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Democracy Day: What manner of Democracy?

By Faith Berewa

“The principal purposes for which the People establish democratic government are the protection and promotion of their rights, interests and welfare” — Civiced.

One of the most poignant statements I heard as I watched the recent event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings was “freedom is not free”. Oh! How true?

The D-Day landings in Normandy, France was the largest combined military operations in history to liberate North West Europe from the shackles of Nazi occupation.

It was a campaign to ‘regain freedom, civilization and liberty’, it was deadly and costly but at the end, freedom won.

Battles to gain freedom are often fought on the backs of selflessness and grit. Those engaged in such battles see it as a calling for a cause higher and greater than themselves.

So were those that fought tyranny, oppression and repression in the face of the barrel of the gun for Nigeria to return to civilian democracy. As President Emmanuel Macron of France said at the D-day anniversary, “liberty and democracy are inseparable”.

Our struggle for democratic rule was a tough, long and drawn out one. But our pro-democracy fighters stood their ground with some paying the ultimate price with their lives.

June 12, 2019 is being officially observed as Democracy Day after the president declared it and signed the bill passed by the national assembly into law.

For those who lived through the horrors of military rule in the eighties and nineties, and the struggles that accompanied the annulment of the widely acclaimed June 12 free and fair elections, is it not ironic that the man that finally recognized June 12 as a watershed moment in the history of Nigeria is a man whose policies and actions are anything but?

His actions have largely been in contrast to the ideals of those that struggled for the enthronement of democratic rule in 1999.

As we mark June 12 as democracy day (I won’t like to use the word celebrate), one will want to ask, what manner of democracy? Is this the democracy many were incarcerated for?

Is this the democracy many lost their lives for? If we were told that twenty years down the line we would be at such crossroads, those that fought military dictatorship would not have believed, not even in their wildest imaginations.

What we have is not democracy. It is a sham! We are being conned. Our democracy has been hijacked by those who do not have the love of the country and her people, pretending to be democrats, they have their agenda which is now manifesting, but taking us downhill, using us, the populace as props to get into office in the name of elections, have elevated their insatiable and obscene thirst for power to heights indescribable, pulling down the country with it.

What is there to celebrate about? That democracy is being used by a privileged few to declare dividends to themselves, while the vast majority of Nigerians are wallowing in despair?

By declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, we are being hoodwinked into thinking they share our democratic aspirations, but we cannot be fooled. What is the essence of a democracy day without the practice of the principles of democracy?

This is a like a bad dream. Not this manner of democracy envisaged; A parochial system of governance, vicious intimidation of opposition, phantom charges against political opponents, stifling of press freedom,  curtailing of the  freedom of expression, unlawful arrests and detention of members of the fourth estate of the realm, it was disheartening to watch 3 anchors on television last year saying how they are careful of what they say on air, because of fear of being hounded by authorities and what they said after was very instructive; this was not so, under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. So sad!

What about the brazen violation of human rights, the blatant disregard for the rule of law? The flagrant defiance of court orders? The disregard for the principle of separation of powers?

Where is transparency and accountability? The most disheartening is the use of the military to intimidate the press, judiciary, elected members of the legislature, government critics. This is a grotesque and sickening reminder of military dictatorial rule.

How about the barefaced militarization of polls as seen in the recent national elections? The nation is sick. There is something revolting about the style of governance in a country that divides, pauperizes and diminishes us as a people. With this brand of democracy, Nigeria is going nowhere.

Tribute: In the Spirit of June 12 and genuine democracy, I salute all those that fought for democratic rule; the pro-democratic groups, civil liberties organizations, ordinary men and women that took to the streets and defied the barrel of the gun, those who lost their livelihood, were stripped of their dignity, were forced into exile, those who slept in prison houses because of their convictions, and those who sacrificed their lives for this nation,  Your spirit and what you symbolize  lives on.

You exhibited courage in the face of repression; you were fearless in the face of intimidation. Your unwavering belief that Nigeria deserved better spurred you on in spite of harassment and threats to your life and loved ones. For though the situation now looks dim and hopeless, for though we are threading on slippery grounds, the fight for freedom which you lived for, and some of you died for, lives on.

Your bravery and courage still inspires us to continue the struggle for freedom and genuine democracy.

Faith Berewa, a columnist with SAHEL STANDARD Media Limited, sent this piece from Kaduna

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