Democracy as a form of government has not only become fashionable but a popular means of governance amongst all lovers of freedom it confers. Celebrating M.K.O. Abiola and others, who sacrificed to usher in the Fourth Republic, won’t be complete without exemplifying the ideals and philosophy of which they championed, sacrificed and died for. The adherence to the principles and ideology of a true democracy anchored on rule of law, should be the firepower behind the celebration, because democracy without the freedom of choice, right of free speech and fundamental individual rights, is a caged democracy.
As we sojourn in the voyage of democracy, we should bear in mind that the most precious gain of democracy any democratically elected government can bequeath its citizens, is not basic amenity of life but the unbridled power to choose their leaders. The right of choice as expressed via sanctity of ballot papers, is the greatest and formidable right of citizens – after right to life.
When this pertinent right is muffled, democracy loses its taste, and citizens of the state have reduced to mere subjects whose opinions are inconsequential; incapable of influencing the direction of the boat they are being peddled in. This perfidy will only give birth to an oxymoronic system; democracy without democrats. Certainly this is not the dystopia of democracy our founding fathers visualised.
In the foregoing context, it is worthy to emphasise again that rule of law is the foundation of constitutional democracy. Rule of law is what stabilises a nation. A government that disdains orders emanating from courts created by the same constitution that brought it to power, is de-legitimising itself and authority it dispenses. Government should not cherry-pick on which court order to obey or not. We should have grown past this nascent stage when laws of the land are subjected to the whims of individuals that wield political power.
One of the cardinal responsibilities of government is to safeguard lives and properties. Responsive and emphatic leadership does not fiddle while the nation nosedives to the nadir of insecurity. Our nation loses its place in humanity when lives are being lost unconscionably without commensurate efforts from government to nip this protracted security crisis in the bud. General Muhammadu Buhari should live up to his constitutionally guaranteed role of chief security officer of the country. No excuse should be enough for the indiscriminate loss of lives and properties across the nation. Nigerian life matters.
The persistent security challenges in the nation has brought to fore the need to rejig the structure of the federation. State police is increasingly becoming the only way to go resolving security challenges. It is obvious that one federal police system has become ineffective enough to protect the citizens. Restructuring of Nigerian state is no longer a want but need – an idea whose time has come. It is more than a campaign tool to win votes. We should not be proud celebrating twenty consecutive years of democracy when Nigeria is featured in most of the negative developmental indices cum indexes of the world renowned institutions.
The defective structure of the nation cannot be disconnected from the growing poverty, misery and frustration in the land. There is no better time to overhaul the structure of the nation than now. It is not about my ambition or generation but future unborn Nigerians. It will be a great disservice to our founding fathers who handed a promising nation to us, that we will be leaving behind a country divided along ethno-religious fault lines; a nation where insufferable despondency pervades the entire country; a nation some citizens still nurses the fear of tribal cum religious domination; world poverty capital, etc.
Marking two decades of uninterrupted democracy has provided us another golden opportunity to introspect on our checkered history of nationhood and interrogate our policies. It is time to harness the potentials our diversity gifts us. We are one people created by God Almighty, we should not view differences in tribe and religion as impediments, rather as opportunity to explore our uniqueness. Citizens should not be hated for exercising their democratic rights of political choices. It is time to heal the land; time to put Nigeria first.
By Atiku Abubakar