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Democracy and Participation!

They say in recent times that if you don’t blow your trumpets, no one will on your behalf and this is the case of democracy in Nigeria in terms of the citizenry not being able to count the so many goods it has brought to us as a nation.

I remember vividly in 1999 when this second republic started how easy it was for people to emerge on the leading parties in the different enclaves and once they emerged they were as good as winners even though we had only one party as far as power in the center was concerned. It would only be luck if a society ended up with people of conscience as leaders because of  little or no room for choices. The people also cared less because there was very less awareness about democracy and what it stood to bring to the citizenry. There was also no social media at the time.

One of the first major dividends the democracy brought was the GSM telephone and I wonder why people don’t celebrate such a huge achievement that has afforded us the opportunity to be aware of so many things through the social media and communications with fellow humans across the globe be it business partners, friends, families or acquaintances.

Furthermore, depending on how lucky a state became in terms of the emergence of governors, a lot of the states have changed for good with a lot of them bearing major bridges and improved infrastructure that minimizes congestion as a result of increasing population. In fact just recently, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in Kano and was toured round the city by the governor to witness tunnels and bridges built by the Kwankwaso-Ganduje administrations. If this is not major contribution of democracy, what could be more?

We should not be quick to also forget the super minister of FCT Nasiru Elrufai who was a product of democracy and who stood to save our nation capital from collapse. He returned it back to the path of international city standard. Such feat went on to make him sellable to become the governor of Kaduna State for two terms and the people of the state are the happier ones about such a decision.

There are also the Okonjo Iweala’s of this clime who came and drafted a robust economic plan for Nigeria that saw the digitization of major financial activities of the government such as payment of salaries and contracts as well as the ramping up revenue collection .

The recent Dr Isa Ali Pantami cannot be left behind as a major contribution of democracy to Nigeria. He has deliberately put the nation on the track for digitization and the lack of it I make bold to say has been one of the major bane of our development. We need improved revenues owing to the explosion in population and other than agriculture which is a slow source of revenue, ICT is the quickest and perhaps the largest revenue earner in the world right now.

Policies like privatization, contributory pensions and different key agencies brought about by acts of parliament have broadened the government and revenue sources as well as providing employment opportunities for the citizenry. They may not be perfect at the moment, but going forward market forces will force them to improve. We never knew a time would come when we’ll be able to pay for our electricity from the comfort of our home. All these are improvements that require only the discerning to take a pause and see a need to celebrate and be optimistic for many more things to come just like them.

Talking about elections, there have been major improvements leading to more and more incumbents loosing elections. There has evidently been increased pressure from the citizenry over the need for improved performances and the leaders daily see a need for them to perform at-least for posterity purposes. The governors of Bauchi and Adamawa lost their elections as incumbents in the 2019 elections while the governor of Kano narrowly escaped. We can’t forget how GEJ lost as incumbent too. The powerful Oshiomole could not mobilize the center to help in defeating Obaseki as governor of Edo State. All these are indicators of the fact that the democracy is improving by the day but can only be appreciated by the optimists.

While all of the above are realities to how much democracy has improved and brought to Nigeria, it was important for me to notify you of why there is less appreciation of it. It simply has to do with lack of awareness and understanding of democratic processes. Democracy is a participatory system of government, if you choose not to participate, you’ll naturally have to expect very less from it. Please do not misconstrue participation to mean contesting for election as the case currently. Activities like picking voters card, voting, participating in debates, activism and patriotism are all part of participation in a democracy. When we all pay attention to the kinds of leaders we vote in and troupe out to vote them and defend our votes, our societies will be the better for it, we have to quit not caring and allowing luck determine emergence of good leaders.

When good leaders emerge, they develop the sectors such as education which will improve the mental capability of the citizenry to understand the principles of democracy and how to benefit from them. Government policies will be there, but when there’s no interest and participation, you may never know and could continue to forever assume the government is not performing.

Democracy is also naturally a slow process of governance owing to the checks and balances between the various compartments making up the entire government. Nobody does anything at their whims and caprices. There has to be adherence to rule of law even if it’s pretense.

Democracy and Politics is about interest and if you have any interest be it the citizenry or politician, you have to choose how to participate as enumerated above. Government spokespersons have to learn to communicate such narratives for the awareness of the citizenry and appropriation of expectations.

Hashim Suleiman


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