Nigeria’s Democratic Enterprise Since 1999: A Preliminary Assessment

Professor Julius O. Ihonvbere, OON, OGI
Nigeria’s Representative to the International Board
Forum of Federations, Ottawa, Canada
Paper prepared for delivery at the 2010 Charles Etsu Annual Dialogue (CEAD), Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
I apologise that I am not available to personally present this paper.  I had to travel out of the country at short notice on an important assignment.  I pray that there would be another opportunity to make a live presentation and engage in follow-up conversations in the very near future.  If I do not go on heaping praises on our leaders for what they have done for the growth of our democratic enterprise, it is because I believe that the truth can only empower us to do better.  The reality in which we live of course tells much of the content and context of governance, leadership and democratic values in our country today.
At the end of the day, democracy is about people. It is also about quality leadership, constitutions and constitutionalism, the rule of law, political discipline, the construction and nurturing of democratic values, building strong and viable political institutions and giving hope to the ordinary person that there is indeed a collective future to work for.Democracy is also about human, especially socio-economic and cultural rights, due process, accountability, fiscal discipline, transparency and the careful but targeted deployment of scarce resources to meeting the basic needs of the majority of the people.  Let me add that democracy is about ensuring a steady and qualitative improvement in the lives of the people, in their socio-economic, political, cultural and spiritual development, the protection of their environment, the decolonisation of their minds, and putting the people in the middle of holistic and sustainable growth and development.  The question therefore is: are we moving solidly, visible, seriously, and in a focused manner in these directions?
Let me hasten to add that we have witnessed since 1999 some Islands of performance, good leadership and commitment to democratic institutions and ideals.  But like in other distorted, disarticulated, deformed, underdeveloped social formations, such points of progress are often distracted, disregarded, diverted, confused, and rendered impotent by their non-performing colleagues or structures and by the contradictions within the system.  This means that we cannot expect sustainable, people-centred, people-focused and people-driven development without dealing with the structural challenges of the entire nation.