After the celebration of independence, it was an opportunity for Nigerians to evolve in many ways and in making sure their democracy thrived. Shortly after that, coups and military takeover ensued. A brief shot at democracy came in 1979 as the military took over again. In the June 12 1993 election, democracy was again defeated as the election that was adjudged free and fair was annulled as the military took over again.
On May 29, 1999, Nigeria finally transitioned to democracy.
It was a great joy for those who spent years campaigning for the end of the military rule. Nigerians were highly optimistic that democracy will bring growth and development. Each year, democracy day was commemorated on May 29 but a few years ago the Buhari administration moved the commemoration of democracy to June 12 as a way to honour the sacrifices of those who fought for the return of democracy.
“June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our Independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military Government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process.” president Muhammadu Buhari said.
Nigeria’s democracy is growing, though crawling but the dividends of democracy are far-fetched.
The true meaning of the day’s celebration has been lost. Many electrons after June 12, have nowhere near it as elections have continually been marred by irregularities, violence and disenfranchisement of the voters.
But, as Nigerians rue the incapability of the electoral umpires who have not given any fairest dint of conducting a notable election, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu who conducted the 1993 election has remained remarkable and the freest, fairest and most peaceful election which he conducted should be emulated.
In 24 years, Nigeria’s democracy is still crawling. Election after election is characterised by vote stuffing and ballot snatching, as thugs are unleashed to maim, kill and decide who wins the election. Thugs have taken over the free will of the people and have turned Nigeria’s democracy to Thugcracy.
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2023 Elections were to be different. Promises upon promises and the confidence in the new electoral law spurred people to again develop faith in the election. But, thugs largely decided who won as the election umpire, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu declared the winner based on such outcome.
In his Democracy Day address, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu charged, “Those who cannot endure and accept the pain of defeat in elections do not deserve the joy of victory when it is their turn to triumph.”
President Tinubu who was declared winner under spurious means claims victory. As those who lost are in court seeking redress, Tinubu as well threatens the Judiciary. He said, “It is about rule of law and a vibrant judiciary that can be trusted to deliver justice and strengthen institutions. It has become imperative to state here that the unnecessary illegal orders issued to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated.”
The Judiciary is another arm of government which comes handy in a disputed election. Nigeria’s Judiciary has remained lame in its judgement especially as it relates to the elections. Faith in the Judiciary to deliver justice is almost zero and that comes from such covert threats as Tinubu delivered.
For the president to issue such a soft but condemnable threat to the judiciary shows he is assuming power over the judiciary. And that could also be said about the Legislators who wait on the president to pronounce his choice of the National Assembly leadership.
Democracy cannot thrive in Nigeria when the people have remained helpless as the judiciary continues to remain an appendage to the executive branch as well as highly influenced to truncate the democratic process.
In a viral video circulating on social media, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa confessed how he influenced his wife, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the retired President of the Court of Appeal, in giving judgements to his friends. He said, “my wife whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while she was in office and she has been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment and extended her help to my colleagues.”
Nigeria is suffering from strong men who are influencing the institutions. Weak institutions have cost Nigeria its deserving growth. This is not how democracy works where the Nigerian people cannot even be free to choose competent leaders who will in turn appoint competent and capable hands into the institutions of government. These incompetent people in government pursue absolute power instead of serving, causing poor delivery of the dividends of democracy.
As Nigerians may want to rejoice over the years of uninterrupted transfer of democratic power from one administration to another, Nigeria does not practise real democracy – power by the people and power to the people, they rather practise kakistocracy – a government that is ruled by the least suitable, able, or experienced people. That is where the problem lies as Nigeria’s democracy remains crawling.