What is democracy? Democracy has been defined as the government of the people, made by the people and for the people. Its characteristics include: meeting the needs of the people, investing in the citizens through education and health, ensuring economic opportunity for all citizens, respect for the rule of law, open and transparent institutions of government, free and fair elections, combating public and private corruption and illicit enrichment by any member of government e.t.c but it is quite unfortunate that the Nigerian democracy lack all the above listed characteristics of democracy and this is why our democracy could be dubbed as undemocratic. Although some people are of the opinion that Nigeria’s democracy is an emerging democracy but if the political events in the first three democracies is anything to by then, it would not be out of place to say that the present system of government is “democrazy” just as Professor Akin Oyebode of the department of international law and jurisprudence, University of Lagos averred in one of his recent interview with a newspaper correspondence. It is sad that many Nigerian politicians still demonstrate similar political and social characteristics as their predecessors. Our leaders use political powers as an opportunity to gain access to public treasuries and this has been happening since the first republic. The democracy we claim to be practicing has not improved the lives of the common people and hence it is irrelevant. Nigerian government at all levels does not serve the people, many children still remain uneducated, the poor sick are not taken care of, the common wealth and security of our nation is not guaranteed, ordinary citizens are not given control over their government through the power of the votes, the system does not reflect, honour and respect the will of the Nigerian people through free, fair, transparent and orderly elections, our democracy has failed to rest on keys principles such as freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly.
Little wonder most politicians prefer democracy to any other system of government because of the liberty to do whatever they wish in public offices without any check and balances. On the other hand, majority of Nigerians would support a democratic government despite its undemocratic nature just for the fear of the military and where does this leave us as a nation? Nigerians have experienced both the military and democratic rule and many are avoiding the military like a plague but what makes the Nigerian democratic regime different from that of the military? In my own opinion, there is little or no difference between the two because they have both brought untold hardship on the people of Nigeria.
Some months ago, the minister of state for finance, Mr. Remi Babalola revealed that “80 million Nigerians are living in abject poverty and also 54% of the population live below poverty line.” This revelation came after an earlier report by the UNDP saying that “people of poor countries like Nigeria are living on less than $1 a day.” Nigeria at that time was 178th in the list of economically poor countries of the world and a statement by the minister of state for finance further stated that “Nigeria is not doing well and efforts are not being made to deliver the country from poverty.” And so the question is: has democracy really paid any dividend to the poor masses of this country? Well, it has definitely paid nothing because its dividend should be reflected in the lives of the people and contrary to the projects both past and sitting public office holders point towards as their achievements in office, Nigerians are becoming poorer by the day. It is a case of the rich becoming richer while the poor are getting poorer. This wide disparity between the rich and the poor in Nigeria can be addressed by ensuring that the education and health of poor children among all other things are not underfunded so that they can have a bright future but conversely, the people in government have lost touch with the reality of the common man’s sufferings.
There is no doubt that power brings dangerous isolation and hence it must be checked. Nigerian democrats should be reminded that some individuals have made sacrifices to get the country where it is today and it is imperative that the present crop of leaders do things in the interest of the both the present and future generations. It is high time they stopped looting our treasuries and act according to the principles of democracy if it remains the best option.