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Nigeria’s Democracy in Deep Crisis, Say Kila, Falana, Utomi, Others

A group of prominent Nigerians, yesterday in Lagos, said Nigerias democracy was in deep crisis on the questions of the state of the social contract between the people and those in government. They also said Nigeria needed a few referendums at this time and that if government was accountable to the people it ought to consider this now.

The prominent Nigerians, under the aegis of Concerned Professionals in a statement by Prof Ebere Onwudiwe, Olutola Mobolurin, Prof Pat Utomi, Dr Usman Bugaje, Femi Falana, SAN, Dr Muiz Banire, SAN, Prof Anthony Kila and Dr Isuwa Dogo, said,  IF one lesson comes clear from 2020, it is that democracy is in deep crisis in Nigeria where questions abound about the state of the social contract between the people and those who lead and personify the state.

Impunity seems so rife the youth mounted peaceful protests on police brutality and were greeted with bullets from the Army;  people feel the benefits of good governance are eluding them, with poverty so pervasive and insecurity so threatening; and anxiety prevails as Nigeria enters a second recession in five years. How should we read the dismissal of views of the National Assembly, Northern Elders Forum, the Sultan of Sokoto and many other eminent persons on the Service Chiefs and the state of security in the country. Or of disregard of invitation to the President to address the National Assembly on security. Or the governments failure to pay attention to the call for restructuring the federation from Pastor Adeboye, leaders of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Prof Atahiru Jega, Northern Elders Forum etc. One view is that to understand the disposition of the government is to understand state capture. State capture which is the systemic and systematic political corruption in which the apparatus of government is deployed to orient public choice to advance the personal material and power interest of those with a strangle hold on state apparatus , has crippled many societies.

A perspective on state capture is that it blinds you to what may be the common good and results in contempt for the will of the people as exemplified by Nicolae Ceausescu  in Romania. The South Africans seeing its grave danger have set up the Zondo Commission to free their country from its evil even though it is hardly as entrenched there as in Nigeria. Economic development is usually very slow with this form of governmental system as the interest of the few beneficiaries tend to trump the common good objectives in government decision making. Understanding what our current realities are is critical if we are to resolve a myriad of existential crises facing Nigeria at this time. So why did government perennially ignore public opinion, snub the outcomes of rational public conversation and often unleash social media avatars to ridicule people who help to articulate the voice of the people, which traditional wisdom sees as the voice of God; vox populi vox dei. Explanations may be helpful to gauge the barometer of our democracy. Where does the legitimacy of the government come from if it does not consider the voice of the people as being of consequence. What lessons should we learn from former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in the handling of Brexit. He had his preferred way but turned to a referendum to determine the will of the people. Nigeria needs a few referendums at this time. If government is accountable to the people it ought to consider this now.

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