Former Senate President Bukola Saraki has challenged Nigerians to use the occasion of the Democracy Day to reflect on whether democracy is actually working to serve their interest.
In his Democracy Day message, Saraki noted that democracy is not the absence of military rule or the routine conduct of elections, but that the real end product of democracy should be good governance – which he said Nigeria’s democracy has not given birth to.
“We have inadvertently operated a democracy which instead of being the government of the people is rather creating a distance between the people and what should be their government.
“Elections should be for the purpose of allowing free choice between competing ideologies, manifestos, policies, and programmes. Elections should not just be about putting people in office and when they get there, they start groping in the dark or thinking about what to do and where to start from.
“This approach has set us back for many years and deprived our people the opportunity to enjoy good governance or earn what in the national cliche is known as ‘Dividend of Democracy’.”
Saraki lamented that the government has not been able to adequately protect the citizens in the face of widespread insecurity, while massive unemployment has impoverished a high percentage of the population – all leading many to question the basis for the unity of the country.
These, he said, are pointers to the fact that democracy is not working in our clime.
But he said since all have accepted that the best form of government is democracy, everyone must do what is required to make the system work for the country and the people.
“Thus, I appeal to all stakeholders to give peace a chance. This is because nothing can be achieved in the absence of peace. The quest for peace places a burden on all of us who are leaders, both those in and out of government, to effectively shoulder our responsibilities to our country.”
The former Kwara State governor also faulted Nigeria’s electoral process and attitude of politicians, which he said do not support the claim that democracy is in operation in the country.
“Our elections still lack appropriate legislations and conventions that are aimed at entrenching free, fair, peaceful and credible elections. That is why today, the courts, more than the votes cast by the electorate, determine who occupies top political posts,” he said.
He, however, enjoined the political class to focus now on discussing solutions to the problems that are threatening the country.
“This is the time for all discussions to shift to solutions, creative and innovative ideas. Everybody who wants to occupy any position in post-May 2023 Nigeria and all those who love this country must as a matter of urgency and patriotic duty enter the arena in discussing ideas that will solve the problems our country is facing.
“Our public space must now become an arena or open market for contests of innovative ideas and we should allow the best in time to prevail,” he said.
Saraki also sued for peace, urging all to use the occasion of Democracy Day to reflect, and redouble the determination in seeking peace and engage one another in fruitful conversation.
“We must start to think. We must pre-occupy ourselves with how to make democracy survive and how we can use it to better the lives of our people. I believe this is the best way to ensure we continue to celebrate democracy for many more years,” he said.