On this day in 1999, a new chapter in the history of Nigeria was opened: the military went back to the barracks and their constitutional role of protecting Nigeria’s territorial integrity. Most importantly, we gained the freedom to elect our own political leaders.
We have come a long way since President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as the first president of the Fourth Republic. We have achieved milestones such as the first transfer of power to another president and the first transfer of power across political parties in 2015.We have also gone through testy moments: crises in the National Assembly, the impasse caused by the illness of late President Umaru
We have also gone through testy moments: crises in the National Assembly, the impasse caused by the illness of late President Umaru Yar’adua, several internal security crises such as militancy in the Niger Delta and the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.
Through all of these, our democracy has only become stronger and more formidable – today, we have a generation of people who have never been under military rule, and a nation who will do everything possible not to be thrown back to that dark era.
There are a few people who make comparisons of our democracy with past military regimes and make erroneous conclusions that we were better then than now, using parameters such as cost of living, the state of our infrastructure and the overall economy.
Such people need to be reminded that a democracy is not about infrastructure and economy. Indeed, almost any kind of government can provide those. However, it is the freedoms that the people enjoy – to choose their government, to make input into laws, to have free speech, to be able to move around and gather peacefully. It is also the presence of checks and balances to ensure that no one rules by absolute power. It is definitely the knowledge that, as a people, we can always do better that the last election cycle.
This is not to say that our democracy is perfect. But we must remember that democracy is a never a thing done; rather, it is what nations are always doing, a constant work-in-progress. To get to where we are has been a battle; every freedom currently enjoyed by Nigerians has been well-earned.
It is in the light of this that we must also view our current struggles and agitations as opportunities to strengthen our democracy and create the Nigeria that we desire. Whether it is the resurgence of a demand for secession to form Biafra or calls for restructuring and true federalism, each one is an opportunity that we should embrace as a learmning curve for the betterment of Nigeria.
We must not shy away from even the most difficult conversations regarding Nigeria because without having them, we cannot work towards a Nigeria that works for all.
As time marches on, we believe that our democracy will become even stronger than it is now, and we will ensure that we play our role in achieving this, as should every Nigerian.
Happy Democracy Day!