Nigeria… After 10 years of Democracy

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Obasanjo at his swearing in

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.

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Running water still a problem in Nigeria

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Ok let me start with the positives and that is first and foremost, I highly commend Obasanjo for his proposal to pay off Nigeria’s debt to the international monetary organizations; which he did. I also have to take into consideration the advancement in communications, banking restructuring, and the NAFDAC crack down on drugs (I know they did an awesome job cuz one of their branch was by my high school back in Naija). Now I will say this, I am really disappointed with where we are now. Keeping in mind how much natural and human resources God has blessed us with, there is still widespread poverty and all the basic amenities spanning from good health care, good roads, uninterrupted power supply, better facilities in schools and hospitals, to free and fair elections/ equality in the justice system, petroleum sector reform, and impartial distribution of wealth are still lacking in our country. I haven’t seen any of those greedy money guzzling politicians in government brought to justice and punished for their crimes. No no no all of them are just chilling and sipping on coladas and spending money that they don’t even no how to make the right way cuz they are so busy stealing it…(ok lemme leave dis one for another discussion cuz it making my blood boil thinking abt those thieves out there). I also believe that as long as we Nigerian’s are stuck in this our mentality of it’s ME ME ME and ok maybe family members here and there, there won’t be any growth for our country. We need to think outside the box and ask ourselves what little I can sacrifice of myself to make Nigeria a better place for me and other generations to come. Relying on just our “government” to make that change is a lost cause. Changing our mentality, will help our generation elect leaders that will look past wanting to dump all Nigeria’s wealth into their Swiss account and help us get the basic amenities and infrastructures we deserve to have as citizens of Nigeria. A wise man once said the problems of today cannot be solved with the same thinking that gave us the problems in the first place.

  2. I can say we are better off but we as a country shouldn't be happy with where we are today. Anybody who lived in Nigeria during Abacha's years of horror can attest to the level of freedom and development Nigerians enjoy today. Nigeria is a developing democracy and at such, should not be judged at this tender age considering the lingering years of military rule and chaos that plagued us for the better part of the history of the country. Look at the world's allegedly oldest democracy; United States after 200 years of existence and see the uncertanities, how much more a 10yr old democracy?

  3. I agree with you Sanka… If I had to gauge our progress on a 100 point scale, I'd say 5 points out of a 100… and that's just for the freedom of speech and economic growth. We still have a lot of work to do, and still need the ex-military men turned politicians to die of so we can have some real prospects for leaders and not returnees from the military times.

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