Every May 29, since 1999, Nigeria has celebrated Democracy Day. To people in political leadership, it has been a rehearse of the rituals associated with government talk. To the ordinary Nigerians, it remains a sad reminder that they made wrong choices in the immediate-past general election. It is full of lamentations for them. And this is because, they have little or nothing to cheer about.
Whereas those at the corridors of power beat their drums in splendor and puff up their political portfolio, eulogizing the essence of democracy, the greater majority of Nigerians wallow in dismay and regret. And so, Democracy Day ironically reminds them that democracy is a warped construction operating in the mind of Abraham Lincoln and all those who tout his definition of democracy.
This year’s Democracy Day is the third since President Muhammadu Buhari took over the reigns of government as the civilian president of Nigeria. It is the 19th since 1999. Yet, much of what Nigerians have witnessed is movement without discernible motion.
Four times, power had changed baton, yet, the ordinary people never heaved a sigh of relief or witnessed a flicker of hope. Successive administration had promised hope, good governance, improved welfare, improved social infrastructure, improved security and all that, but in the end, the citizenry harvested only regrets.
When President Muhammadu Buhari got sworn-in three years ago, he made one discerning remark – “I belong to everybody; I belong to nobody”. And the whole world applauded him. Three years on, can the president really beat his chest and say he has lived up to this statement?
About four years ago, while he was on electioneering campaign, he promised to turn around the economy of the country and harped so much on anti-corruption mantra, as well as social security issues. Three years on, can the Buhari administration, in all honesty, say it has lived up to these promises?
In a recent statement, the federal government is beating its chest. It claimed the Whistleblowing Policy introduced in December 2016, has since yielded recoveries of up to N13.8 billion from tax evaders and N7.8 billion, $378 million, £27,800 from public officials.
It also said the National Economic Council (NEC), audited key federal revenue generating agencies, which and recovered the sum of N526 billion and $21 billion, being money underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015.
It also said the decision to fully operationalise the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system have resulted in the consolidation of more than 17,000 bank accounts previously spread across Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) leading to savings of an average of N4 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate Government borrowing from the commercial banks.
Even though the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is yet to accord petroleum refining any priority, the Buhari administration said it replaced Offshore Processing Arrangement (OPA), with Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP) with reputable offshore refineries, leading to savings of over $5.1 billion.
On the security front, the Buhari administration said the establishment of Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), creation of several Military and Police formations aimed at combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency have yielded positive dividend including the resumption of public secondary schools in Borno State on September 26, 2016, after two years of closure, as well as the resumption of Arik Air flights to Maiduguri in May 2017, and the re-opening of Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno roads in December 2016, after being closed for three years.
Others are the capture of Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, “Camp Zero”, at the Sambisa Forest, in December 2016, the establishment of a Naval Outpost in the Lake Chad Basin and the establishment of the 8 Task Force Division in Monguno, to further strengthen military presence in the North East. It also cited the release of more than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages from Boko Haram captivity, including 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.
Military operations including: Operation Lafiya Dole, and Operation Last Hold, to defeat Boko Haram in the North-East; Operation Whirl Stroke, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits, as well as Exercise Crocodile Smile I (September 2016) and II (October 2017), to curtail the menace of militant activities in the Niger Delta; Exercise Obangame, a multinational operation aimed at securing and protecting the Gulf of Guinea; Operation Awatse, a joint operation between the Military and the Police, in South-West, to flush out militants and pipeline vandals; and Exercise Python Dance I (November 2016) and II (September 2017) in the South-East, to tackle kidnappers and militant elements.
Plausible as these achievements seem, the gaping hole remains that there is nothing for the ordinary citizenry daily being ravaged by insecurity, especially herdsmen attacks, depreciating Per Capital Income, unemployment, diseases and general lack.
At the state and local government level, what we had witnessed are at best poor utilization of accruals from the Federation Allocation on self-aggrandisement projects. None of the 36 states is exemplary. It is want, want everywhere!
As we celebrate Democracy Day, let us pause and ask relevant questions. Let us ask if so-called democracy dividends had actually translated to better living for the masses. The answer of course is in the negative. It has all been government for thieving politicians, by thieving politicians and for thieving politicians. Time to change all these both in concept and reality is now.