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21 Years of Democracy In Nigeria: The starting point and where it is

“Who is actually in charge in Nigeria” ?— Anonymous

“The Lopsided appointments by the President was pushing us to the rim’- Col. Dangiwa Umar Retired Nigerian Army and former Governor of Kaduna State

“Thank goodness for people like Colonel Dangiwa Umar. “I was appalled. Why should I be surprised?”-Professor Wole Soyinka, On(Exclusive Edition) One-one-One with Prof. Wole, hosted by Ekene Ezeji.

“Nigeria is a society of anomie”-Yahaya Balogun(USA)

“Security lapses in Nigeria is on an all-time High”-Dr. Boston Edogi

“Health care system in Nigeria continues to decay” uncontrollably”-Dr. Boston Edogi

Please, permit me to weigh-in on this subject matter at this time without going too deep into what some of us already know. Therefore, some of the statements or narratives being presented in this article are this writer’s personal opinion or thoughts in these areas as reflected on the subject matter.

By popular definition, Democracy is popularly defined as the government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

Prior to the democratic system of government in Nigeria from 1979-1983, termed the Second  Republic, led by late President Shehu Shagari & His Vice President Alex Ekwueme, under  National Party of Nigeria, NPN. Nigeria and Nigerians enjoyed a great level of fundamentals rights: freedom of expression/speech, freedom of association, right to vote and be voted for, and the country also enjoyed being among the comity of nations in the democratic societies, worldwide that is now void of dictatorship rulership.

However, the administration of Shehu Shagari was alleged with corruption and other charges. So, after elected to start off his second term in office, President Shagari was overthrown in a bloodless coup by General Muhammadu Buhari-General Tunde Idiagbon administration which was also overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida in a bloodless coup in 1985 and he became the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until 1993.

On January 2nd, 1993, Shonekan was appointed as head of transitional government under General Ibrahim Babangida’s transitional council. Political campaigns resumed in 1998, and Alhaji Moshod Abiola won the June 12, 1998, Presidential Elections, but was denied his mandate that he earned in a free and fair election, but he later placed Abiola in jail, and he died on July 7, 1998, while in jail.

General Abacha took over as military President in 1993 as agreed by members of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) arrangement, while Babangida stepped down voluntarily. In the interim, the government led by Shonekan was replaced by General Abacha in a palace coup, whose administration as the military president continued until May of 1998 when he also died miraculously. While Abacha was military President he governed the country ruthlessly, and his regime witnessed a heightened level of corruption backed with capital flights to foreign countries, human rights abuses, decrees were enacted against citizen’s rights. Upon Abacha’’ sudden death, he was replaced by General Abdulsallam who was President for about a year.

When political parties were formed/approved, campaigns shortly kicked off. General Obasanjo-led party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, won in the 1999 campaigns to become the President-elect among other political parties. Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, therefore, became President on 29 May 1999. This marked the return of another civilian-led administration by President Obasanjo who was President from May 1999-2007.

He served two terms, then followed by President Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua and Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan led administration from 2007 and two years into the first term, President Yar’adua died suddenly of a terminal illness. So Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was elevated to become the President of Nigeria in 2009 and ended his predecessor tenure in 2011.

He won as the flag-bearer of his party, PDP, and continue his tenure as President from 2011- 2015, and lost his second term bid as President to the current President Muhammadu Buhari of APC in 2016- who successfully completed his first term in 2019. Current President Buhari is in his second term until 2023. President Buhari’s tenure has been confronted with a host of issues/controversies.

This leads me to the other areas in the topic as captioned initially in this article will be briefly discussed as well.

For example, First Lady Aisha Buhari made the following assertions a few years ago. (Paraphrased)”Afterwards, we are expecting to have teamwork. We achieved a bit of teamwork, but it wasn’t full.

We believe in teamwork, and we believe in the government of inclusiveness. People shouldn’t relent, people should continue to fight and continue to talk”-Aisha added, “that two people are in control of what is going on in her husband’s administration, and she went on to challenged the Nigerians men as she asked, ‘where are the men of Nigeria? What are you doing? Instead of fighting them while these two people or three people are killing the collective teamwork that the government stands for” But instead of fighting them one after the other, but they kept licking their shoes”. And she closed with these remarks, “I’m sorry to use these words”.

Proceeding further with this article and Judging from the start of democracy in 1979 to the present date, Nigeria’s federalism has impacted the country to some extent but we wished that the tenets of Nigeria’s federalism could have done more. For example, there had been so much disunity/mistrust among different ethnic groups in the country. Another example is the Ibo’s feels being excluded from holding key positions in federal appointments, particularly under this current administration of President Buhari.

