Our generation has seen more uninterrupted civilian rule than any other in post independent Nigeria. But our democracy has been problematic; yielding very little for our teeming citizenry.
Democracy has been a bittersweet experience from the licensing of GSM telecommunication and oil booms to the dismal handling of the national power grid and an impending recession. You will find it agreeable to say that the executive branch hasn’t done much by the way of delivering on the dividends of democracy.
Our legislature has fared worse than the executive often standing aloof from the real issues that perturb the country. Its posture on public policy has been more elitist than populist; the Gender Equality Bill and Petroleum Industry Bills attesting to this morass of judgement.
The judiciary too has not lived up to its billing. High profile convictions, when secured, have been met with lean sentences; questioning the morality of our entire social justice system in the country. The truth is, the rich have gotten lighter punishment which has, in turn, encouraged the kind of impunity we have witnessed across our land. Then, there have been the hauling of allegations at the bench of impropriety. Though unsubstantiated, these developments had not left our sense of the legal profession unstained.
The Media, the fourth estate of the realm, as many of us might agree, has been more absent from its democratic functions; often keeping mute when it should speak as in the cases of the two Baga Massacres, and the one in Agatu. In the last twelve months, the media has gotten worse still, desensitising the people—as if it has been bought.
And you my fellow citizen, it has been one year since you exercised your franchise at the federal level. Has it paid off as you expected or do you want more? Has the country gotten better or worse, from last year to this one? Has your Senator or Representative performed? Or do you even know his/her name? In states like Edo State, there will be elections this year. How prepared are you?
Pertinent questions that point to the essence of democracy—participation. Your participation is what democracy is about and what we all should be celebrating or beating up ourselves about on this Democracy Day. In the words of American Trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis, ‘We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major responsibility of it is participation.’