Nineteen years after the country’s transition to civil rule, attempt to consolidate democracy and whatever gains it has provided to the citizenry is still faced with numerous challenges. The challenges include conduct of free and fair elections, creating and strengthening democratic culture, institutions and practices. The infrastructural inadequacies, deteriorating standards of public educational and health services, high rate of youth unemployment, widespread indices of violent crimes, and continuing disconnect between the citizens and the government pose serious challenges to the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. The journey has been very tortuous. Nigerians were in dare need of politicians that would bring positive change to their lives. So, in 2015, they elected politicians who promised to revamp the nation’s economy, improve security and wipe out corruption.
Corruption is still rearing its ugly head despite the onslaught provided by the federal government to wipe it out. The states and local governments are spectators in the anti-corruption warfare. The Transparency International (TI) report for 2017 ranked Nigeria 146 out of 180 countries sampled in 2017. As expected of any critical issue, the presidency dismissed the report saying “it is a “fiction” sponsored by critics of the federal government.” Hmm!
The presidency did not know that other tiers of government- legislature and judiciary are not involved in the fight against corruption. But the Vice President (VP), Yemi Oshibajo, welcomed the report, saying, it is a catalyst for Nigeria to do better in its fight against corruption rather than a setback. Thank goodness, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) saved Nigeria from embarrassment. He knew that the report of TI on corruption will further dent the image of Nigeria in the international community if no one in the government accepted it. That Nigeria is still a corrupt nation is a truth which is difficult and bitter to swallow. There is no doubt that the anti-corruption policy of the federal government is necessary given the escalating level of corruption in the public space. It is selective prosecutions that compelled Nigerians to lose faith in the credibility of the anti-corruption policy. Whatever views the federal government holds, the report rendered by the Transparency International is not too far from the truth.
Then came the mother of all reports which is the latest release by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The report simply says “more Nigerians are getting poorer.” It was shocking because the economy is just out of recession with slowly reducing double-digit inflation. Though, inflation is reducing slowly but the minimum wage is still N18000 (US$50/month) in a nation that has devalued its local currency. Some state governments are owing their workers arrears of salaries, while many pensioners are living on hope.
Although, Mr President has good intentions to reduce poverty level in Nigeria, but good intentions alone will not reduce poverty, sound economic policies do. Instead of arguing, the federal government should examine its economic policies and reappraise them to address challenges reflected in the IMF report. The federal government should not wait for 180 million people to be poor before accepting that Nigerians are getting poorer. After all, unemployment and underemployment are increasing.
Anyway, the Bretton Wood institution advised that with good economic policies, the economy will muddle through in the medium term despite rise in the price of crude oil in the international market. The risks to growth were however highlighted to include delays in implementing policies and reforms ahead of 2019 elections, fall in oil prices which could see capital flows reversed, and security challenges within the country.
Security challenges in Nigeria is overwhelming as most newspapers reported stories on the abduction of schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State on 22 February 2018. The exact number of the victims abducted from the Government Science and Technical College, Dapchi, is not known as there are conflicting figures from the State Government and security agencies operating in Yobe State. In a situation like this, Nigerians expects the truth from those agencies saddled with the responsibility of providing security to the citizens. Sadly, the truth is always in short supply by appointed and elected public officials in times of calamity. Instead of accepting responsibility, government officials point accusing fingers at each other.
This is a big shame to Nigeria because the incident gives an impression that the nation’s security system is in trouble. Although, information on the attack is scanty and hazy, it is suggestive that the attack was well planned. Some prominent federal lawmakers are blaming both the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force for failing to perform their duties in Dapchi. If our security agencies had learnt lessons from the abduction of 276 Chibok girls, it is most likely that this incident wouldn’t have occurred.
Widely reported on the pages of most newspapers are conflicting reports that have characterized the abduction. Those whose main responsibility it is to inform Nigerians are neck deep into a blame game. Rather than seek a solution to an unfortunate incidence, elected and appointed government officials point accusing fingers at each other. That is the trend in the government. Frankly, this ugly incident does not portray Nigeria in good light. The federal government must unravel the mystery behind this heinous crime. When this writer x-rays the above man-made challenges in a fragile economy, the question that agitates his mind is: Why is Nigeria so unlucky?
In order to overcome aforementioned challenges, there is need to have a securenation in which consolidation of democratic culture can be strengthened. Additionally, security is required for economic activities that will aid the development of the economic, social and political conditions of communities, group, and individuals in the nation.
The security agencies have a very crucial role to play in guaranteeing the requisite safe and secure environment for the consolidation of democracy and sustainable economic development in Nigeria. I hereby solemnly advise those running the government that democracy in Nigeria must not fail!