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May 29 - Nigeria's Democracy On Cliff Hanger

May 29 - Nigeria's Democracy On Cliff Hanger

May 29 - Nigeria's Democracy On Cliff Hanger

Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo called on all Nigerians to embrace peace at this auspicious occasion. He made the call recently at the National Mosque in Abuja, during a Special Juma'at prayers marking this year's Democracy Day.

He thanked God for making it possible for him to witness the second year of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration, maintaining that the government has achieved so much in delivering dividends of democracy to Nigerians within a short time.

The Chief Imam of the mosque, Ustaz Musa Muhammad, preached tolerance, humility and gratitude as virtues that must be embraced by all Muslims. The cleric said such qualities of character would make the nation a better place, and prayed to God to take charge of the affairs of the country by redirecting the youths and the leaders to the path of peace and happiness for all.

Kaduna State

Kaduna State with the appellation, Liberal State, unlike most states in the federation has produced four executive civilian governors since 1999, namely Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi; Architect Mohammed Namadi Sambo; Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa (of blessed memory) and now Mukhtar Ramalan Yero.

They have all ascended to power on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Just like the varied leadership in the state, these past years had seen the people of Kaduna experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of democracy. While it is overtly admissible that the return of civilian rule brought some minimal measure of infrastructural development in the state, it, however, created sharp divisions among the diverse people of the state.

However, a former governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Mohammad Makarfi who governed from 1999 to 2007, said democracy is working in the state, pointing out that he judiciously utilized funds accruing to the state for developing it during his tenure.

Plateau State

Plateau State, much like Kaduna is one of the states under the leadership of the PDP since 1999, but the most puzzling question on the lips of political actors in the state is whether the state is better on development indices now than it was 13 years earlier, despite the stable and transitional democratic government?

Chairman, Plateau State House Committee on Information, Hon. Diket Plang, a PDP stalwart opined that Nigerians deserve commendation for sustaining democracy, adding that, "the fact that every constituency is fairly represented in decisions on policy matters, both at the federal, state and local government levels is indication that democracy is working."

Even to the opposition Labour Party's Publicity Secretary (LP) Mr. Sylvanus Namang, who commended Nigerians for the uninterrupted years of democracy, stated that "democracy is a journey, not a destination," though expressed reservations that the people of Plateau have been on the cliffhanger these past years.

Pastor Dabit Joseph David, state secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) also trailed the same path. He said "democracy has not truly been felt on the Plateau. The major problem affecting our democracy is that we have no true politicians, because a true politician must be someone who can sacrifice and not someone who accumulates for himself as we know today."

But despite the consistent security upheavals in the state over the years, a civil society activist Mr. Gad Peter Shamaki said there have been improvements on issues of participation in decision making process and freedom of expression.

Speaking through his commissioner for water resources Malam Idi Waziri at a special prayer at the Jos Central Mosque to mark this year's Democracy Day, Plateau State Governor Jonah David Jang, said the state has achieved a lot in terms of dividends of democracy, especially in education, health, roads, water supply and most importantly peace that has been restored.

"The will and courage demonstrated by various ethnic and religious groups to forgive one another and live peacefully in the state is a clear manifestation that we have collectively resolved that no more crisis on the Plateau," he said.

Lagos State

In Lagos, Nigeria's commercial nerve center, the story of democracy's tattering journey in the last 13 years reverberates. To some stakeholders, democracy as practised in Nigeria has some major loopholes as presently manifest.

According to Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, a rights activist and founder, Oodua People's Congress, (OPC); "as for me, there is no reason to celebrate. Where is the democracy we are celebrating? Can you identify that democracy for me? Can you have democracy in the midst of corruption? What we have now is food for the boys."

Senator Akin Odunsi, who represents Ogun West Senatorial District on the platform of the opposition Action Congress of Action (ACN), said "those countries that used to be on the same pedestal with Nigeria, I mean the likes of Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia that came to take palm seedling from Nigeria in the early 60s have all surpassed us. As a matter of fact, Malaysia is now one of the world's largest producers of palm kernel." However, Taofeek Gani, PDP's Publicity Secretary, Lagos State, has a different perception. In his words, "first and foremost, we need to congratulate Nigerians. Also, we need to congratulate the ruling party at the centre, the PDP. We are congratulating Nigerians, because they are experiencing true democratic governance in the true sense of it."

Hon. Muse Rasaq Muse, CPC's National Vice Chairman, South West said Nigeria's 14 years of democratic experience can be described as a mixed grill. "It's a mixed grill because we have democratic structures, but people are not enjoying its dividends, especially with the PDP-controlled centre. We see billions being allocated to projects, but somehow we don't see them working."

Kogi State

In Kogi State, most of the respondents believed corruption has taken a toll on the nation's development prospects.

The Minority Leader in the Kogi State Assembly, Hon Yori Afolabi said democracy has brought temporary relief from the bondage of military harassment, but the economic harassment is still very much present in the country.

Kogi State Commissioner for Rural Development, Bar. Muhammed Umar is glad that democracy has helped to keep Nigeria one in the last 12 years.

Niger State

In Niger State, Malam Sani Bala, a trader in the state capital, Minna, said there are some measures of development in terms of freedom of expression as well as fair representation in government across all strata of the society.

To Tanko Beji, a PDP chieftain, democracy has achieved so much from 1999 to date, saying irrespective of any other reason, democracy is better than military dictatorship, because it allows one to express his opinion

But Aminu Bello of the ACN said there is nothing worthwhile about Niger's democracy , since 1999 apart from the rising wave of poverty among people of the state.

Katsina State

In Katsina State, Alhaji Ibrahim Mai-Dabino, state ACN chairman, told Weekly Trust that the democracy in Nigeria should be analyzed in two ways. First, the return of democracy itself and second, how it is being practised.

Honorable Rabi'u Isa Funtua, a member representing Funtua local government at the Katsina State Assembly, said "the performance of both national and state assembly lawmakers are below expectations. They are not doing what they are supposed to do to improve the living standards of the people. The law makers are not checkmating the executives."

A lecturer at the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua University, Katsina, Dr. Lawal Abdul-Rashid Funtua, however, attributed the backwardness of Nigeria under democratic dispensation to poverty, unemployment and falling standard of education.

Transition Monitoring Group

Former chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and President, Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS), Comrade Mashood Erubami, said there is nothing to celebrate in the 14 years of the nation's return to civilian rule as the basic tenets of democracy are not applicable.

"In the first instance, there is no democracy yet in Nigeria, so Nigerians could not benefit from what they do not have. Fourteen years into civil rule has not achieved democracy, because the military administration that handed over power in 1999 never promised transition to democracy, they only promised transition to civil rule which we have been managing. Thus today we have no democracy, we are not a real republic and we are not a Federation," he said.

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