Democracy is not something we can exchange for something else – Reuben Abati (READ)

Reuben Abati

Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abati, in a new publication, talked about how democracy cannot be exchanged for any other type of government.

This is in reaction to recent talks of military men parleying with politicians to organise a coup, and the Biafran struggle.

In the article titled, ‘Democracy, Biafra and a sense of history’, Abati said the military overstayed their welcome before civilian leadership began in 1999.

He said, “It is sad that many Nigerians today talk glibly about the possibility of a coup or of military intervention in politics.  They make it seem as if this democracy is something we can exchange for something else. We need to be reminded, as we celebrate democracy day 2017, how we got to this very moment, and how precious democracy is to us as a sovereign people.  From 1966 to 1999 (with the short break of civilian rule from 1979 – 1983) the military dominated the political landscape in Nigeria. It was eighteen years ago yesterday when our country returned to civilian rule. “

However, he notes that military intervention yielded some positive results.  

“To be fair, military intervention in Nigerian politics yielded some positive dividends, and created a leadership cadre, and indeed till date, the influence of the military in Nigerian politics, as seen in the transmutation of many military officers into professional politicians, remains a strong factor in the making and unmaking of Nigeria. But by 1990, with the global wave of democratization, glasnost and perestroika, the collapse of the Berlin wall, and the greater emphasis on human rights, and the rise of civil society,  the Nigerian public began to subject the military to greater scrutiny than was hitherto the case.”

Abati further notes that the present system is much more better than military rule. Saying Democracy has given Nigerians a voice.

“Whatever may be the shortcomings of our democracy, this system of government has served the Nigerian people well. We may worry about the form or the shape, or the character of our democracy, the opportunism and imperfections of the professional political class, or the weakness of certain institutions but all told, this is a much better country. The best place for the military is to function under a constitutional order and to discharge its duties as the protector of national sovereignty. Any soldier who is interested in politics should resign his commission, and join a political party, politics being an open field for all categories of persons, including ex-convicts, prostitutes and armed robbers. I find the auto-suggestion of military intervention gross and odious. It is regrettable that those whose duty should never in any shape include scare-mongering were the ones who started that nonsensical discussion in the first place.

“Today, democracy has given the Nigerian people, voice. There is a greater consciousness of the power of the people, as well as the need to hold persons in power accountable. The electoral process is still imperfect, but the people are now supremely confident of their right to choose. 

“But not all our problems have been solved. For example, exactly 50 years ago today, the late Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, hero of the Biafran Revolution, led the people of the Bight of Biafra on a secession move out of Nigeria.

“He said: “…you, the people of Eastern Nigeria, Conscious of the Supreme Authority of Almighty God over all mankind, of your duty to yourselves and prosperity; Aware that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any Government based outside Eastern Nigeria/Believing that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights which can best be protected by yourselves. Unwilling to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature… Now, therefore, I, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, by virtue of the authority and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her Continental Shelf and territorial waters shall henceforth be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra…”

He ends the article on an uncertain note, saying the Nigerian type of democracy is different from what it should be.

“Nigeria remains a yet unanswered question. Democratic rule may have opened up the space, but our country still suffers from a kind of hang-over. The people are free, but they are today everywhere in chains: politically, economically and ethnically. This is the sad part of our democracy, but the best part are the many lessons that the people are learning about the meaning, the nature and the cost of the choices that they make or that they have made.”

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