Nigeria is a Federal Republic. Nigeria has a long historical background which covers her laws, politics, governance, people, cultures, experiences, etc. This paper aims at the remembrance of some of the histories of Nigeria and the value of democracy as a means of governance in Nigeria.
‘Nigeria’ is a name that came into existence after the amalgamation of the southerners and northerners in the year Nineteen Fourteen (1914) by Great Britain (who happens to be Nigeria colonial master before independence).This name was coined in the late 19th century by British journalist Flora Shaw who Named Nigeria. Nigeria was named after the discovery of River Niger and its environments. Nigeria was named and discovered by a British journalist named “Flora Shaw“, who surprisingly later got married to Lord Fredrick Lugard, a British administrator.
According to Wikipedia, the history of Nigeria has been crucially impacted by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which started in Nigeria in the late 15th century. At first, Europeans captured Nigerians who lived in coastal communities. Later, they used local brokers to provide them with slaves. This dynamic escalated conflicts among the different ethnic groups in the region and disrupted older trade patterns through the Trans-Saharan route. Lagos was invaded by British forces in 1851 and formally annexed in 1865. Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901. Colonization lasted until 1960, when an independence movement succeeded in gaining Nigeria its independence. Nigeria first became a Republic in 1963, but succumbed to military rule three years later after a bloody coup d’état. A separatist movement later formed the Republic of Biafra in 1967, leading to the three-year Nigerian Civil War. Nigeria became a republic once again after a new constitution was written in 1979. However, the republic was short-lived, when the military seized power again four years later. A new republic was planned to be established in 1993, but was dissolved by General Sani Abacha. Abacha died in 1998 and a fourth republic was later established the following year, which ended three decades of intermittent military rule.
It has been about twenty years since Nigeria has been in a democratic system of government since the formal hand-over of powers to democratically elected civil government by the then military system of government in the year 1999. Though, the majority of those who have continuously governed us in Nigeria at both the Federal Government and State Level of Government were those that have transformed themselves from the military uniform to a democratic gown, some situations that keep occurring of recent in Nigeria are showing that it seems that Nigeria or her people or her government is tired of democracy and if this is actually true that democracy is truly disliked, then, what type of government is desired? This paper is of the objective and view that it is too early to be tired of democracy and most importantly is the fact that there is only one alternative to be preferred to democracy across the world, which is military system. Therefore, are we actually saying that we are prepared for a military takeover again?! With due respect, I beg to defer! I am of the firm view that democracy is still better and preferable to me than the military rule.
The word ‘Democracy’ according to President Abraham Lincoln, the then President of the United States of America, is ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people’. In other words, ‘Democracy’ is: (i) a government made up of the generality or representatives of the people; (ii) a government formed and installed by the people; and (iii) a government that exists for the welfare of the people’. See: Ese Malemi, The Nigerian Constitutional Law, Princeton Publication Co., Ikeje, Lagos, Nigeria, First Edition, 2006, page: 30. There is no doubt that in Nigeria, as of the moment, the types of democracy practiced is ‘the Indirect/Representative Democracy,’ which is a system of democracy where all persons of voting age are expected to vote to form the government by electing persons into government who will represent and act on their behalf, especially in the executive and legislative arms of government, which elected persons are expected to properly constitute all the other organs and agencies of government, and generally manage the affairs of government for the welfare of the people’. See: Ese Malemi (op cit) at page 31. As has been said above, government is then a joint function of: (i) the Executive; (ii) Legislature; (iii) and the Judiciary. Furthermore, democracy seems to human rights activists and or lawyers a better alternative for Nigeria, after her experiences with the Military Forces of the Military leadership, if we are to remember Nigeria’s history. According to section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)- herein after referred to as the Constitution-, the democratic principles are well laid down as follows (which means that democracy is more a constitutional concept than it appears as an academic discourse): 14.—(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. (2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that— (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority; (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies. (4) The composition of the Government of a State, a Local Government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation.’ It is important to note that all these constitutionally laid down principles are or not welcome in a military system.
This paper is of the firm conviction that democracy (compared with military governing system) is better and will always be more preferable notwithstanding its (i.e. democracy’s) disadvantages, even though some persons at some point wish for another military intervention in the Nigerian politic.
Most importantly, section 13 of the Constitution has mandated all the various organs of government to uphold and promote democracy thus ‘. It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution.’.
According to Wikipedia too, Nigeria’s Democracy day was originally celebrated on May 29, every year since General Olusegun Obasanjo emerged President in 1999. However, on June 12, 2018, General Muhammadu Buhari, as president, announced a shift in this date from May 29 to June 12, as from the year 2019. This was to commemorate the June 12th election of 1993, and the events that surrounded it.
Finally, I humbly appeal to Nigerians to always remember Nigeria’s past histories and to think of preferring democracy to military rule in Nigeria unless, there is a new system better to be operated as a means of governance that is much more better than democracy. I also appeal to the government especially at the Federal level to always consider Federal character as stated in section 14(3) of the Constitution (supra) in recruitment, appointment, and employment, etc. by ensuring that the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies. This will no doubt ensure that peace, unity and progress would be attained in the interest of Nigeria’s development.
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