21 YEARS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY By Hashim Suleiman

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I can still vividly remember the 1998 PDP convention that resulted in the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as the presidential candidate as well as the subsequent nomination of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the running mate after he had emerged the gubernatorial candidate in Adamawa State. I can also remember how easily my maternal uncle Aliyu Umar 242 had emerged the PDP councillorship candidate for Rimi Local Government in Katsina State. Both Obasanjo and my uncle won their elections and the rest is history. 

My personal observation for that period of 1999 elections was that of the emergence of politicians who had been experienced for a long time regardless of there been educated or not. The other part was the much ease with which they all emerged;they were by far the luckiest benefactors of the current democratic journey. 

Going forward to 2003, the turf became a little tougher because even the President had to go through a tougher process before emerging. My uncle councilor could not get a reelection because interests had increased, and primary elections had become tougher. Other issues like zoning had also began to emerge but they were all tied to increased interest in the process. The much that some candidates could be defeated in both primary and secondary elections in the case of my uncle and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State indicated that there was some development in the democratic process and should be appreciated by pundits and observers even though majority of the citizenry may not see it that way owing to the less critical thoughts. 

Afterwards, several other elections have held from 2007, 2011, 2015 to 2019 and in all of them, there had been improvements relating to increased interests and loss of elections in both primary and secondary elections with some of the cases being a loss from members of ruling parties at both state and federal levels. The latest was a loss from two first term governors who both belonged to the ruling party and situated in the President’s stronghold of northern Nigeria. If this is not development, then what is?

While all the above have indicated a development in the electoral and democratic process, what remains lacking is the interest and participation of the most critical citizens of the country. These are the youths who make up the most active population of the society but have refused to study and recognize the methodology of a democratic system. They have rather developed a sense of entitlement which blinds them to understanding the progress that the development of the democratic process presents and how much it could favour them if they were to key in. 

Looking at the economic sector, it is very important to gauge this based on Naira because over the years what has mislead us is the fact that we had to measure our budgets and activities against the Dollars and the reason for such was the fact that we were an economy that was largely dependent on import and so the price of dollar mattered a lot. However, the current development that democracy has brough especially in the area of food security and manufacturing is impressive and has left a lot of our Naira for internal use. This makes the increase in our budgetary figures over the years very impressive. The people who don’t see progress in that are those who measure our money against the dollars and those who are fixated in us importing everything. Those who use internally produced materials could tell you more of the development of Nigeria’s economy.

The education sector has also seen lots of development considering how much the universities, both public (state and federal) and private have increased over the years to at least cushion the effect of increased population who would require them. Armed forces secondary schools, private schools initiative are all a sign of development democracy has brought to Nigeria’s education sector. 

The management of ebola and COVID-19 has showcased that our health sector is not an Armageddon after all. Democracy has ensured the emergence of Nigeria Centre of Disease Control from 2011 and finally signed into law in 2018. Many more private health institutions have emerged in the country and are bridging the gaps resulting from the non-sufficiency of the public health institutions. 

All the tiers of government have also made commendable efforts in terms of the provision of critical infrastructure ranging from roads, bridges, school buildings, hospitals, airports, seaports, jetties etc.

However, it is not to say that in all of the above achievements and developments there had not been challenges ranging from electoral frauds and corruption but the majority of them have been as high as they were in the various sectors owing to the docility of the citizenry. 

We are as people have simply refused to key into the democratic process by understanding it, the policies and how best they could help us. The sense of entitlement of the myth that we are a rich nation must be dropped and replaced with hard work, knowledge about democracy, tolerance and above all patriotism. 

For those who have interest in politics, get a mentor, understudy, learn the ropes and join the game. Otherwise, you could personally contribute to the consolidation of the gains of democracy and whatever sector you find yourself be it farming or business center. 

Finally, Nigeria’s democracy has got lots of potentials and only those who choose to clear their eyes can see the numerous opportunities there are in Nigeria. 

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Hashim Suleiman

oneheartnaija@yahoo.com

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