Wednesday, 12 June 2024 04:45

Editorial: Democracy's unfulfilled promises: 25 years of Nigeria's journey

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When former President Olusegun Obasanjo addressed the nation during his inauguration on May 29, 1999, he embodied the hope and promise of a new era. His words reflected the aspirations of millions of Nigerians yearning for a break from the past and a leap into a future filled with economic prosperity, security, and democratic governance. "Together, we shall reach the Promised Land," Obasanjo declared, igniting a flame of optimism across the country.

Twenty-five years later, as Nigeria marks a quarter-century of constitutional democracy, the reality starkly contrasts with the high hopes of 1999.

Each successive administration—Obasanjo's own, followed by those of Umar Musa Yar’adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari, and now Bola Tinubu—has faced a complex web of challenges, some inherited, others self-inflicted. The collective legacy is a tale of unfulfilled promises and growing disillusionment.

Obasanjo's Era: The Dawn of Disappointment

Obasanjo's tenure, despite initial efforts at reform and reconciliation, quickly encountered obstacles. His administration grappled with corruption, poor economic management, and persistent security issues. While he did succeed in securing debt relief and laying the groundwork for telecommunications and banking sector reforms, the broader vision of a transformed Nigeria remained elusive. The hope of a better life for ordinary Nigerians was soon overshadowed by the realities of graft and inefficiency.

Yar’adua and Jonathan: Flickers of Hope, Shadows of Regression

President Umar Musa Yar’adua's brief term brought a glimmer of hope with his Seven-Point Agenda, which aimed to improve infrastructure, the power sector, and the Niger Delta situation. However, his untimely death meant that many of his initiatives never came to fruition. Goodluck Jonathan's presidency continued some of Yar’adua's policies but was marred by significant challenges, including widespread corruption and the escalation of Boko Haram insurgency. His tenure ended amid declining public confidence and economic instability.

Buhari's Promise of Change: An Unmet Aspiration

Muhammadu Buhari's ascent to power in 2015 was marked by the promise of change. Nigerians hoped for a break from the past, with Buhari's campaign focusing on anti-corruption, security, and economic revitalisation. However, his administration struggled to deliver on these promises. Despite some efforts to combat corruption, the scale of systemic rot proved overwhelming. Economic policies failed to spur significant growth, and security deteriorated, with widespread violence and insurgency persisting.

Tinubu: A Year of Pain and Uncertainty

One year into President Bola Tinubu’s tenure, the cautious optimism that accompanied his inauguration has dissipated. His controversial economic policies, including the removal of fuel subsidies and the liberalisation of the foreign exchange market, have triggered a severe economic downturn. Hyperinflation, joblessness, and a depreciating naira have left many Nigerians in dire straits. The World Bank's report of 104 million citizens living in poverty underscores the depth of the crisis.

Under Tinubu, Nigeria's security situation has continued to deteriorate. The country's landscape is marked by abductions, killings, and a general sense of lawlessness. The economic and social policies of his administration have yet to provide the relief and development that Nigerians desperately need.

The Verdict: Unfulfilled Promises, A Nation in Need

As Nigeria reflects on 25 years of democracy, it is clear that the journey has been fraught with missed opportunities and unfulfilled promises. While there have been pockets of progress—such as improvements in telecommunications, banking, and some infrastructure projects—the overarching narrative is one of decline. The aspirations articulated by Obasanjo in 1999 remain largely unachieved, and the socio-economic status of Nigerians has not significantly improved.

The current administration must urgently address these challenges. There is a need for a compassionate and strategic approach to governance that prioritises the welfare of the people. Tinubu's government must focus on security, economic stability, and the implementation of policies that genuinely benefit the populace. The promise of democracy should be more than just the right to vote; it should translate into tangible improvements in the quality of life for all Nigerians.

Conclusion

The past 25 years have shown that democracy alone is not a panacea. Effective governance, visionary leadership, and genuine commitment to the public good are essential to realising the potential of Nigeria. As the nation commemorates this milestone, it is imperative to recommit to these ideals and work towards a future where the hopes of 1999 can finally be fulfilled. The road ahead is challenging, but with collective effort and responsible leadership, Nigeria can still reach the Promised Land.

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