Just when you think you have seen it all, a cringe-worthy event happens in the political sphere that reminds you that this is Nigeria…anything is possible.
Nigeria’s continuous battle against corruption, tyranny, disregard of the rule of law and nepotism indicates that a system of checks and balances does not necessarily guarantee support for democracy. We have witnessed deliberate actions that have wrecked institutions democratically instituted to checkmate disregard of the rule of law and abuse of power. Little wonder why a decline in trust in political institutions is tilting the interest of the people towards authoritarian systems.
Nigeria’s democratic setbacks may not yet cause us to reject democracy altogether or to be open to military rule, but we are at a point where if we do not act, we could lose everything we ever worked for. We cannot continue abusing democracy; invoking it only to legitimize all that is undemocratic but neglecting to fulfil its utilitarian promises to Nigerians.
The judicial arm over the past years has become a political tool for suppression by allowing the interference of the executive in the arraignment and trial of citizens, mostly journalists, bloggers, and activists, charged with serious crimes such as treason, treasonable felony or insulting public officials, simply for exercising their human rights. These activists have either been denied bail, as it is the case with Agba Jalingo or granted bail with stringent conditions that makes one ponder if the court is really interested in granting the bail, as it is the case with Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare.
The executive arm keeps meddling in the affairs of the Judiciary thereby rendering the concept of separation of powers useless. Flouting court orders has become the order of the day as President Muhammadu Buhari had on several occasions disobeyed court orders to release the likes of sheikh El Zakzaky, Sambo Dasuki, Omoyele Sowere, Olawale Bakare and the rest of them. Although Sowore, Bakare and Dasuki were eventually released but El-zakzaky and his wife are still in detention.
Controversial bills (hate speech and social media bills) geared towards eliminating freedom of speech and expression are being sponsored by some Senators because of the fear of being criticised. If you fail in your duties as an elected official, citizens must talk and act!
The legislative arm has failed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians. They are more bothered with their salaries and allowances rather than performing their duties as a legislator. Recently, there were media reports that Senators were complaining because of N2 million Christmas bonus. The Gender Equal Opportunity (GEO) bill and the Petroleum Industry bill have been lying in the National Assembly for so many years, yet they are yet to pass it. Active citizens have been demanding for an #OpenNASS, yet the institution is still opaque. They refuse to breakdown the National Assembly budget in the 2020 national budget and citizens cannot track attendance at plenaries. The state house of Assemblies are the worst because they seem to be in the pocket of the governors. How long are going to continue this way? People are appointed into political offices without proper scrutiny. Out of 44 Ministers, 23 were confirmed without questioning. Can you employ someone to manage your company without interview or any other form of test? That is where we find ourselves in Nigeria.
People are killed and kidnapped everyday and all we hear from our leaders are ‘I condemn …’ with no sign of improvement in the security of the country.
It is quite difficult believing in a system that keeps plunging our democratic values into the abyss of corruption and tyranny but the moment we stop believing, we lose our sense of patriotism thereby demystifying the power of the electorate.
Keeping quiet on issues that affect you and the nation translates to being comfortable with the current status of the country. Remember, the office of the citizen is the highest office in the land.
Nigeria is ours, let us hold elected officials accountable. Let us get involved. Let us challenge the system to do better.