The Platform

Young Nigerians during a pro-democracy rally in 2022. (Tolu Owoeye)

The frustrating thing for many Nigerians is that they want democracy to work.

The virtues of democracy as an ideal form of governance are seldom disputed. Universally celebrated for its adaptability and safeguards against electoral misconduct, democracy has often been hailed as the chief instrument for achieving transparency in governance.

In the colonial period, Nigeria experienced restricted democratic freedoms under a succession of rulers. For decades, Nigerians have clung to the hope that their voices will finally matter in the selection of their leaders through democratic channels. Over more than twenty years, Nigeria has firmly embraced this system, fostering a societal shift from a grim history of military dictatorships to one of participatory governance.

In 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro catalyzed the push for Nigeria’s political liberation with a landmark motion in parliament. Regrettably, his efforts were dismissed by some as premature activism, owing to British neo-colonial interests that lingered until the country’s partial autonomy in October 1960.

Democracy, in every thriving administration, has served as an essential pillar separating the affairs of the state from totalitarian rule, fostering an environment for good governance. But how well has democracy actually fared in elevating Nigeria’s socio-political landscape?

The scars inflicted by Nigeria’s military regimes are far from healed. Conventional media has often failed to document these stories adequately, presumably fearing the military’s menacing presence. During their reigns, military rulers governed with impulsive authority, frequently disregarding constitutional tenets—a stark contrast to the democratic ideal.

Despite the historical justification for military intervention in Nigeria’s politics, the ambition for governance seemed innate within the ranks. Notable figures like Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna were among the key figures behind the coup d’état on January 15, 1966, which resulted in a government steeped in blood and turbulence.

According to Ben Gbulie, another key figure in the 1966 coup, corruption remains the core issue gnawing at the nation’s fabric. The military, ironically, attempted to eradicate this ‘indiscipline’ by wielding its power as a governing force. Yet, corruption continues to undermine trust in the democratic process, with leaders pilfering national resources with impunity.

Corruption, however, is not exclusive to civilian rule; military regimes have likewise depleted the national treasury. Since the restoration of democracy in 1999, the Nigerian government has stagnated in a state of ineffectiveness, defying the notion that democracy is a cure-all solution.

The political landscape is fraught with a multitude of challenges, from electoral malfeasance and tribalism to societal unrest. The question at hand is not merely why coups occur, but how future political instability can be preempted. The solution? Transparency.

Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as an openness in the conduct of public affairs, transparency is the panacea for Nigeria’s myriad political ailments. It’s time for the Nigerian government to jettison its failings and commit to a more open and sustainable future.

By embracing transparency in all facets of governance, Nigeria can take a crucial step toward healing its fractured democracy and building a more equitable society.

Editor’s note: Journalist Mohammed Taoheed is providing hands-on instruction to arm the next generation of young Nigerian journalists.

Miracle Akubuo is a freelance journalist based in Nigeria. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications from Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara State.