Activists Speaks On Nigeria’s Democratic Struggle | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Activists Speaks On Nigeria’s Democratic Struggle

Posted: Jun 16, 2015 at 12:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ifeoma Ononye  –  Lagos


Few days ago, pro-democracy activists and politicians celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Every year, the commemoration of MKO Abiola’s sacrifice for democracy in Nigeria renews the hope of fostering radical change in the Nigerian political landscape. 

Speaking with some of the activists during the 22 Anniversary of June 12 revealed that what most Nigerians see as democratic rule is military rule in disguise.

In an interview with daily independent, Chairman of the June 12 Coalitions of Democratic Formations, Alfred Ilenre, said that the 1999 constitution is a military creation and does not help Nigeria Democracy. Ilenre expressed this view while responding to the question on what is lacking in Nigeria’s democracy.

“British colonial masters brought enemy tribes. They brought us together into one unified country without the consent of the people. The nationalist have tried to build a union of self-governing regions but the military disrupted that arrangement in 1966.

“The 1999 Constitution does not help matters as it is a military creation. It is like we are in military rule in disguise. Any politician who believes that Nigeria can be run as a centralized country is not a politician because it is not possible. It will only work if we work out guidelines on how to relate together. We must find out what each tribe wants and needs to be able to coexist. In democracy, the people must insist on free and unhindered distribution of affairs. Those in power do not have monopoly of wisdom. It is only knowledgeable people that can question the policy of the government. This is why there should be a provision of universal free education at all levels in the country.”

Ilenre, who  is also the Secretary-General of the Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa, speaking on the June 12 Anniversary coinciding with the victory of All Progressives Congress (APC) at the center, said that this is the first time that an opposition party defeats the incumbent government in power.

He said: “In the history of Nigerian electoral process, this is the first time that an opposition party will defeat the incumbent government in power.  That credit should go the Peoples Democratic Party and the former president, Goodluck Jonathan for creating the structure that made that change possible. The June 12 coalition of democratic formations has been active since the return of democratic rule at the end of military rule in 1999. We mark and venerate the memory of June 12 of 1993 every year. That was the day all Nigerians, irrespective of their political, religious, and ideological differences voted in en masse for Chief M.K.O Abiola who was the presidential candidate for the then Social Democratic party (SDP). It is unfortunate that that laudable election was canceled by the then military regime, led by President Ibrahim Babangida.”

He continued: “Many people feel M.K.O Abiola would have been a great president to put Nigeria on the world map. It is sad that the military stopped him violently and put him in prison where he finally died. The circumstance of his death was painful. We do not pray to return to that sad old day which is why the civil societies and human rights advocates and believers in June 12 feel it is important to immortalize that date and the one who had the mandate, Abiola. In the past 16 years, our coalition has been fighting for this. Lagos state belonged to the political party in opposition to the government at the center, PDP, which was indifferent to the movement. Since Lagos state now belongs to the party at the center, it is our hope that June 12 will be recognized as a national day and a monument erected in memory of M.K.O who was the symbol of that mandate. We would like it in form of a building of a post graduate university for political and democratic studies. This is our recommendations.”

Chatting the way forward for better democracy in Nigeria, Ilenre remarked that all Nigeria needs to do is to build institutions that will make the practice of democracy work in Nigeria.

Ilenre also notes that Nigerians have reached a state at which they no longer have a choice other than to go with democracy. According to him, democracy has come to stay in Nigeria.

Hear him: “Democracy has come to stay. The global trend has proved that democracy is the best form of government. Military rule and one party dictatorship have been condemned as abnormal all over the world. The military itself has also discredited military rule. We have no option than to effect democratic rule. What we need is to build institutions that will make the practice of democracy work in Nigeria. The present system where nationality with different cultures, traditions and world outlook were brought together by colonialists under one union is not working.

“The nationalist, which are the founding fathers of Nigeria settled for a federal union which lasted for six years which was between 1960 and 1966 before the military brought the post independent government. For democracy to gain root in Nigeria, the different Nationalities, ethnic groups, indigenous and cultural people in Nigeria must sit together to decide the basis of their coexistence. The present centralized system that operates in Nigeria has only been sustained by military force and corruption since 1966. We must return the country to a federal union as negotiated with the colonialist by our founding fathers. This 2015 June 12 somehow venerates the day MKO Abiola paid the prize of democracy for Nigeria.”

Another activist, Comrade Linus Okoroji, noted that Nigeria is yet to practice real democracy. To Okoroji who is the CEO of Humanity Services Project, Nigeria is practising civilian government. He stated that the structure of government cannot help democracy work in Nigeria.

“What we are still practicing in Nigeria is not the true democracy. We are practicing civilian government. We are working towards getting democracy. The structure of government we have now cannot help democracy work in Nigeria. We need a true federal system which is the hub of a true democracy. The decentralization of power to organic regions will help bring about good democracy. Then the organic regions which have their own power can stand and survive on their own, Not necessarily creation of states or creation of local government.

“During the Nigerian Independence, we had had three regions before we got in the fourth region. The western, eastern and northern region before the Midwest region came in. the bastardization of that arrangement is the core of Nigerian problem and the core of Nigerian democracy today. It was the military that created most things we have in Nigeria now. It was the military that created states, local government. No civilian government has been able to create anything. They used dictatorship to create abnormal situations for Nigeria. As it is today in Nigeria, some states cannot survive on their own. Some states owe government workers salaries because they do not have capacity to survive.”