29 May 2013

Nigeria: Democracy Day - Nigerians More Concerned About Security

Nigeria on Wednesday (29.05.2013) marked 14 years of uninterrupted civilian rule. However, the West African oil giant continues to face immense challenges including insecurity and corruption.

Expressing their views on the anniversary of Democracy, most Nigerians quoted in The Leadership, an online newspaper, called on the Federal Government to address corruption, election malpractice and power outages.

These, they said posed a threat against the development of the nation's democracy.

Alhaji Mustpha Inuwa, a politician in Katsina, northern Nigeria warned that "unless election malpractice was addressed, democracy in Nigeria might not progress".

However, Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lauded the country's democratic journey. "The worst form of democracy is better than any military arrangement," Alhaji Ganiyu Ola-Oluwa, a member of the PDP noted. "Although Nigerians want more out of democracy, there is the need to appreciate the progress made so far," Ola-Oluwa added.

Bumpy road to democracy

"In the past 14 years Nigeria has seen a number of processes and events, as a whole the country's democracy has developed but leaves much to be desired," Garba Umar Kare, a political scientist in Abuja told DW in an interview.

According to Kare, the biggest threat to Nigeria's democracy is the political instability being witnessed in the north. "As a result of the activities of Boko Haram, there is an uneasy calm between Christians and Muslims," Kare cautioned.

Nigeria's military launched an offensive against Boko Haram after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states.

Several thousand troops have been deployed and even fighter jets have targeted alleged Boko Haram camps.

Despite the violence, Kare says he is still optimistic about the future of northern Nigeria. "Democracy is a process and not an event, and some of these dangerous things that have been happening represent a phase of development including political development," the political expert noted.

In his opinion, "some of those things (the violence) simply had to happen," but he also added that he believes "there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Slow pace of reforms

Observers argue that despite being Africa's largest crude oil exporter, economic reforms in Nigeria have been slow. Infrastructure remains shambolic in large parts of the country and electricity supply remains as unreliable as it was a decade ago.

Nigeria returned to civil rule in May 29, 1999.

Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler who won elections in 1999, is credited for bringing Africa's most populous nation back into the international community.

In 2007, the first successful transition from one civilian leader to another took place, when late president Umaru Yar'Adua was handed power. However, the election was widely condemned by observers for widespread rigging.

Soldiers have so far stayed put in their barracks during the past decade, despite mounting frustrations among ordinary people.

 - Chrispin Mwakideu with AFP, Reuters

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