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Democracy: Celebration? No! Mourning? Yes

By Emmanuel Onwubiko 
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Today June 12th is marked as the democracy day in commemoration of the annulled June 12th 1993 General elections in which the then Lagos based newspaper publisher and billionaire businessman Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was declared the winner by the Professor Humphrey Nwosu-led National Electoral Commission. The election presumed to be the freest and fairest election in the political annals of Nigeria was cancelled illegally by the then Military dictator General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

However, today as we remember that momentous occasion in which Nigeria came so close to actualizing true democratic transformation which was truncated by the military tyrants, it is ironic that the man who declared this day the democracy day and thus moving the original democracy day from May 29th, in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari can not be said to be a Democrat by any stretch of imagination.

Tragically, even with five years gone since the controversial elections that brought him into office twice, the styles adopted by the current President does not depict him as someone who believes in constitutional democracy.

During his first four years, he did everything in the books to frustrate the National Assembly headed then by Dr Bukola Saraki who left the All Progressives Congress for the Peoples Democratic party after his party tried to unseat him because he was seen as being totally independent that he can not be pocketed so they originally wanted to instal a stooge as Senate President in the person of Ahmed Lawan.

Ahmed Lawan was later in this final tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, railroaded to become the Senate President after the Independent National Electoral commission headed by Mr Yakubu Mahmood rigged the elections in Kwara state to eliminate the chances of Bukola Saraki ever returning to the National Assembly where he was seen as being too stubborn to be pocketed by the Executive arm of government. The electoral commission also manipulated the election to eliminate the chance of Senator Dino Melaye ever returning to the Senate where the likes of him gave the President a run for his money. These are the undemocratic developments that were ochestrated by the President who is today marking democracy day.

Although June 12th is remembered as one day that the votes of Nigerians mattered, however, the last election that ushered in the then incumbent president to a second and final tenure in office was marred by massive irregularities and heavy violence.

Worst still, the very core value for which June 12th is remembered as Democracy day which is the principle of one man one vote, was violently violated by the compromised and heavily corrupt Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) headed by Mr. Yakubu Mahmood.

The 2019 election has gone down in history as that electoral process that was characterised by deliberate denial of voting rights for Southerners and especially Igbo speaking Southerners who were believed were rooting for the Peoples Democratic party's candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who ran with the former governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi whose popularity as a statesman has become phenomenal..

Millions of potential voters who were actually enrolled into the voters register who are from the South were never issued their permanent voters cards but kids of less than 7 years in the North got voters cards from the incompetent Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) headed by Yakubu Mahmood.

INEC would then go on in 2019 to spend more than 4 days to announce the outcome of the Presidential poll whose outcome became a subject of legal tussle which however was controversially ruled in favour of the incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari by a Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The panel of the apex court that heard the case was politically tainted by the fact that the man who was railroaded into office as the Chief Justiceof Nigeria Tanko Muhammad from Bauchi state got to the post through an ex parte injunction granted by the ethically challenged quasi judicial contraption called Code of Conduct Tribunal presided over by a man who had an indictment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged bribe taking of N10 million Mr. Salami Umar.

The inauguration of Tanko Muhammadu after the illegal removal of the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen from Cross Rivers State was done on purpose to ensure that the panel of justices to adjudicate the election litigation filed by Atiku Abubakar was heard by a pliant panel of controlled judges.

So, the decision by the current administration to fix June 12th as the remembrance day for Democracy must have been done to curry favour from Nigerians by a government that spent five years inflicting economic hardships on Nigerians and a government totally not in control of the security of the nation due to the NEPOTISTIC appointments of security chiefs from one section of Nigeria and from one religion same as that of the President.

The entire internal security architectures are dominated by Northern Moslems.

The administration nevertheless has gone ahead to mark the Democracy Day today which is a big irony.

On this day that the drums were rolled out by the administration to commemorate the Democracy Day, the armed Islamic terrorists in the North East of Nigeria reportedly slaughtered a policeman and a soldier that were captured by them when they invaded a community in Borno state and killed about 85 Nigerians.

