By Rahaman Onike
Since 1999 that democracy become entrenched in Nigeria, it has been a narrative dotted by the experiences of poor governance. This is often reinforced by continuous desire and expectation of a brighter future for the country inspite of the inherent contradictions and systemic lapses in our democratic culture and practices . As a country, our democracy has not fully developed and grown to help the citizens achieve the economic prosperity, social advancement and political development, eighteen years after its enthronement . Every May 29 is therefore a unique day in the annals of Nigeria, for being dedicated as the nation’s democracy day. The day is not just for funfare but it is rather an occasion for for the citizens to reflect on the state of the nation.This is an appropriate period for re-examination of prospects of the country’s democracy.
By using every known performance index, the country’s democracy could at best be described as ill.Our democracy is so described because it is dysfunctional and deeply rooted in corruption, maladministration and social injustices. Out of all the predictors of our sickly democracy, corruption remains a major anathema. It is obviously the main fabrics of all other social ills afflicting the nation. Despite the huge investment on awareness campaigns by the government, legal control mechanism in place and whistle blowing policy of President Muhammed Buhari’s administration, corruption is still a major national concern and unbeatable menace.This calls for attitudinal change.Except this done, Nigeria will continue to be stigmatised as a country peopled by fantastically corrupt persons. Of course, war against corruption needs to be extended beyond prosecution and retrieval of looted funds from political officer holders and public servants. For the country to win the ongoing war against corruption, programmes of instructions in schools and the nation’s educational curriculum need a review to strategically emphasise moral teachings. As the nation marks the year 2017 democracy day, the current National economic challenges is expected to dominate people’s thoughts and public discourse across the nation.Of course, the government efforts to halt recession notwithstanding, the direct negative impacts of this global economic crisis is still being felt by the citizens from rural to urban communities across the country. Apparently, there is no clear sign and proof that Nigerians will soon overcome the challenges of the economic recession as citizens complain daily of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and high inflationary trends.
Worst hit with the realities of the current economic recession are the Nigerian workers. Without doubts, the nation’s public/civil servants are either groaning or lamenting daily as a result of persistent delay in the payment of their monthly salaries and allowances. The state governors under different guises have not been paying salaries and other entitlements of workers as and when due. In some states, workers are owing between ten to twelve months salary arrears.
In a situation whereby workers receive twenty five percent fraction of their salaries on monthly basis as subvention from government , it is predictive that the efficiency and productivity of such workforce will be dwindled and greatly diminished. It appears most of the state governors lack the proper understanding of roles of the public servants in policy formulation, policy review, policy interpretation,policy implementation, project execution and evaluation otherwise the workers could have been treated well.
Given the strategic roles of civil/public servants in the attainment of ideal democracy and realisation of the nation’s quest for social development, greater attention would have been paid to the workers’ welfare. If government at various levels fail to address the workers’ plight which is a consequence of irregularies in salary payments, I am sure the quest to achieve good governance in the country would remain a mirage. This is because, the workforce by virtue of training, experience, professionalism and schedule of duties are the engine room of public administration and the driving force of any government. Regrettably, most governors and their top cabinet members enjoy limitless benefits of office including security votes without any constraints; whereas, an average worker has been pauperised by persistent delay in salary payment.
Under the present dispensation, public servants are now being classified ‘dependent group’ as vast majority of the Nigerian workers do what is called ‘begging by single’ to survive. This current reality exposes the shame of the nation.
The performance of the 8th National Assembly is not only degrading under the present dispensation but it has exposed the ills of the nation’s democracy. So far, the social conduct and public perception of the leadership of the National Assembly is a minus on the ratings of the legislative arm of government under the current democracy.
There is no way the Nigeria’s democracy can survive without a functional and dynamic parliament. The future of Nigeria’s democracy therefore depends on the credibility, integrity, competencies and performances of the nation’s legislators. In a way, occasional coup threats, alarms and rumours are parts of signs of the sickly state of the nation’s democracy.Of equal note is the relevance and the question of autonomy for the local government administration in Nigeria.Apparently, the governors run the local government system as an appendage of the state. It is worrisome that local governments now serve as conduit pipe with which the public funds are siphoned by the state governors.Indeed, the local council system as the third arm of government needs urgent and critical reform to strengthen the nation’s democracy.
It is against this background that the writer concludes by praying for the sustainability and prosperity for the nation as we mark the year 2017 democracy day. It is my prayer that God heal the president Muhammed Buhari and grant him and his team the wisdom, knowledge and enablement to move the nation forward and at the same time heal her sickly democracy. Except our leaders are guided to the right path, the desire to achieve an enduring and sustainable democracy for the nation will remain an illusion.
Rahaman Onike writes from Oyo, he is an author, public administrator and policy analyst.