By Mukhtar Jarmajo
Every year, Nigeria’s federal government declares June 12 as a holiday to celebrate the nation’s democracy. It used to be May 29 as it was the date democracy returned to our shores in 1999 after many years of military dictatorship. But to acknowledge and immortalise the democratic struggles of the late MKO Abiola, the date was changed by President Muhammadu Buhari virtually two years ago. It is, however, astonishing that as a nation, we put so much time and energy into celebrating democracy, which in the truest meaning of the word, does not exist on the shores of Nigeria.
Democracy is about freedom, but what there is here is post-colonial slavery, where the ordinary man lives in untold hardship perceiving the miasma of hopelessness. When the lives and properties of the citizens of a nation are not safe; when there is no access to affordable and quality healthcare services; when a nation’s education system is shattered; when a nation’s economy is so unhealthy that most of its citizens hardly afford two meals a day, it bears no repeating that the citizens of this country are in the shackles of slavery. Therefore, one cannot talk about practising the democratic system of government.
How can we even celebrate democracy in today’s Nigeria when our universities have been under lock and key for almost six months owing to industrial action embarked upon by lecturers? It is here that Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) is scarce and therefore only obtainable at high prices with attendant consequences on all goods and services.
In today’s Nigeria, human life has no value given the spate of kidnappings and killings that occur daily across the country. Moreover, corruption, which is like a poison coated with sugar and thus mortally dangerous to the entire human species, is rooted in Nigeria’s public and private sectors.
There is no law and order in the polity. Almost everyone is morally and mentally impatient that we cannot follow queues in banks, hospitals, airports and shops. In virtually all instances, one person tries to take advantage of the other. The public space is chaotic. So, ordinary people are under pressure as we go about our daily activities. And worse is that there is hopelessness on our faces, given that there is no hope in sight for merry days ahead.
What is very obvious is that both the leaders and the followers in this country are ready to let the nation continue journeying on this very rough and dusty path. While most of the leaders here are selfish, the biggest number of followers are irresponsible. Most Nigerian politicians aim to rule and please themselves through corruption and self-aggrandisement. They achieve it by using the fault lines of religion, region or ethnicity to divide the people and eventually get the opportunity to perpetuate themselves in power.
And to worsen matters, the people, the electorate, who have the democratic means to save the nation from the drift towards collapse, have failed to do so for obvious reasons. Poverty and illiteracy, which are direct products of bad governance, have effectively forced the people into allowing the leaders of Nigeria to divide us on the fault lines of religion, region or ethnicity and then rule us. This is one of the reasons why Nigerians rarely speak in unison against all the hardships and the apparent injustices the people are grappling with.
Jarmajo writes from Misau, Bauchi state, via email@example.com.