On May 29, Nigerians will gather in the 36 state capitals to listen to their leaders as they reel out long lists of what they have been able to achieve. While it may not be bad to give reports which would enable the masses assess their elected leaders, not many people agree that there is anything to celebrate. To some, the celebration is not really worth it in view of some events that have trailed Nigeria’s return to democratic rule. Some of the events have made Nigeria’s democracy look like what Fela Anikulapo Kuti called “Demonstration of craze”.
Though some Nigerians continue to console themselves with the notion that “developed nations of the world started like this, so we too will get there”, not many will disagree that the impunity witnessed by the country in the last 14 years of democratic rule supersedes what was witnessed in the first three democratic experiments.
Corruption has been one of the main attributes of Nigeria’s democracy in the past few years. Conservatively put, more than half of the former Governors in the country have cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Bribes are taken locally and internationally, Nigerians named in the Halliburton bribe scandal have continued to live happily ever after. Same for those involved in the Siemens issue.
Within those years, billions of Naira had been spent on the power sector with no tangible result to show. So many contracts have failed in the different sectors.
And apart from the many cases of fraud, so much blood has flowed since Nigeria returned to democratic rule. The political field has been turned to arenas for bloody battles and like in the First and Second Republics, violence is still one of the tools of politics.
In the last 14 years, the sacredness of the human life seems to have lost its value. During that time, a serving Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige was murdered in his house in Ibadan, Oyo State, and till date, no one has been brought to book for the crime. Ige’s death was preceded by that of Hon Odunayo Olagbaju, a member of the Osun State House of Assembly who was killed in Ife two days earlier.
The September 1, 2002 murder of Barnabas Igwe, the Chairman of the Onitsha branch of the Nigerian Bar Association and his wife, Abigail still remains fresh in people’s memories.
Dr Marshall Harry too was killed in his Abuja home on Wednesday, March 5, 2003. More than ten years after, no one has been convicted for the cruel act. Even the most politically naïve understood back then that Dr Harry’s death was linked with the 2003 elections. He was the National Vice Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party and he was murdered just 24 hours after his party inaugurated a presidential campaign committee, for which he was appointed co-ordinator for the South-South. The ANPP campaign was also to be flagged-off in Port Harcourt which was Harry’s political base. He was killed 3 days before the scheduled campaign flag-off.
Theodore Agwatu, Principla Secretary to the then Governor of Imo State too was cut down in February, 2003. Ogbonnaya Uche, a senatorial candidate of the ANPP in Imo State was assassinated in the second week of February.
On the 6th day of February, 2004, Aminosari Dikibo, the National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South South was the victim of a gruesome murder. 26 days later, the killing spree moved to the middle belt region as Andrew Agom, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees was shot dead along Lafia-Akwanga highway. He was in the convoy of George Akume, the then Governor when the incident occurred. It was later said to be an armed robbery attack.
Alabi Okoju, a prominent member of the Oranmiyan Group in Osun State was murdered in Gbongan in May 2005.
July 2006 was the turn of Engr. Funso Williams, a Lagos PDP governorship aspirant who flagged off his campaign shortly before then. He was hacked down in his Dolphin Estate home in Ikoyi. The same fate befell Dr Ayo Daramola, a World Bank consultant and PDP governorship aspirant in Ekiti State in 2006.
Charles Ntsegbo, one of Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s associates was shot dead in Port Harcourt on November 21, 2009.
Barely two months after, Otunba Dipo Dina, the Action Congress candidate in the 2007 gubernatorial election in Ogun State was shot dead in Otta. Many had believed he had a good chance of winning if he had lived to contest in 2011.
In May, 2012, Olaitan Oyerinde, Principal Secretary to Governor Adamns Oshiomole of Edo State too was shot in the presence of his family.
Away from the many unresolved murders, never has Nigeria known so much impunity than in the period of the return to democratic governance. Chris Ngige, then a sitting Governor was abducted on the orders of a political godfather for his refusal to remit some billions of Naira to the godfather’s account. Surprisingly, the godfather walked free while the Governor eventually lost his seat after it was proved that the godfather facilitated the rigging of the election on his behalf.
In Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, was impeached by 18 out of 32 lawmakers, a figure that failed to make up the required two-thirds necessary to facilitate an impeachment. His offence? He did not share the monthly security votes of N 60 million with his political godfather.
Though the National Assembly seems to have become more matured, the issue of a Senate President that took the mace to his village for “safe keeping” still comes to mind. The many fights on the floor of the House of Representatives too. It was in one of those fights that a Honourable member collapsed and died.
Almost every part of the system is going through a metamorphosis. In the democratic system, citizens dared to take up arms against the state; restive youths in the Niger Delta region and the Boko Haram sect in the North.
As part of the metamorphosis too, Fulani herdsmen no longer carry just rods for their cows, they now carry rifles. Countless lives have been lost in clashes between Fulani herdsmen and people in the Plateau axis.
In Nigeria, 14 years after the country’s return to democratic rule, politics is still being played in the crude way and manner it started in 1999. The latest episode of Nigeria’s political comedy started with the Chairmanship election of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. Despite the fact that an election was held, two candidates are claiming victory; an indication that even some of the country’s elected leaders do not believe in democracy.
Like the Governors’ Forum, Nigerians are divided into two factions; those who believe there is something to celebrate about democracy and those who have agreed with Fela that it is indeed a “demonstration of craze”.