The National President of Emerging Leaders Forum of Nigeria (ELFON); his youthfulness, Rt.Hon. Godstime Chukwubuikem Samuel today at his Zion Boulevard, Estate LA Virginia in Owerri, the Imo state capital, answered salient questions from Nigerian journalists concerning Nigeria’s democracy.
Below are the questions and his responds:
What impact has the change in democracy day recorded?
If the relevance of June 12 to the entire Nigerian state is resuscitated just to spite some people, that is the politics of Nigeria which means that anything whether necessary or not, can be used to intimidate and run down opponents so that political point can be scored.
No Nigerian citizen, tribe, religion, state or zone should be given reasons of believe why fair play, equity and justice isn’t obtainable in Nigeria.
The material problems that face us today are not such as they were in 1st Republic, but the underlying facts of human nature are the same now as they were then. Under altered external form we war with the same tendencies toward evil that were evident in 1st Republic’s time, and are helped by the same tendencies for good. It is about some of these that I wish to say a word today.
Nigeria’s problems are indeed complex and multifaceted and that constitute the major stumbling-block on the path of the country’s progress in many ways and sectors of development. As a result of these cumulative problems over the years, the country has become very difficult to rule or control, as many people have for long indulged in unpatriotic habits, on which they are addicted as their ways of earning a living, at the expense of million others. In the same vein, as the country wallow along its growing problems over the years, it is also left lagging behind other nations that were hitherto either trailing Nigeria from behind or at the same par with it economically or otherwise. This is our present condition, which warrants the intervention of a savior in the scene. Such a savior can be in a metaphorical form of either the entrenchment of a viable socio-political system which is also being dedicatedly practiced or the emergence of a set of responsible and responsive leaders and leadership that would deliver the country to the proverbial promised land of advancement and glory. This cannot just happen in a dream, but it would have to be worked out through a communal effort of action and willing by plan and design, not just by accident.
How would you describe Nigeria’s Democracy following the 2015 election?
I would say the 2015 election got Nigeria’s democracy a 79% victory though worrying cases of intimidation of officials of the election management body added to a pattern of orchestrated attempts at undermining key democracy institutions.
When President Muhammadu Buhari won his first election in 2015, he became Nigeria’s first political leader to succeed an incumbent via the ballot box. This was a milestone for multiparty democracy in Africa. The recent election, on the other hand, represents a setback for Nigeria—and for Africa as a whole. Indeed, there is reason to fear that if the decline in standards is not urgently addressed, it could be the beginning of a progressive decline in the quality of elections throughout the region (take note of the APC primaries and general election in Imo state 2019, the recent general election in Kogi state and the forthcoming election in Edo state).
In the face of these challenges, civil society groups like ELFON throughout the country still worked diligently on behalf of Nigerian democracy, partnering with institutions focused on the nuts and bolts of the electoral process. They also developed a so-called threshold document to outline a set of conditions that electoral institutions, political parties, and security agencies must fulfill to give credibility to the electoral process. Despite these laudable efforts, however, there is no denying that, by the standards of an open society, the election was a failure. The rule of law should be strengthened, security issues must be taken serious and provision of adequate power supply (electricity) must stop being a routine campaign promise, corruption must stop and education must be made free.
To cushion further electoral malpractices, what’s your advice?
First, there must be a comprehensive audit and review of what happened in the 2019 elections. This process must be independent and driven by the Nigerian people (in close collaboration with international experts). It is imperative to identify what went wrong with the electoral process and to examine the influences in Nigerian political society that makes electoral malpractices acceptable.
Second, Nigeria’s government should establish an electoral offenses commission which is empowered to hold accountable those that committed offences during the election process. To be sure, given the government’s obvious interest in avoiding scrutiny, the international community should join with those of us in Nigeria who are calling for such a commission.
Lastly, the independent national electoral commission (INEC) should be totally independent except in funding. The president of Nigeria shouldn’t be the one to appoint the INEC chairman.
Strengthening Nigeria’s democracy doesn’t just stop at changing democracy day from 29th May to 12th June, Nigerians and her leaders should also changed the old ways of doing things to move forward. Having changed the date of Nigeria’s democracy day, our leaders and Nigerians should change their old unproductive ways of doing things too.