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NIGERIA: HOW AND WHERE WE HAVE FALTERED

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Every so often, people exercise their inalienable right of having opinions and exercising their right to freedom of speech as enshrined in the Constitution. We all appear to have answers to different problems militating against the development of our societies. It is a great idea and right that borders on patriotism wherever criticisms are done in good faith. We have to ponder and reflect on both our successes and failures from time to time. In my own opinion, I have consistently submitted that all of us Nigerians are culpable from the leaders, to the followers; and from the active to the passive politicians and citizens. Most certainly, things would have worked out better if we all played, of play our parts well. Now; could anybody imagine what could have happened following the widespread orgy of violence that greeted the 1964 elections into the federal parliament? We behaved irresponsibly and senselessly by killing and maiming ourselves, thus creating an opportunity for the military to intervene. But the truth remains that the military wouldnt have stayed that long in power without the connivance of civilians.

COLLABORATION WITH THE MILITARY
The swiftness with which the populace welcomed the broadcasts announcing the truncation of civilian regimes is clearly an indication of the preparedness of the civil society to welcome such illegitimate governments, as they were often dubbed. More startling is the feverish struggle for positions in military regimes by even the political class, who ordinarily should resist military incursion into politics. From the benefit of participant observation, one can reveal, without any fear of equivocation, that many of those who come out to openly castigate the military have at one time or the other sought one favour or the other by way of political patronage from military dispensations. In most cases, self-interest governed the behaviour of the elites and the intelligentsia who should be at the vanguard of the preservation of democracy. It is abundantly clear that the groundwork for the failure of the first democratic experiment was laid even before independence, with our leaders fanning embers of ethnicity and other issues which divide, rather than unite us. There is, therefore, the need to look beyond mere military adventurism as a means of seizing power for political and material gains by the guns.

The reality is that one of the key issues that facilitated the disturbances of January 1966 is the fact that the citizenry did not co-exist in harmony. It is, therefore, clear that our democratic gains in the post-independence era were frittered away by a combination of factors engineered by the intelligentsia. It is apparent that our inability to evolve an enduring political culture has been the result of deep-seated animosity and distrust among the various groups that make up Nigeria. The problems of state or place of origin, religion, ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism and related ills, have combined to constitute formidable barriers to development. We have not been able to give expression to politics without bitterness and imbibe a spirit of tolerance and sportsmanship. Strengthening the electoral process and democratic institutions to remove deep-seated acrimony and rancour which always accompany elections is necessary, without which people will foolishly engage themselves in the shameful conducts of post-election violence. As Ekiti and Osun States prepare for their gubernatorial contests, we require the intervention of individuals and even institutions to get our credible results and foolproof elections.

RECIPE
For a meaningful growth of good governance and democracy, there is evidently the need to develop and strengthen the institution of democracy; including the legislature, executive, judiciary, political parties, security agencies and the press. There is an urgent need for the setting up of the Electoral Offences Courts to handle misdemeanour. Our founding fathers did not struggle for the creation of this country to get lost in a confusion of pessimism, and distrust. We must realize that the building of a sound polity must be of utmost importance. The general citizenry, all of us, must therefore imbibe positive values and attitudes which are required for attaining the desirable goals that are set out in the Constitution. And of course, one of these steps must be our ability to rise above situations in our growing democracy. We must of course recognize the fact that the people themselves perhaps form the strongest point that would make democracy endure, by their conducts and their ability to organize themselves.

Let me go further to plead that it is time for Civil Society Organizations to start campaigns dispassionately, for electoral contests that would be free from crises and fraudulent practices. We need special public enlightenment exercises provoked by both politicians and opinion leaders. Obviously, there can be no political stability without economic success. Part of the solutions appears to be the need for us to embrace economic and political reforms. Given the fact that adjustments are painful and take time to work, our society must be ready to dare and endure; while we look forward to reaping bountifully the seeds of our hard-won democracy by participating in electoral contests to choose those we want democratically. We must rise up to the occasion by continuing to take measures that would make our votes count and vote for credible candidates of our choice. Only then can true freedom and progress be witnessed in our land. Those of us who have no other country look forward to the emergence of a more truly progressive, prosperous, peaceful and virile polity. It is well with Nigeria.