General Abacha ruled for five years and tried to succeed himself in what is popularly known as ‘Tazarce,’ after he was endorsed by all the five existing parties then, as presidential candidate. However, on June 8, 1998, General Abacha died from what doctors described as heart attack. That plunged the country into yet another political turmoil. General Abdussalam Alhaji Abubakar who came after him hurriedly started a transition to civilian rule, promising to hand-over power to a democratically-elected government on October 1, 1998, as promised by his predecessor. However, that was to happen in May, 1999.
The transition to civilian rule saw the emergence of nine political parties, prominent among them was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is the largest party, the All Peoples Party (APP), and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The parties came with no clear manifestoes or ideological positions; their only promise was to make life easy for Nigerians. In fact, none of the parties, up to this day, can be said to have a published manifesto, or have shown any strong ideological position, except what majority of them have pledged – in mostly vague terms – to improve Nigerian living standards. Ten years after, it is very difficult to say whether our transition to democracy made any impact on our general well-being as citizens. It is very easy for us to throw an accusing finger at the PDP, being the ruling party in the centre, but the fact remains that the political class entrusted with leadership at levels of governments from 1999 to 2009 in the PDP or the opposition have failed Nigerians.
What characterised our democratic governance in the last ten years was a total collapse of physical infrastructure, corruption in high places, bastardisation of the electoral process – Ekiti state as a case study – outright stealing of public funds, and violation of the rule of law. The rule of law, which is the foundation upon which democracy is laid, has been seriously violated and the country now is witnessing a near collapse of the economy.
The way I see things, we are still nowhere near addressing the numerous problems listed above due to the lack of political will and the attitude of our political class. They are consumed in self-deception, lies and highest sense of irresponsibility and are not ready to listen to any criticisms. The ruling party, which is the major culprit here became what Reuben Abati described in his popular column as a party characterised by insincerity, inequities and injustice, a party remembered best for the injuries it inflicted on virtually all sectors of our lives.
It is very hard for anyone to understand the kind of system we are running in this country, as we are left with no alternative, coming out from a long military rule that did practically nothing to change our lives and entering a system which is supposedly considered an answer to bad governance, corruption, nepotism and injustices of the military era. But as soon as the politicians got into power, they continued from where the military stopped or even worst. The politicians that came have little or no concern for common good, they are not development-oriented and are people characterised by excessive personal greed. They showed a high level of irresponsibility, they lack commitment, transparency and accountability, they engage in corruption and serious abuse of office.
The PDP, especially, and its new leaders gave democracy a different meaning altogether. It became a system where party internal democracy is not allowed, rigging and voter intimidation become a norm, elections a do-or-die affair, blackmail and assassinations become an order of the day, poverty, unemployment and general insecurity increased in the country. No doubt, we have a reason to celebrate democracy at 10, since, for the first time in the nation’s history we are able to break the jinx of having a peaceful transition from one civilian administration to another, but what we should bear in mind is that the government came through a fraudulent election universally discredited, so it is not a true reflection of the people’s will.
The future of our country and the future of generation yet to come depends on the decision we take now, either as individuals or collectively to say enough of this madness. We have to ensure, as Nigerians, that the true voice of people determines leadership at all levels of governance. Nigerians need to take a decision that they will make the PDP and the political elite to behave responsibly. We are the ones to change our country, not an angel or angels coming down from heaven.
Kabiru Danladi Lawanti, Area 11, Garki, Abuja