A Nigerian human rights activist and president of the human rights groups- Women Arise for Change Initiative and the Campaign for Democracy, Josephine Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin said that democracy has not produced gains as former dictators who ruled Nigeria before its return to democracy in 1999 become presidents, thereby trampling on the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of citizens.
Okei-Odumakin revealed this on Thursday in a statement titled, ‘Another Independence anniversary is here: Any cause for cheers?’ on the occasion of the 61st Anniversary of Nigeria which attained independence in 1960.
Okei-Odumakin who is the widow of the late Afenifere scribe, Yinka Odumakin, said, “The Fourth Republic, which began in 1999, is the longest stretch of civilian rule that this country has witnessed. Unfortunately, rather than this calling for cheers, it has become the harbinger of despondency, despair, disappointment and frustration.
“To start with, since 1999, civilian rule has not translated into democratic governance. Democratic and fundamental human rights and civil liberties have been trampled by the powers-that-be. It is instructive that two out of four so-called civilian presidents had been erstwhile military dictators.
“Insecurity which started like a joke in one corner of the country in 1999 has now become a Frankenstein monster that has enveloped the entire country.
“Going by every parameter and measurement indexes, the economy is at its lowest ebb ever: high cost of living, galloping inflation, mind-blowing unemployment rate, decrepit infrastructure and a crippling debt burden with little or nothing to show for it.
“A vast majority of Nigerians are crying for restructuring. They are insisting that Nigeria cannot continue to wobble and fumble like it has done these past many years. There is the need to tinker with Nigeria – and to mend it.
“It may be, then, that it would survive and that this Independence anniversary or the next will not be its last as many have predicted. A stitch in time saves nine!
“The times call for solemn reflection and not any ostentatious or flamboyant celebration that runs counter to the mood and circumstance of majority of Nigerians.
“Let the government show sensitivity to the plight of Nigerians. Let the leadership rise above petty sentiments and primordial interests to salvage the country.
“That, then, will be the most befitting independence gift that the leaders can give to the people on this occasion of the country’s 61st anniversary.”
To back up her statement, she lamented that two of the four elected Presidents Nigeria had had since the return from military regime are ex-dictators- Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military head of state between 1976 and 1979, was Nigeria’s democratically elected President from 1999 to 2007 and President Muhammadu Buhari who was military head of state from 1983 to 1985, returned as elected President in 2015.
The two other Presidents since 1999 are civilians- Umaru Yar’adua (2007 to 2010) and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2010 to 2015).