Other ethnic groups such as the Ijaws, Deltans, people of the Middle Belt region and Yorubas also feels that Buhari’s government excluded their indigenes from key federal appointment. These allegations kept reverberating in different discussions and media outlets.

For example, in the recent (Exclusive Edition) One-on-One interview with Professor Wole Soyinka that was hosted by Ekene Ezeji, and Prof Wole also concurred to the lopsidedness of federal appointments in a recent open letter to President Buhari written by Retired Col. Umar, former military governor of Kaduna State.  Professor Soyinka asked how will this kind of lopsidedness in appointments to represent a federal character or bring the needed unity in the country among different ethnic/tribal groups? Nigeria is a plural/heterogeneous society that should, therefore, desist from practicing such divisive/nepotic tendencies to avoid feelings of not being included or left out in Nigeria’s federalism.

Also, people of the Niger Delta region feels the same because oils monies are derived from oil explorations in the region by multinational oil companies, but no adequate financial compensations/infrastructural developments are benefited by the people but oil pollution/oil spillage, killings of innocent indigenes by government forces, ecological degradation, different kinds of sicknesses, pain, and sufferings continues to be inflicted upon the people in the region, etc.

The people in this region deserve adequate/timely compensations by the federal government as well as from the multi-national oil companies. If adequate compensations are enjoyed by the people in this region, consequently, this will hopefully reduce or minimize the problems of oil pipeline vandalism, increase oil production, and decrease in militancy/protests.

In the area of healthcare delivery, the past and present governments haven’t done much to upgrade the healthcare system in this country. For example, existing federal, state, and private hospitals have underlying problems to address the healthcare deficiencies to sick patients as well as periodic medical follow-ups as required for preventive health threats.

Many hospitals or clinics in the country lack diagnostic medical equipment, such as MRI equipment, state of the art X-ray machine, computerized medical c-scan equipment, ventilators, diabetic treatment machines, heart defibrillators, and many other medical technological equipment that are used in advanced countries. Due to not having this state of the arts medical equipment in many hospitals in Nigeria, this translates to patients not getting a proper diagnosis when admitted or hospitalized in Intensive Care Units.

As a result of these and many other challenges that hospitals/clinics face in Nigeria, there are reported cases of a high percentage of deaths or fatalities which could have been minimized if the needed medical equipment is available in every hospital/clinic in Nigeria.  In a few instances, doctors were not present in a hospital when a governor paid a surprise visit to a hospital in Borno State.

How can this unacceptable/ unprofessional behavior happen in a functional hospital anywhere in the world? Transportation and delays in emergency response teams or paramedics including medical air ambulances to address distress 999 calls for sick persons to receive medical care in hospitals is also a major problem in Nigeria.

These problems or challenges that hospitals/clinics in Nigeria are faced with was shamefully exposed during this unusual  COVID-19 Pandemic that is currently ravaging countries, globally.  As of date, Nigeria has over 20,000 confirmed cases, 487 deaths. Due to the lack of unpreparedness to fight the outbreak of Coronvirus disease (infection) in this country, the number of confirmed cases and deaths is increasing rapidly across the country.

Nigeria’s government claims to be fighting hard to control the disease but hasn’t yet made any reasonable success. The states and federal governments need to step-up their healthcare system: provide more funding, build more hospitals, upgrade existing hospital infrastructures, employ/train and retrain healthcare workers to adequately address the challenges that the hospitals/clinics need to treat the sick, pediatric care, intensive care, inpatient/outpatient and all other categories of health issues. The list of concerns in our healthcare system goes on and on.

Another important component /aspect of the impact of democracy in federalism that Nigeria must address is the ongoing security threats that take place in every nook and cranny of the country. These security threats have deep effects on the lives and properties of recorded cases throughout the country. People in Nigeria live with these threats/fears daily(at day and night times) while at home or in the streets, in hotels, workplaces including government buildings, at homes, in parks, at the airports, bus terminals, market places, oil rigs, oil wells, in towns/villages, state’s/federal capital city of Abuja, while traveling by road/air, by sea/trains and………….., attacks by bandits(Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, Fulani headsmen, MEND. Avengers, IPOB sympathizers, etc.

