20 Years of Democracy: What Has Changed?

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Muhammadu Buhari

Two days ago, President Mohammadu Buhari took his oath of office to officially commence his second term. He did not deliver any speech. Perhaps he will on June 12.

It is significant that the event of last Wednesday clearly marks the 20th anniversary of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule. Unbroken and uninterrupted, Nigeria’s democracy, despite all its imperfections, has run now for twenty years, back-to-back, for the first time.

While we celebrate this feat in out-growing the tag of a nascent democracy, we must yet ask ourselves what indeed has changed for us as a people.

Put simply, has democracy meant better life for Nigerians? Has life become less brutish and longer?

I dare say things have changed for the better, but certainly not in the scale we had envisaged. Many had thought that ten years was enough for us to master the new way of governance. But here we are, 20 years after, still talking about a new dawn.

If twenty years after the return of democracy and nearly 59 years of nationhood, we are still ruminating on a ‘New Dawn’, when will it be noon , for us as a country?

Twenty years after, the challenges that plagued us in 1999 are yet here. We are still battling with infrastructure development. Our hospitals have not quite outgrown the “mere consulting clinic” status. Our educational sector has merely grown in numerics, not in depth and quality.

Politicians and civil servants have long transformed from cautious treasury pinchers to daring rogues. They no longer talk about 10 % kickback, but now wholesome swallow of public funds Even animals like snake has joined in the swallow of public funds.

Little wonder the budget does not mean anything to us anymore. Electricity supply, poor as it had always been, has further worsened, thus raising the cost of doing business. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has been churning out dismal and disenabling figures about our growth index.

Factories and companies have now become churches and at best empty warehouses. Unemployment is on a high keel with all its concomitant consequences. Understandably,insecurity has almost squeezed us all into one big hole. We hardly can sleep with both eyes closed now. The fear of danger seems too real and tangible. Our HDI (human development index) has been low.

We are supposed to be richer, but yet we are poorer. Our economy has been in tumbles and shambles. Our purchasing power has been anaemic, growing weaker and weaker. These days we go to market with basket-load of cash and come back with pocket-load of goods, unlike those days when we went to market with pocket-load of cash and came back with basket-load of goods.

Our entire governance template now appears like magic. The more we look, the less we see.

Yet, in all these challenges, we are more than conquerors, for as they say, the worst form of democracy is better than the best form of dictatorship. One thing certain is that there is hope for a better tomorrow. All we need is a firm and straight leader. Nigerians need a tough leader, one who can flog all into line, not minding whose ox is gored.

President Mohammdu Buhari has this one last chance to prove his mettle. To leave Nigeria better and happier than he met it. Then and only then shall we heave a deserved sigh of relief.