- Nigerian democracy still work in progress- Osinbajo
- Blames weak institutions, elites for failure to deliver promises
- Tasks African elites on nation building
The Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Kukah, has said that the removal of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari from office alone, will not solve the myriad of problems plaguing the nation’s democracy.
This is coming as Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, stressed that Nigerian democracy has remained work in progress that requires concerted efforts and selfless leadership to achieve the desired results and dividends.
Both leaders spoke on Thursday at the Inaugural Flagship Lecture of the Kukah Centre, held at the Shehu Yar’Adua Conference Centre, Abuja.
According to him, establishing a ‘Third Force’ coalition to merely produce a replacement to President Buhari in 2019 would not fix the inefficiencies of government unless the entire political class see power as a trust given to them by the people.
Kukah said: “Since 1999, when we returned to democracy, we had prayerfully hoped that by now we would have covered a lot of mileage but almost 20 years later it seems to be quite a bit of tragedy.
“Building a nation is like staying in marriage or pursuing any vocation in life that requires lots and lots of patience and hard work.
“On the issue of 2019 and the third force coalition, I reiterate that if every time you have problem in your marriage you go ahead to marry a new wife, how many wives will you end up marrying? The solution to bad marriage is not a new marriage. I am talking as a Catholic priest. The problem with the APC is that it is a coalition and that is why it is falling apart.
“The major limitation in Nigeria is that the people in power feel it is them against the rest of Nigerians. Democracy has opened up a space, and as such anybody who holds power holds that power in custody and in thrust for the people.
“People’s right across our country are frustrated with democracy; they are frustrated because it has not been able to offer them the hope they had dreamt about. But we still have to convince our people that it is still probable for democracy to work. Nations of the world have tried theocracy, which is the government by Priests or Imams and have found those systems wanting. They have tried tyranny, apartheid and so on. At the end, everybody has agreed that democracy is the best system that approximates the tool we require to manage diversity, especially for a country like Nigeria.
“Democracy is not what politicians can offer to us, it is not what the President can give to us, and it is not what governors or senators can do on part time basis. Democracy is a process which each and every one of us imbibe, adopt certain ingredients that regulate our lives.”
He emphasised that people expect those charged with governance to deliver on their promises which included delivering social goods, ensuring that the growing youth population got jobs, ensure rule of law and security. He however stated that it was clear that socio-political inequality, weak justice system, absence of rule of law, lack of state capacity to maintain law and order put nations constantly under threats.
He noted that Nigeria had anti-graft agencies yet could not boast of the number of people it convicted due to the system’s manipulation by the suspects who are mainly elites and their counsel.
Speaking further, Osinbajo explained that people could be put on trial but the trials could go on forever because the system enabled people to employ diverse legal tactics to delay conviction.
According to the Vice President, the Nigerian elite preferred the status quo which set the lowest bar for political advancement, being “identity politics’’ of where one comes from or which religion one belongs.
He noted that “many elites follow the path of such division to analyse real development issues thus diminishing the real issues concerning the people such as good governance, job creation, poverty alleviation, peace and security”.
The event had President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and Nigeria’s former head of State, Yakubu Gowon in attendance.
Other dignitaries whp attended the event include: the host and founder of Kukah Centre and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, Governor Abubakar Atiku-Bagudu of Kebbi State, North West Nigeria and Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nsukka Diocese, Diocese, South East Nigeria.
“As elections and referenda threw up now and then unprecedented scenarios across the world; the narrowness of the Brexit vote for example and the way the it has subsequently divided the United Kingdom and the electoral rise of populist right wing and even extremist tendencies are all examples of great threats to democracy,” he added.Osinbajo while citing the 2017 Annual Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said no region of the world recorded improvement in “its average score since 2016 as countless countries grapple with increasingly divided electorate.
“So, it’s clear that across the world democracy is on somewhat turbulence trajectory. But for Africa, the challenges to democracy pose a graver threat because of the historic failure to invest, in my view, sufficiently, in nation building and state building.”
According to the Vice President, many of the parochial and ethnic tensions that have tended to create insecurity and outright conflict in most African countries were largely on account of the failure to deliberately undertake nation building efforts by the political elite.
“The elite, it appears, prefer the status quo, which sets the lowest possible bar for political advancement. Identity politics that emphasizes where leaders come from has been the paradigm through which most issues are analysed,” he noted.
Osinbajo also called forstrengthening institutions to ensure the rule of law and quick dispensation of justice was imperative for security and peace of African nations.
“We can longer go on with the African exceptionalism, which we have seen time and time again and which we have heard time and time again; that there’s a different rule for Africa or that a different rule applies to Africa,” he said.According to him, Africans expect their leaders to deliver on their promises to them on the basic things needed for peace, stability and unity of nations.“The people of our nations expect us to deliver on the important promises that politicians make, which is delivering social goods, ensuring that our youth population which is ever growing able to get jobs, ensuring that there’s rule of law and that there is security. These are issues that remain prominent everywhere in Africa,” he explained.
Also speaking, Gowon said democracy was being deepened in Ghana and Nigeria with peaceful elections in 2016 and 2015 .
In the same vein, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, represented by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, also spoke, stating the oversight functions of the National Assembly in checking excesses in government.