to see a difference in the way and manner the legislature at the state and federal levels conduct their legislative businesses. Democracy must be seen to have been practiced through the participation of members of the public.

Legislators should learn to interface with their constituents in the course of their legislative duties. Never again should legislators be in the habit of visiting their constituencies only when it is election time, to distribute rice and maggi, as well as share fairly used cars to some of their followers. The people's inputs should be sought and put to use as they consider bills and motions. This should be the way, going forward.

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