NIDO, Sweden in commemoration of the Nigeria Democracy Day organized 1- day seminar in retrospect of the democratic process in Nigeria 11 years after the declaration of Democracy day.
As a mechanism with which to evaluate the achievements attained & challenges posed, and subsequently work together in discovering a sustainable & balanced system of democracy for our country.
Participants were made up of Nigerians, Swedes and friends of Nigeria present to critically contribute to the review of the state of affairs in Nigeria. Speakers were able to provide their perspectives on a series of topics chosen for discussion as a roadmap to a progressive Democracy for Nigeria These topics included; Democracy in Nigeria Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Lessons learnt, The Niger Delta and the struggle for democracy in Nigeria: Lessons and prospects”, “Gender and the role of women in participatory politics in Nigeria”. & “Nigeria at 50 civil society & Democracy” Other highlight was Debate
¤ The past ten unpredictable years has given us the bedrock to build on & with a vision of our future democracy, a vision for the people by the people and not only for a privileged few
Speakers were; Dr.Cyril Obi, Dr Mahdi Hauwa, Prof Bjorn Beckman And Mr G.A Adeyemi
On a funny start reference was made to Fela`s Definition of Democracy as demonstration of craze. Our first act of democracy was our independence it opened our way to freedom and ability to choose our leaders through election, the right to exercise your rights to choose. Niger Delta struggle for freedom in Nigeria started in the Niger Delta Benin in 1475 against white men (Portuguese) first area to be conquered was in Benin .the steepest resistance was Benin against whites imperialism. Niger Delta has been at the core of struggle for democracy, Paradox of Nigeria democracy can be categorized into two levels of democracy
A) A formal democracy that is a legacy of military rule, in others words a democracy formally presented to the country by military leaders.
B) The less obvious type of democracy, being of the people Discussing about their citizenship their welfare and education of their children and their future, which is equally a form of democracy,
C) Another paradox about Nigeria democracy is that we are rich in oil but our statistics; particularly taking stock of the human Development indicators the statistics does not reflect the statistics of a rich nation. Nigeria is rich but most of its people are poor is the summary.
The Question therefore is what does this mean for Nigerian democracy? But common reasoning has it that when we have people you are equally rich because the bases of development and the object of development is the people, having a population of 150million people in one of most naturally endowed parts of earth Nigeria has no business being describe as poor. Therefore the recommended thing is a democratic process that can give the Nigeria people the freedom that will lead to their own development & empowerment.
Allowing the Nigerian people to be free to deal with their rights as citizens of a country, meaning dealing with non-discrimination on the bases of gender or ethnic identity. Democracy is about making our world our country a better place for the people of our country where they leave in freedom without fear and fully express their creative potentials that is the whole idea of democracy. Democracy can be liken to a journey of a thousand miles that starts from the first step, democracy is a work in progress is never fully done we all have our part to play. Looking at Nigeria, democracy is fundamental to the continue existence, unity & development of that country we don’t have a choice if Nigeria does not do democracy we can’t do anything, we are so many and we are so intertwine with each other and we have so much potentials when we are together but the only way to resolve our arguments and realize our full potentials is through the framework that democracy offers us as a political system.
Democracy & Economics, democracy is widely spoken about in terms of the political context political power & political dialogue but democracy is equally about economics that is about the distribution of the economic benefits of the country in equitable ways.
The Production of the national wealth for the benefit of your people not the people outside (foreigners) These are some fundamentals issues of democracy, it’s suppose to lift people out of poverty and want, The need to give the power and the knowledge to make informed choices to have dialogue with their leaders and their representatives and be obliged with the responsible of the peace and unity of their country is paramount.
Electoral democracy: Democracy and election. Broadly speaking democracy is a system or rule & politics based on popular concept and you can only or best express popular concept through periodic election, giving the freedom to choose it makes all voters equal, By choice therefore the will of the majority expresses itself, What happens to the minority don’t they matter? How do we address their fears and concerns and that’s a part of the democratic process. The core of democracy is the whole question of accountability of those elected as rulers’ their accountability to those who elected them, that’s what we can call the concept of servant leadership. The rule of law brings about the freedom of the individuals or rights of the individuals
The result of a struggle, negotiation and battle leave room for critics of democracy making it difficult to be controlled by a privileged few. Using democracy as a tool or instrument for bettering the lots of the masses of the people rather than actually thinking more in terms of themselves as a small group This relates to the question of democratic leadership, a leadership that serves, Lesson learnt (amnesty)
1 The context of using violence to pursue political terms is not sustainable and will not work
2 Governance and corruption, resource control is a critic about the way the wealth produced from oil between the various arms of government. This teaches us to attend to issues of inclusion and social justice and learn to listen to the grieves of the people and take this into consideration when governing the people.
There are evidence based on the reforms that has taken place like the Institution of the NDDC 2000 ministry of the Niger Delta 2009, technical committee 2009, granting of the amnesty in 2009 and work of post amnesty committee which is still on going.
