June 12 every year has been set aside by the Federal Government as Democracy Day in remembrance of the botched June 12, 1993 Presidential Election with Chief Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) clearly in the lead when the General Ibrahim Babangida Military Government, in a surprise move, stopped further announcement of the election result. Professor Humphrey Nwosu, then the National Electoral Commision Chairman, appointed by Ibrahim Babangida, attempted to resist the cancellation of an election believed to be the most transparent and freest in the nation’s election history. He was promptly silenced by the powerful forces behind the plot to deny the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election from being sworn in as the democratically elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The development sparked off national and international outrage and condemnation. Street protests organised by human rights activists and supporters of the Abiola cause lasted for several weeks across major cities and towns in Nigeria including Lagos and Ibadan which completely shutdown the economy. The crisis brought in the Sani Abacha regime while General Ibrahim Babangida stepped aside after putting in place an interim but unpopular government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Meanwhile, Chief Abiola had declared himself winner of the election at a rally held in Lagos. He was arrested by the Sani Abacha military government, detained for months and died of suspected poisoning. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is said to have benefited from the June 12, 1993 election saga when in a move to appease the Yoruba people, he was handpicked by powerful elements in the military of Northern extraction to run for the Presidential Election in 1999 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which he won comfortably. Chief Obasanjo served for two terms, from 1999-2007.
He was sworn in on May 29 which was originally declared as Democracy Day until recently when President Muhammadu Buhari bowed to pressure and officially announced June 12, every year as Democracy Day. Consequently, Friday June 12, 2020 was declared national public holiday to mark 21 years of uninterrupted democracy. We sampled the opinion of people who have seen it all whether democracy as being practiced in Nigeria has given people the hope that the nation is on the right path of recovery after years of military rule. From what we gathered, democracy in Nigeria is still evolving with its ups and downs. The nation appears not to have gotten it right, according to the respondents, owing to several factors, most of them man-made. Mr. Niyi Kilolase, an educationist said democracy in Nigeria is work in progress, but that it is rather too slow and wish our politicians are sincere to work for the progress of the country and eschew corruption which he noted is the bane of the nation’s underdevelopment. For Mr. Sholola Moruf, a Lagos-based business man, the country is like moving two steps forward and the next moment four steps backward.
According to him, Nigerians are suffering, more so with advent of COVID-19 many jobs are lost. He compared Nigeria of the good old days when as a young man food was in abundance, with commodities such as milk, geisha, readily affordable to all and sundry, but not now. He blames the common man’s travails on politicians who are bent on appropriating everything to themselves. He condemned the culture of recycling people in power and children taking over from parents who happen to find themselves in the corridors of power which portrays the country in bad light. Are we practicing oligarchy or democratic system of government? He queried. Unless our leaders have a change of mind, Nigeria will continue to wander in the wilderness for a long time, he concluded. For Mr. Onabowu Ayodele an educationist and political analyst, Nigeria is being run as if we are still under military rule where executive lawlessness appears to take the upper hand; the judiciary which is the last hope of the common man is for the highest bidder, while the poor continues to suffer injustice in what he described as oppressive system of government.
He said poverty, unemployment, money laundering, kidnapping, killings, herdsmen farmers clash, drug and child trafficking, rape and other vices are some of the negative fall outs of 21 years uninterrupted democracy; meanwhile we are visited with interrupted power supply every now and then, he lamented. Some others spoken to but would not want their names mentioned said the only change noticeable is what they called a paradigm shift to agriculture but that still much need to be done in this area. Social infrastructure, education, healthcare are lacking, they emphasized. Politicians and their cronies, they observed, are largely the beneficiaries of 21 years uninterrupted democracy to the detriment of the masses.