It is with deep reflection and a sense of overwhelming sobriety that the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) joins Nigerians in commemorating this year's Democracy Day. These past two decades and two years of civilian governance have been a chequered sojourn indeed, with the country sadly coming short of the global expectations rightly placed on her based on evident potential.
The journey to recognising June 12 every year as Democracy Day was a tortuous one. It was a befuddling irony of fate that for over two decades, Nigeria fatally ignored the watershed moment encapsulated in the overwhelming mandate freely given in the 1993 Presidential elections. That an election which was adjudged by local and international observers as the freest and fairest in the history of the country was consigned to an insignificant footnote column for so long was indeed telling.
As Nigeria marks yet another Democracy Day, the times that we live in call for a thorough appraisal of how the political leadership over the years have upheld the tenets of democracy and empowered all the supportive institutions that should guarantee that elections are manifestly free and fair. Regrettably, Nigeria's democratic experiment since 1999 has been characterised by false starts and a worrisome observance of the rule of law in the breach.
Worse still, the last six years have been depressing for Nigerians especially due to the divisive attitude and conduct of the political leadership. Never in the history of the country has Nigerians been as divided as we are presently. Across the country, discordant tunes on one hand reverberate demanding justice, equity and equitable distribution of resources to enhance national integration and development. And on the other hand, criminal gangs, killer herdsmen, bandits and insurgents have seized control of several ungoverned spaces terrorising Nigerians and tearing violently at the fabric of national unity holding the country together.
More worrisome is the repression of dissenting views and suppression of protests by agents of the state working in clear discord and impunity against the laws of the land. Freedom of speech and expression is constantly under threat and Nigerians are subjected to illegal orders from security agents barring them from protests.
Utterly lacking have been some of the most desirable pillars of democracy, especially responsible leadership, ethical conduct, transparency, and accountability at all tiers of governance. This has led to subpar achievements by elected political actors to the detriment of the long-suffering electorate. The electoral process continues to be marred by widespread irregularities and bloody violence. Elected representatives at both the national and sub-national houses of parliament have hardly met the perennial yearnings of their constituents in terms of life-changing legislation.
Despite the grim realities that have pockmarked Nigeria's democratic system so far, the National Association of Seadogs believes that with altruism and genuine patriotism as the guiding principle of our political leadership, a rainbow may yet appear on the horizon. The ethical reorientation that is required to engender a truly progressive democratic culture must be holistic and deliberate. Institutions of state which should ordinarily be the bulwarks of civilian rule must begin to operate without any contrived official leashes. The legislative and judicial arms across board, which over the years have been carrying on like servile appendages of the executive branch, need to dust up Montesquieu’s time-tested treatise on the theory of separation of powers.
President Muhammadu Buhari as the incumbent President has a crucial role to play in rekindling the confidence of Nigerians in the democratic system by transforming it into a rallying point of national unity.
The diversity of Nigeria is not a curse. Indeed it is a blessing, if we have a responsible and responsive leadership that is truly interested in harnessing the diverse nature of the country for accelerated development. President Buhari should refrain from viewing Nigeria from his parochial point of view and realise his responsibility is to every citizen of this country.
More importantly, in the last two years remaining on his tenure, President Buhari must devote his energy to bequeath an enduring legacy of democracy through electoral reforms. Central to this, is by ensuring that the Executive and Legislature arms, and the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), engage in proper discussion to ensure the final delivery to Nigerians, an Electoral Act that would guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in 2023 and beyond.
We wish all Nigerians a happy Democracy Day, even in the face of biting hardship and worsening insecurity. We hope that a glorious dawn will come sooner than later, and that democracy will be strengthened with enduring constitutional reforms that will guarantee credible elections.