We need to deal with issues on how you democratise the Niger Delta, how democratise the distribution of the wealth that Nigeria produces, Nigerian has so much potentials Democracy is the best way where rights of the people is concerned to resolve the conflicts, The need to give a political space where the people can participate in bringing solution and having the freedom to express themselves and attend to their needs .The Challenges Social justice and electoral reforms poses offers the democratic framework of both expressing and addressing the challenges that emerged. Our federation is a work in progress we have learnt a bitter lessons both from the Niger Delta and our struggle for democracy in Nigeria, many have made sacrifices civil society human rights and individuals people have fought for democracy. .Democracy is not a gift is something we build is not given is taken. Our advantage is that more percentage of our population is under 35yrs.issue of inclusion and marginalization must be addressed democratically. We need to develop our democracy and continually refine our policies to facilitate local participation and reach what the technical committee in Niger delta calls a new social contract between the leadership and the people of Nigeria, A movement away from conflict to dialogue and bargaining.
The Gender perspective had the following assertion on the role of gender in Nigerian Democracy. Democracy on a broad context is all about place and space and the Government taking into recognised the concern of the ordinary people. The diversity of the different classes, & groups be it religious, political, tribal. There are still distinct relationship between men and women. The definition of Gender is of our making, which invariably has defined the role certain citizen’s play in the society referring to women in this case. There is still difference in assess between men and women to the nation’s wealth or position. Drawing from the Luwanda experience that abandoned the issue of religion and ethnicity to focus on gender to identifying their potentials towards the economic, social and political contribution. The role and what women do is claimed to be natural, which is argued to be of our own Construction, the argument continues that there’s no cell in the women that’s called woman.
Democracy should equally address the assess women and men have to the wealth of the nation in respect to the resources the women and men possess.
The Democracy of place & space where in public place we demonstrate democracy and in private place we demonstrate dominance .This leads to the argument of backseat role being designated to women which has hampered their fruitful participation in the governance of the country, The policy shall not be seen as a favour to women but instead a favour to the nation since it means bringing along the 50% workforce left behind on board. The practice of democracy in public spaces and dormant at home because its private space is not acceptable, unless we redefined the way we define the gender. A reconstruction of this nature is the only way to move Nigeria forward negotiatively & democratically.
A series of quotable quotes drawn from the civil society to buttress their role in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria
A quote, “a massive and catastrophic failure of political leadership” which has produced a crisis “in all the other areas of our private and national life; in power and energy, education, health, labour matters, trade and industry, infrastructures, security and even sports and tourism”. “It has stunted our potential for economic growth”, “it has made it impossible for our country to orchestrate and mobilise the populace around a vision of development”. The problem is primarily political, Government, says the NLC President, the government must be responsible to the people. There must be free and fair elections in order, “For the rise of a vibrant and mature system of democratic governance that ensures that the economic and political decisions of leaders reflect, primarily, the interests of the people”.
Debate: highlights from the Debater’s perspectives
A solemn declaration denouncing our not being politicians but democrats as an instrument of democracy in a democratic process.
Describing the word democracy as one of the most used terms of the political vocabulary. But still a vital concept, which touches the very fundamentals of the life of human beings in society, nevertheless, politicians the world over has never defined the parameters or established its scope of practice.
Insinuating that the Nigeria type of democracy under the various political dispensation affects the Diaspora from participating in the Swedish political process, sighting our high traditional inclination to our Fathers believes and norms, being people of strong traditional heritage still finds it difficult to defuse the distrust attributed to politicians who are forbearers of democracy. Thereby amidst all transparency displayed we still distrust the democratic programs of our present society. Reference was drawn to the figures of the Africans in Swedish legislations to be very low.
Furthermore the different background of the Diaspora equally plays a significant role in our involvement in the Swedish democratic process. Since we are either dubious breed or the moral breed or passive breed making each to having different phases of difficulty breaking into the new or strange pattern of democracy.
On the contrary another school of thought argues that our primary pursuit for economic advancements, integration & Language barriers poses the greatest reason why Diaspora does not participate in the Swedish democratic process. A Nigerian political party policy that was supposed to equate the North - Southern citizens of the country, in a kind of power sharing amongst the various tribes of the country. An equation of sharing the nation’s wealth. The opposition had a different argument about the policy referencing to it as inappropriate to the need of our nation; the nation after all setback desperately needs the capable persons to leader notwithstanding his/her geographical origin .The Setting up of “a refinery for democratic processing should be the framework for producing an achievable, sustainable and balanced form of policy with which to govern the nation”.
We are a people unique in our setting and composition extreme in our virtues but insurmountable in our determination
The Conclusive Statements:
The Diasporas acknowledges the progress achieved by the Nigerian democracy for the past 11years. We urged for a more unprecedented and concerted policy effort, we emphasize the necessity to purse well coordinated democratic policies that are consistent with sound public accountability, development originated, welfare, employment creation and poverty reduction.
In reviewing these policy statements made by concerned elites, we also look forward to contributions from other international organisations in this area. We will ask the Nigerian Government to critically look into process of promoting development and poverty reduction as part of rebalancing the grieves of the populous.