After years of military rule, Nigeria reverted to a democratic government in 1999. General Abdusalami Abubakar, the Head of State, handed over power to a democratically elected government, with Olusegun Obasanjo, the President at the time.
Abdusalami became a hero because the world was at a stage where the military style of government was frowned upon by majority of the world powers.
However, nineteen years after that ceremonial day, Nigerians feel there is nothing so memorable about the handing over after all.
Akpan Austin, a civil servant, told Newsbreak.ng that there is no need celebrating a system of government that had brought hardship on the people. He lamented that many Nigerians could not afford to feed daily.
“Nigerians are suffering, I work with the government but how much do I earn every month.
‘’Though there were no jobs in the last administration, but there was food. Now, the common man does not even have food to eat. How much is rice now in the market?” he queried.
Okudo Evelyn said that the present government had disappointed its citizens in major sectors. She lamented the ongoing strike by the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, saying it had endangered lives of the common people who could not afford private healthcare. She also highlighted the application of 32,000 Nigerians to 6,000 vacancies within the Nigerian Police Force as an indication for the large unemployment in the country.
According to Edo-born Musa Sylvanus, the country is headed for nowhere with Muhammadu Buhari in power.
“What are we celebrating, when people are unemployed and the cost of living is high?
‘’With this Buhari government, I don’t think we are heading to anywhere,’’ he said.
Elsewhere in Lagos, Emeka Ebemer told Newsbreak.ng that there was no democracy in Nigeria. According to him, any government that does not obey court orders is undemocratic. He stated that there was nothing to celebrate as the country was still at the basement of democracy.
Badru, supporting Ebemer’s opinion, said Nigeria’s leaders still discriminate and some hold onto power at the expense of others.
‘’Democracy shouldn’t just be seen as being free from military rule but freedom of every qualified Nigerian to vote and be voted for.
‘’There is discrimination and some have chosen to stick to power at the expense of another’s fundamental rights,’’ he said.
Michael John, who believes the country is enjoying dividends of democracy, however, said it would have been better if the leaders are not the same old military rulers who fleeced the country’s treasury in the past.
However, despite all the challenges highlighted by most Nigerians, some still believe that the country has a bright future and will soon enjoy the fruits of democracy.
Sunday Odita, President of the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria, told Newsbreak.ng that although the current administration left much to be desired, freedom of speech is something worth celebrating.
‘’The only democratic thing about Nigeria is the freedom of speech and rule of law, we will get there but we are not there yet,’’ he said.
Echoing Odita’s opinion, Nnamdi Anigbata, said the present administration has made considerable impacts worth celebrating.
“I think we have some reasons to celebrate. It is not all gloom and doom as people tend to say. In the economy, the indices are looking good.
‘’We are diversifying the economy. In the anti-corruption crusade, the president can still do more.
‘’I believe the former government plunged the country into what it is going through now,” he stated.
Eze-George Nnamdi said: ‘’The whole essence of democracy is the people’s ability to choose who they place in government and how the country is run.
‘’We have gone through many battles, endured a civil war, and survived much pain to get to this point of democratic stability.
‘’Never forget that a thousand voices began with one. There is a need to celebrate it, but also to remind us what democracy really means. Ensure we vote.’’
So, after all the speeches expected to be made by the political leaders later today, the questions Nigerians will ask is: will they translate their talk into action and ensure that Nigerians truly enjoy the dividends of democracy?
This is a question that will continue to linger in the months and years to come.