These killings were done only twenty four hours ago. In Katsina state which is the home state of the President, armed bandits killed about 55 villagers just after a week that 79 villagers were killed in Sokoto by armed bandits.

Yet the administration went about commemorating the Democracy Day even when Nigeria is bereft of all the indices of democracy such as the freedoms of Expression, Right to Vote and be voted for, Freedom of Association, Freedom from arbitrary detention and illegal arrests and Right to life.

Even the election that brought the government was marred by violence and ballots box stuffing and snatching on gun points.

A total of over 50 Nigerians were killed during the 2019 general elections.

And as usual, President Muhammadu Buhari was never deficient of speech making through a national broadcast which was watched by fewer Nigerians than would have been the case if the frequent power cuts and electricity power supply deficiency are not the major problem of millions of Nigerians. Millions of Nigerians are not on the National electricity power grid and therefore cannot even watch the President's speech.

In his presentation today, President Muhammadu Buhari said that sustaining our democracy thus far has been a collective struggle, and that he congratulates all Nigerians and particularly leaders of Nigerian democratic institutions on their resilience and determination to ensure that Nigeria remains a shining example of democracy. This is a big exaggeration as we have seen in the preamble to this piece.

The President said also: "In my 2019 Democracy Day address, I promised to frontally address the nation’s daunting challenges, especially insecurity, economy and corruption. I therefore find it necessary to give an account of my stewardship on this day".

The President whose popularity has waned dramatically to almost a single digit, was heard making some claims that can not be supported by any empirical evidence.

His words : "We have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our nine priority objectives and are establishing a solid foundation for future success. On the economic front, our objectives have remained to stabilize the macroeconomy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, develop infrastructure, fight corruption and improve governance. In the area of security, we remain unshaken in our resolve to protect our national infrastructure including on-shore and off-shore oil installations, secure our territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea".

This same government has taking Nigeria right back into serious debt trap by borrowing excessively to the tune of over $35 billion. The current Administration borrows practically to the last penny to pay salaries of political office holders. This government the other day got the National Assembly to approve for it the loan application of $27 billion. The same administration borrowed $3.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund to combat Covid-19 and has applied for another $5.5 billion loan from the World Bank. This same government that is making claims of achieving some milestones in the economy, had only 24 hours ago through the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo told Nigerians that 39 million people lost their jobs due to the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN NIGERIA and that many more will drift into absolute poverty. So between the President who makes big ridicule claims of achieving so much to stabilize the economy and his vice president who is announcing job losses, who do we believe? The Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria had only just announced that 80 million Nigerians are absolutely poor. The President himself told Nigeria at his inauguration that there are 100 million poor Nigerians.

Then in the area of national security which has nosedive to abysmal dimension, the President was economical with the truth also.

The President glossed over the most important issue of collapsing national security by just saying that ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.

Then, he only just expressed regret at what he comically described as recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States which he simply stated was as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions.

Then he said absent mindedly that security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators.

Then I ask, how on Earth will the President call terrorists just mere criminals?

These Terrorists that have virtually taken over parts of Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Borno and Yobe State and have slaughtered hundreds of Nigerians in such places as far flung from the theatre of terrorism battles as Southern Kaduna State and yet they are re-baptised only as criminals.

How can Mr. President simply regard these hundreds of Nigerians killed by terrorists as mere numbers?

The President claims to be running a democracy but the Constitution which is the supreme law of Nigeria says the primary duty and responsibility of governmemt is security of lives and wellbeing of the citizens who are the owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria and who have donated the legitimacy to the officials of government to exercise authority for a specified number of years.

It can therefore be summarised that a government that has allowed all kinds of armed killers including the KINSMEN of the President to kill at will without being arrested and prosecuted has failed to discharge the primary duty and responsibility of governmemt and has lost the legitimacy to exercise authority.

Remember, I said earlier that all the major indices of democracy are lacking in Nigeria thereby making Nigerian brand of democracy to look like a democracy of the grave sides.

