Tuesday 29 May 2007

Democracy Day in the eyes of the fair-minded

Democracy Day

Two countries in the whole wide world celebrate Democracy Day, a third is proposing the establishment of one.

The United States is proposing one for the first Monday of November in an even-numbered year; I can suppose there is agreement that the United States of America is a democracy with all elements of the democratic concept functioning and operational.

Another country celebrates this auspicious day on the 19th of February, this being Nepal. However, on closer scrutiny, it was for the usurpation of power by the Rana Dynasty from the Shah Dynasty - hardly what we might call democracy.

A contemporary definition of democracy can be obtained from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and it says with clarity - a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

We can affirm from this definition without any doubt that democracy is the express will of the people to be governed collaboratively or through those they choose to represent them. Those who they chose have to renew their mandate periodically through free elections.

The ex-military civilian president

When Nigeria instituted Democracy Day on the 29th of May 1999, it clearly was indicative of the fact that the country had returned to democratic control after a long period of military leadership and mismanagement.

That day 8 years ago also heralded a new expectation in the psyche of Nigeria as we lauded the advent of General Olusegun Obasanjo (Retired), a man who once ruled Nigeria as a military dictator in between 1976 and 1979.

Now, General Obasanjo, lest we forget his military career before he assumed a civilian fa├žade, addressed the Nigerian people in a valedictory speech yesterday and somehow, either sheer belief of delusion lead him to suggest - "For the eight years that I have enjoyed your mandate and support, we changed ... the image of our country in the eyes of fair-minded, honest and objective observers both at home and around the world".

Many at home and around the world would not entirely agree that the elections which were conducted in Nigeria, a third time now in succession were to any standard credible, though Mr. Obasanjo would like to make us believe so.

We celebrate Democracy Day once again with a flawed and corrupt version of what could have been a better managed and transparently conducted democratic process as if Nigerians really can do no better.

8 years come and gone

There is no doubt that he had a mandate of 8 years, and there is no doubt that the image of the country has changed, but have the real bread and butter issues of ordinary Nigerians been addressed to any degree?

Then we come to the eyes of fair-minded, honest and objective observers both at home and abroad and we might as well agree that bales of wood are being pulled over our eyes if we are to believe that democracy has been well served, infrastructure has been improved upon or the general prospects of Nigerians have greater optimism than when he assumed office in 1999.

I shall neither praise nor castigate Mr. Obasanjo, today, but when history is written, hopefully, it would be a fair assessment of the events of today; it would be honest in reckoning how this man who has lead Nigeria for 11 and a half years has distinguished himself and it would be objective in noting where opportunities have either been seized or missed.

Like some have already said, 8 years have come and gone and Mr. Obasanjo leaves Nigeria the way he met it and most probably worse. His chapter closes as Mallam Umaru Yar'Adua first tries to justify his new position and execute executive power with a flawed mandate.

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