The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, on Wednesday said that President Goodluck Jonathan's administration is committed to reinforcing democratic institutions in Nigeria, adding that Nigerians have failed in holding their local leaders accountable.
Mr. Maku stated this at an event marking the 20th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12, 1993, election, organized by the Save Nigeria Group in Lagos.
"The problem is that we have become so used to dictatorship that if people go to their village and their local public toilet is not there, it's the president. If people go to their village and the local primary school is not working, it's the president," said Mr. Maku.
"The president must bear responsibility because he is the leader of Nigeria, but the truth of the matter is that power is dispatched through institutions that must take responsibility. And if we must change Nigeria, we must hold every leader responsible," he added.
The event, tagged 'Democracy Audit 2013,' aims to dialogue on the burning issues in Nigeria, according to Yinka Odumakin, the group's Spokesperson.
Mr. Maku further said that Nigeria's challenges are no different from those experienced by advanced nations at various stages of their nationhood.
"Every generation has always expressed doubt about whether their countries are living in the right time or whether they are happy," said Mr. Maku.
Reacting to the remarks of Tunde Bakare, convener of the Save Nigeria Group, Mr. Maku insisted that the present administration is "on the right track."
"We have put forward a new roadmap, a new reform in power sector that is different than any government had done in the past," Mr. Maku said.
"You can check the records, today in spite of what we hear, I keep telling Nigerians, on power, we are sorry we are not able to give power 24 hours yet, but are we on the road to doing so? Yes," he said.
"If you look at the way our education has moved, you will notice that the problem of our education is primary education. It's the major problem that is feeding low quality people to the secondary education on to the university. That again is an agenda that needs intervention, and we have done intervention," he added.
Among those in attendance were Orji Kalu, former Governor of Abia State; Kola Abiola, son of the late M.K.O Abiola; Dino Melaye, former member of the House of Representatives; and Ankyo Briggs, human rights activist, among others.
Earlier in his remark, Mr. Bakare noted that the problems facing the country in 1993 are still evident in 2013.
"Do we now have better employment indices? Is there food security across the length and breadth of Nigeria? Are housing problems a thing of the past? Do we have portable waters in our cities and rural areas?
"Is there regular and uninterrupted electricity supply? Do we have improved transportation facilities? What of education? Do we have better schools? Are our hospitals any better? Mr. Bakare asked.
"The question of infrastructure is just one chunk, albeit a huge one, of the many factors afflicting Nigeria. Apart from physical infrastructures, how far has Nigeria gone in providing social and political infrastructures?"
Mr. Bakare also said that the government had failed to explain to Nigerians how oil marketers "cornered" N3 trillion in subsidy funds when government's budget was N245 billion.
"Not a single head has rolled in either the ministry of finance or NNPC and we have seen on television how the trial of the subsidy thieves could very well be mistaken for a night of a thousand laughs," said Mr. Bakare.
"The state pardon granted to former Bayelsa governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha perhaps says what the official position on corruption is," he added.
Mr. Bakare described the 56 per cent unemployment rate figure recently released by the World Bank as "shocking."
"Top on the list of the vulnerable and the oppressed is the Nigerian child who still cannot get qualitative education at all levels in 2013 if his or her parents are not part of the moneyed class," he said.
"Basic education in Nigeria, purportedly free, is merely poor education given to the children of the poor so that they can remain poor and ignorant," Mr. Bakare added.