May 29th 1999, Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as the first civilian president in Nigeria in over 15 years. The stars seemed to fall in line for Nigeria. One of the most notorious dictators in Nigerian history, General Sani Abacha, had died from “natural causes” a little less than a year prior, MKO Abiola had also died from “Natural causes”; that cleared up the political atmosphere, and Nigeria had a relatively free and fair election to produce the President-Elect as Obasanjo or Uncle Sege as we used to call him then. To add to the already promising story, the story of Obasanjo was almost as good of a story as Nelson Mandela. He had fallen from grace to grass, being a once prominent President/Ex-President in nigeria to being imprisoned “falsely” by Abacha’s regime, and later released after Abacha’s death as a “born again” christian. I still remember the atmosphere in Nigeria then. We were all hopeful.. “Obasanjo is the man of the people”, “He’s a changed man”, “Now he understands how people are suffering”. We all felt his trials over the past couple of years would make him understand the plight of the common man/woman in Nigeria. This was our very own, Nelson Mandela. So what happened?
10 years later, and I can’t say we are better off. Granted we don’t have to worry about “dictatorship”, and there is more freedom of speech than it was back in the day, but the basics of life for the common man is still lacking. Still no constant power supply, still no water for most people, still a lot of crime (might even say crime has increased if you add kidnapping), still unparalleled corruption, still niger-delta crisis and we still have government officials chopping money like there’s no tomorrow. It’s as if the only benefit for democracy is that there are more people speaking grammar in Aso Rock. All the senators and house of reps people are just speaking long english and chopping money left and right. Housing allowance, furniture allowance, transportation allowance, and all kinds of allowances are regulars with most government officials. Get voted in(or rig the election), chop your share of the national cake, and open one business somewhere with the money you stole.
On the flip side, it hasn’t been all bad for Nigeria after the last military president. Freedom of speech has greatly increased and people are able to speak up more against government. Not to the extent that other countries can but definitely more than it used to be. There is no longer one absolute decision maker in the president and anyone that tries to exert absolute power is faced with constant opposition from rivals. An example is when Obasanjo tried to run for a 3rd term in 2006, and Atiku (though out of selfish intent) strongly opposed him. In Nigerian politics now, you just can’t wake up and say you want to do xyz. Someone will definitely oppose you. Also the economy in Nigeria has picked up since the end of military rule. There are more foreign investors, and some industries (mostly banking) have really sky-rocketted, and there are more prospects for business than there was before. One could argue that it’s just natural growth though. In addition most the economic sanctions imposed on Nigeria have been lifted and there is more free-trade. As weird as it sounds, Nigeria has the second largest economy in Africa, and it looks more promising for Nigeria in the future.
So with that being said, what are your thoughts on Nigeria after 10 years of democracy. Are we better off? Worse? Has nothing changed? Let’s hear it.