It has been about twenty years since Nigeria has been in a democratic system of government since the formal hand-over of powers to democratically elected civil government by the then military system of government in the year 1999. Though, the majority of those who have continuously governed us in Nigeria at both the Federal Government and State Level of Government were those that have transformed themselves from the military uniform to a democratic gown, some situations that keep occurring of recent in Nigeria are showing that it seems that Nigeria or her people or her government is tired of democracy and if this is actually true that democracy is truly disliked, then, what type of government is desired? This paper is of the objective and view that it is too early to be tired of democracy and most importantly is the fact that there is only one alternative to be preferred to democracy across the world, which is military system. Therefore, are we actually saying that we are prepared for a military takeover again?! With due respect, I beg to defer!
The word ‘Democracy’ according to President Abraham Lincoln, the then President of the United States of America, is ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people’. In other words, ‘Democracy’ is: (i) a government made up of the generality or representatives of the people; (ii) a government formed and installed by the people; and (iii) a government that exists for the welfare of the people’. See: EseMalemi, The Nigerian Constitutional Law, Princeton Publication Co., Ikeje, Lagos, Nigeria, First Edition, 2006, page: 30. There is no doubt that in Nigeria, as of the moment, the types of democracy practiced is ‘the Indirect/Representative Democracy,’ which is a system of democracy where all persons of voting age are expected to vote to form the government by electing persons into government who will represent and act on their behalf, especially in the executive and legislative arms of government, which elected persons are expected to properly constitute all the other organs and agencies of government, and generally manage the affairs of government for the welfare of the people’. See: EseMalemi (op cit) at page 31. As has been said above, government is then a joint function of: (i) the Executive; (ii) Legislature; (iii) and the Judiciary. Furthermore, democracy seems to human rights activists and or lawyers a better alternative for Nigeria, after her experiences with the Military Forces of the Military leadership. According to section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)- herein after referred to as the Constitution-, the democratic principles are well laid down as follows (which means that democracy is more a constitutional concept than it appears as an academic discourse): 14.—(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. (2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that— (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority; (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies. (4) The composition of the Government of a State, a Local Government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation.’It is important to note that all these constitutionally laid down principles are or not welcome in a military system.
This paper is of the firm conviction that democracy (compared with military governing system) is better and will always be more preferable notwithstanding its (i.e. democracy’s) disadvantages, even though some persons at some point wish for another military intervention in the Nigerian politic.
Most importantly, section 13 of the Constitution has mandated all the various organs of government to uphold and promote democracy thus ‘. It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution.’.
Today in Nigeria, where the executive and or its agencies refuses to obey court’s orders and feels that it cannot accept any challenge or opposition from any of its citizens, then, it shows that the executive is tired of democracy. The judiciary too is almost getting tired of number of cases filed by individuals especially in public interest and therefore award undesired costs that run into millions of naira against the applicant beyond what an individual can afford to pay just to deter such individual from approaching a court again or just because his case is according to the court, lacking in merit, whereas, in enforcement of fundamental rights suits where the court has found the Respondent to have violated the applicant’s fundamental rights, the court awards such laughable and trivial damages such as N50,000.00, N100,000.00, N200,000.00, which is like not capable of enforcement. This also shows that the judiciary is getting tired of democracy. Furthermore, the legislature is almost feeling that it cannot be challenged politically by the judiciary especially where the allowances and budgets are made. This also shows that the legislature is almost getting tired of democracy. Furthermore, the people being governed are tired of the system of the government that has been democratically elected to rule but has ruled according to whims and caprices. Therefore, terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, jungle justice and all sorts of criminalities have continued to find their ways into the system. These are clear figures showing that even the people are getting tired of democracy.
With due respect, in my humble view, it is too early for anyone of us to be tired of democracy. Nigeria at the occasion of the new Public Holidays Act, 2019, has changed her Democracy Day from May, 29 to June, 12 of every year. At the celebration of the June 12, 2019, Nigeria became twenty years old of democracy since the Military handover since 1999. And historically, Nigeria had practiced democracy from 1979 to 1983 after which the military took over from the democratically elected President/Republican government.in the Second Republic. Therefore, twenty years of the democratic system is just too early to desire a change in its system.
Furthermore, I am of the views that rather than despair or fear of the democratic system, we should rather deliberate of modalities to make the democratic system work for Nigeria. it is understandable that democracy cannot be a perfect system, nevertheless, those Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy entrenched in Chapter II of the Constitution have not been implemented. Also, most of the statutory provisions in our laws have remained unimplemented whereas, were all these provisions implemented with sincerity, the current situation would not have been experienced. The truth is rather that we all have to ensure that those principles of democracy should be put into implementation.
Finally, it is in my humble view that it is too early for us all to be tired of democracy and we should rather implement the provisions of our laws based on the democratic principles and we should also consider the modalities for implementing those democratic principles. I firmly believe that things will definitely be better in Nigeria as a blessed nation in no time!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless Nigerian citizens! God bless the Nigerian leadership!