As a result of the security threats from miscreants, bandits and all other categories of criminals that have been disturbing the peace of the country, this led some people to believe and or made statements that there are no tangible achievements that people can be proud of from Buhari’s government, particularly when recently 27 innocent human beings were slaughtered in Kazuri, Southern Kaduna and 14 additional human beings were also killed in other parts of Nigeria, yet the President boasted that Boko Haram has been defeated in Katsina and Borno States. How factual is this claim? Kidnappings/sea-pirating takes place daily in the Niger Delta region. The perpetrators of these crimes are never apprehended and brought to justice.

Additionally, there was a reported incident of a shoot-out in Aso Rock villa between the First Lady’s bodyguard and aides of President Buhari. No fatality was reported. However, the aide of the First Lady is in police custody according to this report that was made public in various news outlets including YouTube. This matter is being investigated at this time by the Presidency.

Two Northern lawmakers in the Federal House of Assembly also expressed these security concerns on the floor of the hallowed chamber before fellow colleagues and Speaker of the House in Abuja. These security threats shouldn’t be taken for granted by the President/Presidency. All security threats in Nigeria should be addressed promptly, otherwise, there will be a breakdown of law and order in the country.

I will be mindful to add that if the security issues are too enormous or so daunting for the federal government to handle let me, therefore, use this medium to call upon the federal government to enact statutory law that will allow states within the federation to form their own Police Force that will provide policing at the state’s level. However, the federal Police Force will step in national security matters should the need arises.

In Education matters, the Nigeria Education profile includes Primary School, Secondary Education, Federal Government Schools, State-Owned Schools, Private Secondary Schools.

Promotional examinations (GCE & SSCE) UME-JAMB and Nigerian University System: (Higher Education projects. Federal, States & Private, have increased since the advent of democracy by Nigeria’s federalism to 57 universities and 11 universities (Federal & Private). Altogether, there are 68 Universities in Nigeria (retrieved from Google search, dated June 18, 2020). Also, there are 115 Polytechnics (federal, state, and private). These higher institutions of learning have produced so many graduates, but many have been unemployed since graduating from universities.

Also, some of these graduates are not able to write/read in accordance with their educational backgrounds, either because these students cheated to obtain their certificates or degrees in their various areas of specializations. Some female students were sexually harassed by lecturers/professors in exchange for, or promise to obtain a passing grade. These kinds of behaviors should be reported, investigated and the perpetrated should be punished if found guilty by a competent disciplinary committee that is commissioned by this school.

Additionally, it’s extremely difficult these days, getting a university degree or certificate is no longer a guarantee to secure employment in the job market after the completion of a university degree and NYSC one year program.  It could be extremely frustrating for a student to complete his/her college degree and not find a job for up to 5 years or more based on consistent job-hunting.

Many students after a long/unsuccessful search for employment give up their job search efforts. Some of these students find themselves involved in criminal activities for survival, and wound-up being killed or imprisoned. In some rare cases, some even commit suicide by taking their own lives.

Finally, critical developments of legacy projects such as roads, airports, seaports/wharves, river/ canal dredging, flood control/management are somehow being neglected or needed constructions are placed on permanent halt by the federal government.

These delays or inactions cause more problems to the areas affected both economically, socially, and impede infrastructural developments. Further delays will also affect the people/communities that need these developmental projects that will make their lives to become more meaningful and conducive.

In conclusion, the current federal democratic system of government would work better if the leadership is sensitive to the needs of her citizens, harmonize peace, love, and unity between ethnic/tribal and religious groups without playing the card of favoritism based on tribal, ethnic or religious sentiments should be shunned while in office.

Furthermore, the ongoing practice of lopsided appointments should also be corrected promptly, because any further delays would affect the people or communities that need these critical developmental projects that will make lives more conducive for their survival, growth, movements, including security, healthcare, and education.

These if achieved or placed in motion or agenda will make the average Nigerian to feel a sense of belonging to the polity (Nigeria), and not be seen or regarded as a foreigner. Nigeria should stay as one nation and one indivisible country by all, except though otherwise by the Federal government and its Leadership.

Nigeria should have leaders who respect the rule of law as embodied in our country’s constitution but also ensures that the judicial system allows competent courts in the country to prosecute cases without fear or favors.

Additionally, the leader must do the right thing to secure internal or external respect or credibility. Therefore, consistently maintain our country’s position as the known giant of Africa as well as being respected by western countries and globally.

Factually, in any democratic system, tyrannical leadership is not welcomed and must be shunned. So, Nigeria shouldn’t be an exception. I hope that my take in this topic area has thrown some additional light on this matter.

Boston Edogi, Ph.D., Organizational Leadership Consultant/Public Opinion Contributor wrote from Phoenix Arizona, U.S.A.

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