May 29 has been set aside by Nigeria as a day to mark the reinstatement of Democracy as a system of governance after years of military rule. There were arguments against it which also favoured October 1, the day the country got her flag independence after decades of colonial rule in 1960. May 29 is a public holiday to mark the arrival of the nation as the fourth largest democracy in the world. The first celebration of this holiday was in May 1999 under the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Since then it has become an annual ritual. This year’s event is taking place from the blurred background of a nation in recession as well as the health challenges of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nevertheless, and given these two situations, we expect that the celebration, if there is going to be one, should be low-keyed. This is the second Democracy Day in the life of the Buhari administration and the end of the second year in a four-year term. There are expectations of a kind of mid-term report in which the governments at all levels will use the opportunity to tell Nigerians about the democratic journey and how the system itself is impacting on the people if at all.
Already, the government had declared the day a public holiday which means it is work free for everyone in the public and private sectors. In making the declaration, the government highlighted the continued efforts it is making towards guaranteeing security, revitalizing the economy and tackling corruption, which it claimed are the three main focus areas of the administration.
Without doubt, the government and the security agencies can be said to have achieved quite much in the area of security, particularly in the northeast, and in tackling corruption. The rescue of some of the Chibok girls, in our opinion, is the brightest star that has illumined the environment and dispersed part of the gloom that has been the life of those parents whose children were taken away. There is a widespread optimism that the recession period is about to be over particularly with the recently launched Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which seeks to revitalize the nation’s economy. This hope is further buoyed by the signing of a flurry of Executive Orders on Ease of Doing Business in the country. With them, the Nigerian government expressed the belief that it has opened the doors of the country wider for both domestic and foreign investors who, indeed, are concerned more about the policy direction of the government which they insist must be positive on a sustained basis to be able to attract the mythical foreign investor and incentivise the local component. As government on this auspicious occasion appeals to Nigerians on the need to join hands more with the administration of President Buhari which had embarked on the lofty programmes in his sustained efforts at building a peaceful and enduring democratic legacy.
While the people are waiting for these long term plans to come to fruition, we think that the principles and dictates of democracy will be hugely served if the government hastens the processes of putting in place a range of palliatives that will keep the people alive in the short term. No one will say that the scourge of joblessness is not having its toll on the youth especially those with no godfathers and the connections to even compete for the few ones that are on offer. On a daily basis, the cost of living index keep painting pictures of a deterioration in the people’s standard of living which is dangerously on the decline. Acting on this with the purpose of halting it will give the citizens reasons to imagine that democracy, in the nation’s context, may be working.
This has become imperative because democracy without its dividend will soon give way to illusion if not despair. Today is exactly two years since the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) government came into office. It is time enough to awaken the latent resources at their command and deploy same to alleviate the palpable hunger in the land. The rumours of Coups in the country is a proof of the crisis level among the populace who are beginning to think of alternatives.
However, we are compelled by the exigencies of daily living and the beauty of that system of government to let those behind the coups’ rumours understand that Nigeria’s hand is on the plough as far as democracy we are celebrating today is concerned. And there is no looking back. We make no mistake in pronouncing it the best system of governance available to man. All Nigeria requires is to click on to its allure and the rest will be easy.