Some Nigerians based in the United States have urged the nation to jettison tribalism, ethnicity and embrace ideology based politics to move the nation forward.
The Nigerians voiced mixed feelings as the nation marked her 21st Democracy Day anniversary.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York, they said the country had made progress since the return of democracy in 1999.
According to them, Nigeria is not where it was 20 years ago in the areas of civil liberty, rule of law and socio-economic development.
However, they pointed out some shortcomings, especially “lack of ideology” in the nation’s politics with a call for reforms and change of mindset.
Dr Seun Sowemimo, a New Jersey-based bariatric surgeon, noted the stability in the system since 1999 as something worth celebrating.
“One of the positive things is that at least there has been stability in government.
“There has been one democratically elected government handing over to the other, and that is something we can point at,” he said.
Sowemimo, however, noted that the country had a lot of “maturing to do” in terms of building a strong ideological base for its politics.
“The politics in Nigeria has been very complex in terms of our mix of ethnicity.
“Our politics has been largely tribal, and we have not been able to base it on philosophies and ideas.
“It is more about affiliating ourselves with where we feel the next block of power will come from, and a lot of that has to do with ethnic origins.
“We have to continue to dialogue with ourselves, educate and orientate ourselves that for us to achieve great things we have to improve the level of our politics,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr Ugo Nwaokoro, former Deputy Mayor of the City of Newark in New Jersey, differed with the notion that Nigeria is complex.
“People often say Nigeria is complex. No! Nigeria is not complex. It is just the mind of our people to be sincere in governance.
“Another problem with us is our ethnic and religious differences, which should not be. Those things can actually be our strength.
“Diversity is a big source of national strength. But how you use it is what matters.
“If we keep seeing ourselves based on the ethnic groups we are from, then there is a problem,” he noted.
Nwaokoro, a writer and policy strategist, also called for attitudinal change among the political elite and the masses to advance the nation’s democracy.
On his part, Mr George Onuorah, a New York-based social justice activist and community leader, pointed out that the challenges in Nigeria’s democracy were not peculiar.
He noted that democracy is “an imperfect system of governance as evidenced from what we can see in so-called advanced democratic countries.”
However, Onuorah called for restructuring of the political and governance systems in the country to “reflect how we live, relate and interact”.
He also advocated investment in civic and voter education, and discouragement of politics based on ethnic, religious and selfish considerations.
Mr Obed Monago, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Americas, said Nigeria had made great improvement in the area of freedom of expression.
“Nowadays, people are freer to express themselves with little or no fear of retribution as opposed to the days of Dele Giwa, the late Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine.
“But we can do better if we are able to overcome the obstacles of ethnic, religious and tribal sentiments in our politics,” he said.
Monago also emphasised the need for national rebirth, with a call on Nigerians to sink selfish interests for the good of the country.
Also speaking, Mr Basil Njoku, a community leader, wished Nigerians would exhibit the same level of unity and patriotism in politics as they do in sports.
“The bane of Nigeria’s democracy is the problem of tribalism. We are balkanised into regions.
“We have not been able to come together to understand ourselves as an entity.
“I have not seen Nigerians profess their country except when the nation is in an international soccer competition.
“When there is a goal, a Yoruba does not care whether it is an Hausa man that is with him; they hug and you see the passion.
“I wish we can replicate that in the politics and governance of the day whereby we see ourselves as one and our destiny as one,” he said.
Njoku, who is the President of Mbano National Assembly, an association of U.S.-based Imo indigenes, called for inclusive governance at all levels to foster unity in the country.