Nigeria: 17th Daily Trust Dialogue - Nigerians Not Happy - Oyegun

17 January 2020

How to get it right - Sambo, Shettima, Fayemi, others

The immediate past National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, said yesterday that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria.

He, however, expressed fears that the citizens are increasingly getting unhappy with the system.

The former APC chairman stated this in Abuja while expressing his views at the 17th edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme "20 Years of Democracy in Nigeria: Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities."

Oyegun, 80, who served as governor of Edo State during the Third Republic between 1992 and 1993, said since the return of democracy 20 years ago, there was no single administration that was immune from the anger of the citizenry.

"As a person, I have no difficulty at all acknowledging that democracy has to develop roots in our nation," Oyegun said.

"I have no problem accepting that Nigerians have been given to accept victory and accept defeat in different shapes either when the Supreme Court finally pronounces or following the example of President Goodluck Jonathan graciously conceding defeat.

Oyegun, whose remarks elicited thunderous applause from the gathering said he is worried with the way things are going in Nigeria.

"What worries me is the threat to our democracy," he said.

"I borrow from what the former governor of Borno State (Kashim Shettima) said. He passionately appealed that we must try to make Nigeria work. Why is Nigeria not working?

"At the risk of being misinterpreted, let me make the point that we have been growing in those 20 years, every year and with every administration.

"I dare to even say that there is hardly a single administration in those 20 years that has not left office unpopular and unheralded," he said.

The former Edo governor said many questions require sincere answers from leaders.

"We have never asked ourselves the question why are our people getting increasingly unhappy with their governors within those 20 years. Why are they getting poorer, why are they losing hope, those are the questions I think pose a threat to our democracy because today we are beginning to hear rumblings that we didn't hear before.

"Amotekun is just one of them which show a general feeling of enough is not being done in certain area and this has been a growing syndrome in the last 20 years.

"What have we missed between government and the people? What should we be doing as government, as leaders that we are not doing? Why is it that our people are losing hope, losing faith in us, and hope in the nation? He asked.

"So, there is something fundamentally wrong I cannot give you the answer but it is something that another dialogue probably needs to address," he said.

Some of the dignitaries that attended the event included former Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senator Sabi Abdullahi who represented Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and former President of Botswana, Mr Festus Mogae. Others were Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, former governors Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Shehu Shema (Katsina), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Obong Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto).

Others were the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Modibbo Kawu and that Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu; Senator Datti Ahmed, Comrade Issa Aremu, Comrade Ayuba Wabba (NLC president), Hajiya Amina Bala Zakari from INEC, members of diplomatic corps and university administrators.

Democracy without rule of law, a huge joke - Shettima

A former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima said Nigeria's 20 years of democracy has more weaknesses than strength, saying many citizens ascribe this to the failure of leadership.

Shettima who was Guest Speaker at the 17th Edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue held in Abuja, yesterday, said the rule of law which is sacred in a democracy is and has been under serious threat.

"From 1999 to date, only the administration of late President Umar Musa Yar'Adua took obedience to court pronouncements seriously. It is true that other administrations did obey court orders but they selected those that served their interest," he said.

He said it is the rule of law that guarantees freedom from dictatorship, freedom of expression to hold leaders accountable, movement, religion, cultural and social and political association.

"It is the rule of law that guarantees the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary. Democracy is a charade when there is no rule of law. Perhaps I could be right to say that the rule of law is to democracy what water is to human life," he said.

Shettima said Nigeria must address other weakness like poverty and insecurity and low participation of women in politics, adding that 20 years of Nigeria's democracy had seen creation and spread of poverty and political exploitation of poverty.

"As we are talking now, only six per cent in the National Assembly are women, only 17 per cent on the federal cabinet are women. We need to borrow a leaf from Rwanda where a substantial proportion of their parliamentarians are women," he said.

Despite the shortcomings, Shettima said there have been positive sides of leadership in the last 20 years of democracy in Nigeria.

In these years, he said Nigeria has had four elected presidents whose leadership style largely defined our democracy.

Going down memory lane, he praised the administration of late President Umar Yar'Adua for its adherence to rule of law and respect for court judgments.

He also described ex -President Goodluck Jonathan as a humble and honest leader who saved Nigeria's democracy by admitting defeat.

Senator Shettima said Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari also witnessed massive road and rail works and agriculture that set the country on a positive growth trajectory.

"I want to make a clarion call that we have to make this country work. The trajectory of global growth in Africa and Nigeria will make or mar that transition. Europe is in decline, China is aging, and America is in decline. We have to make this country work. If this country implodes, where do we go? Down the Atlantic ocean or Niger?" he asked.

How media can deepen Nigeria's democracy - Namadi Sambo

Former Vice President Namadi Sambo has identified roles expected of the media in entrenching democratic values in Nigeria.

Sambo, who spoke yesterday as the Chairman of the 17th edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, reiterated that as the watchdog of the society, the media has the obligation of not just advocating for democratic rule, but also expected to ensure an enduring civic space as guaranteed by the Constitution.

"Though we can all collectively do a lot more to entrench an enduring democracy in Nigeria, the media has an exceptional role to play to achieve this noble goal. The media must continue to hold to account (without bias or prejudice) all the persons and institutions of governance within the provision of the law.

"While discharging the onerous task of building a united and prosperous nation, the media must avoid the temptation of unethical practices. We must be cautious and accept that the media is also not above the law and its practitioners are subject to extant laws, the rules, and the ethics of professional conduct and patriotism," he said.

The former VP added that concerns being raised in recent times about the use of social media by some bloggers and 'citizen journalists', who may be susceptible to publishing content based on unsubstantiated claims, breaching of privacy, fake news and even hate speech underscore the value of true journalism, particularly in light of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition of our nation.

He said the theme for this year's dialogue "Twenty Years of Democracy in Nigeria: Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities" was a good example of how the media could promote democracy and good governance.

He commended Daily Trust for "this timely, noble and bold subject matter", adding: "We must continue to evolve ways of engaging all key actors for the sustenance of our hard-earned democracy."

Stressing that the transfer of power from a ruling party to an opposition party in 2015 remains historic as a demonstration of democratic ideals in Nigeria, Namadi said: "The bravery and a singular amazing act of my boss; President Goodluck Jonathan of picking his telephone and calling the incoming President Muhammadu Buhari even before the announcement of the election results by INEC was memorable and historic."

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