Additionally, as i gathered from the website of a highly respected Europe based news magazine, the respected U.K-base Economist through its sister ‘intelligence unit’, this distinguished media house has released its 2020 democracy index.

The report stated that this UK based media giant rated the level of democracy in some 167 countries based on five categories”: electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.

The report notes this year, the overall rating at 5.44 out of 10, is the lowest rating for democracy since the annual rating began in 2006. The top and bottom show little change with Norway at number one, where it has traditionally been, followed by Iceland Sweden, New Zealand, and Finland. N, Korea remains in its traditional last place at the bottom of the list. Canada is tied with Denmark for seventh spot.

Surveys by the Pew Research Center on global attitudes towards democracy have in recent years revealed a disjuncture between still-high levels of public support for democracy across the globe and deep popular disappointment with the functioning of democracy and systems of political representation.

The research stated further that Since the inception of the Democracy Index in 2006 the team have highlighted the

progressive deterioration in the practice of democracy in the most developed democracies in the West.

According to Larry Diamond, a renowned democracy scholar, “we have been going through a

democracy recession”, and he points to a trend towards authoritarianism in the developing world. (EIU)

The rating also however lists only 22 countries as being fully democratic. At position 51 “flawed” democracies begin with India, which dropped several spots since last year, and includes Brazil, Poland, Hungary, and Mexico.

That category is followed by ‘hybrid’ regimes which includes Ukraine (78), Armenia (86), Kenya (94), Turkey (110). At the bottom of the list is ‘authoritarian regimes starting at 115 with Kuwait, including Myanmar (122), Russia (134), Iran (151), and Saudi Arabia at (159). Nigeria will surely be in this league of authoritarian regimes.

The Economist Intelligence Unit notes that political participation has risen since 2008, civil liberties have declined, as have the functioning of government, and electoral process and pluralism, In terms of functioning of government, the report says, “the questions which have dragged down the country and regional scores in this category are those that pertain to popular perceptions of control; public confidence in government; and public confidence in political parties”.

Remarkably, the questions asked in the rankings include; Can citizens cast their vote free of significant threats to their security from state or non-state

bodies?; Is Government free of undue influence by the military or the security services?; Do ethnic, religious and other minorities have a reasonable degree of autonomy and voice in the political process? Is there a free electronic media? Extent to which citizens enjoy personal freedoms.

They also considered gender equality, right to travel, choice of work and study and then asked for the extent to which the government invokes new risks and threats as an excuse for curbing civil liberties.

According to the narration of the compilation of the indices of democracy that i read, we were told that the latest report notes a trends towards authoritarian rule in the non-OECD regions, but also suggests a much greater concern on the growing democratic deficit in the developed world.

Putting all these into context and meticulously observing the trends in Nigeria with regards to the deterioration of the practice of constitutional democracy and the Rule of law, it is left to imagination why President Muhammadu Buhari will roll out the drums to celebrate Democracy.

Nigerians are mourning and not celebrating democracy.

How can any sane person claim that there is democracy under the current dispensation when the boko haram terrorists that have killed over 30,000 Nigerians are being rehabilitated and released without ensuring that these mass killers are charged to the court of law and punished for the heinous crimes against humanity? How can we talk of democracy when armed Fulani herdsmen kill people at will and destroy farms and communities all across the Country and the President who is Fulani seems not bothered and the Police and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation fail to prosecute these mass killers? How can we be celebrating democracy when travelling by roads is now a huge nightmare because of collapsed federal and state roads all over the Country and the presence of kidnappers who kill people randomly and kidnap Citizens and release them only when ransom is paid? How can we be celebrating democracy when armed gangsters invade banks and police stations with dynamite and heavy guns to rob cash and slaughter police men? Why is President Muhammadu Buhari living in denial when he has comprehensively failed? As far as the indices of democracy are concerned, Nigeria under Muhammadu Buhari has regressed to a totalitarian regime.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www.huriwanigeria.com, www.thenigerianinsidernews.com, [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko  and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."