Democracy Day: Pulling back from the brink
By Akpo Ometan
It is another Democracy Day in Nigeria and with it comes the burden of pontificating on the state of affairs in the country as it has to do with the observance of elements as the rule of law, freedom of expression and respect for citizen’s rights. It is also time to cast a cursory glance at the tenor of relations in the political space so as to gauge levels of fairness, transparency and fidelity to set rules and global best practices.
In terms of its origin, the Democracy Day observed in Nigeria until recently was May 29, namely the inauguration day of new presidential administrations under the current republic.
However, in the past three years, June 12, the date that had been preferred by administrations in the South West of the country – following upon the death of Bashorun MKO Abiola, who is in a sense the patron saint of the current republic, having been deprived of his looming victory in the elections that were held on June 12, 1993 – has come to be adopted as the new national observance day for democracy in the country.
But date observance aside, many observers are worried that some 22 years into the current republic, the democratic tradition in the country is yet to be firmly established. This has indeed come to be compounded by the brazen attacks on offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC by insurgents of all hues.
There are also concerns over the delay in passing the Electoral Act that had been in the cooler for the better part of three years. With its landmark recommendations for innovations such as Diaspora voting, electronic voting and electronic transmission of results from the polling booths, the concern is that the current delay may scuttle either the assent required from the Presidency or even the test-run and firming of logistics arrangements to undergird its proper execution. And then there is also the additional discomfort of a current tendency to pander to a one-party arrangement by several players within the extant political class even as INEC remains adamant on its set course of deregistering newer political parties who do not have elected members from within their ranks at the moment.
With so many booby traps on the way, indeed, the verdict out there is that there are so many gaps that need to be addressed. Plainly, the nation has to be pulled back from the brink and fidelity to democratic best practices is the best way to go in this regard.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission