Change and Democracy in Nigeria

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The Need for Change and the Survival of Democracy in Nigeria 

By 

 

Alhaji Kalli Al-Gazali

movementdj@yahoo.com

 

National Chairman of the Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ), Suite 103 - 6, Banex Plaza, Plot 750 Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II,  Abuja.

 

Being text of a World Press Conference 

on Friday, 19th April, 2002, at the Nicon-Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria The Need for Change and the Survival of Democracy in Nigeria Text of a World Press Conference By Alhaji Kalli Al-Gazali National Chairman of the Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ), on Friday, 19th April 2002, at the Nicon-Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press.

This statement, which is being made on behalf of our party, the Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ) brings out the pressing need for change in the political leadership of Nigeria, if democracy is to survive in this country.

The Promises Since Saturday, 29th May 1999, when the present political leadership took over from the military, they have betrayed almost every promise they made to the people of Nigeria; in their manifestoes and in their speeches, even though they were sworn in on the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Bible. In many areas, their misdeeds and acts of misconduct have gone beyond what Nigerians feared. Take for example the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in the speech he made when he solemnly swore on the Holy Bible to serve the people of this country, he made the following twelve promises to the people of Nigeria that: 1. the rampant corruption in the public Service and the cynical contempt for integrity that pervades every level of the bureaucracy will be stamped out; 2. the Police will be made to do their job and a determined effort will be made to cut down the incidence of violent crime; 3. he will endeavour to heal old divisions and to restore the harmony we used to know in this country; 4. there shall be ecological rehabilitation, infrastructural and other developments in the Niger Delta; 5. he will work harmoniously with the legislature; 6. he will rekindle confidence amongst our people that their condition will rapidly improve; 7. he will see to the resuscitation of the manufacturing industries; 8. he will ensure job creation and the creation of conducive environment for investment; 9. he will ensure poverty alleviation 10. he will refurbish barracks and construct new ones for the armed forces and the Police; 11. he will ensure women and youth empowerment; 12. there shall be improved food supply and food security for Nigerians.

Ladies and gentlemen, like you all know, President Obasanjo has broken everyone of these promises and in doing so the misdeeds of his ministers and  officials have gone beyond all reasonable expectations.

Take the case of the 36 state governors and the 774 chair persons of our local governments, each of them at the swearing in, solemnly promised to, at least, implement the following programmes: 

1. improve water supply in the urban and rural areas of their states and local government areas; 

2. improve health care for people of all ages and occupations; 

3. restore primary and secondary education and reverse the decay in facilities and decline in standards.

4. provide inputs, subsidies and other forms of support to raise the agricultural productivity of the small farmer and the small rural producer.

The Means Like President Obasanjo, almost all the governors and the local government chairpersons have also betrayed these promises. This betrayal was not because of any shortage in the revenue accruing to their governments since they came to office. In fact, the revenues that accrued to all the three tiers of government, that is federal, state and local governments quadrupled. This means that they received four times more than what their immediate predecessors in government got. The facts are as follows: Firstly, for the whole of 1998, that is, the complete financial year before they took over, the total federally collected revenue accruing to the three tiers of government is as in the table below: 

FEDERATION ACCOUNT ALLOCATIONS 1998 - 2000 (In billions of Naira) 
Tier of Govt  1998  1999  2000 
Fed. Govt. 124 5218 6513.1
State Govts 65 9116 1335.6
LGAs 51 390 1211.6 

This means that, in 1998, on the average, each state government received the sum of N1.83 billion. The average allocation for each local government in the federation in 1998 stood at N66.3 million. But in the first one year of their being in office that is, from June 1999 to May 2000, the total revenue, which accrued to the three tiers of government, from the Federation Account, is shown in the table above.

It can be seen from that table, that, the Federal Government's revenue rose from N124.5 billion in 1998 to N218.6 billion in 1999 and N513.1 billion in 2000.

This is an increase of 56.9% in 1999 and 412.1% in 2000. The state governments' allocation from the Federation Account in 1999 was N116.1 billion and in the year 2000 it shot to N335.6 billion. This gives each state government an average allocation of N3.2 billion in 1999 and a whopping N9.3 billion in 2000.

It is, therefore, an increase of 57.2% in 1999 and 509.2% in 2000.The allocation for the local governments in 1999 was N90.1 billion and in the year 2000, it stood at N211.6 billion. On the average each local government received N116.4 million in 1999 and N273.4 million in 2000. This represents an increase of 175.6% in 1999 and 412.4% in the year 2000.

It should be noted, however, that, these figures do not include the internally generated revenues, foreign aids and grants and grants-in aid and foreign and domestic loans secured by the states and local governments. In the case of the federal government, recoveries running into billions upon billions of naira, both in cash and in properties have been made.

Billions upon billions of naira accruering exclusively to the accounts of the federal government from the privatisation exercise is not also reflected in the figures given above. The federal government equally, generates additional revenue from foreign aids, grants and foreign and domestic loans. So by the time we add all these sources of funds for the three tiers of government in Nigeria, you realise that the revenue they receive from the Federation Account could account for just about 50% of their earnings.     

The Performance But when we look at the performances of most of these tiers of government since May 1999, it is clear that substantial part of this huge revenue was not in invested in the fulfilment of the promises they made to the people of this country. For example, the health care system is in shambles. Our hospitals exist only in name, to say the least. Our leaders could not run even the National Hospital originally built for women and children, but which they have, now made the exclusive preserve of the rich. The recently released country health index by the World Health Organisation, WHO, further testifies the abysmal conditions in our health sector. The report placed Nigeria at the bottom. We are ranked number 188, far below even the war-ravaged countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Even our neighbour, Togo is ahead of us.

The situation is not any better in the area of water supply. A visit to any of our urban centres vividly points to this serious problem of water shortage in Nigeria, despite massive investment of public funds in that area. I do not think that it is even worth talking about the water situation in our rural areas, where human beings and animals draw water from the same source, which has led to the spread of guinea worm and other water borne diseases.  Everyone, however, knows that water is key to the survival of human beings.

When we turn to the education sector, we find a similar situation of unfulfilled expectations. This is despite the fact that education is the vehicle through which society advances economically and socially; yet the past three years witnessed instability in our education sector especially in higher education where strikes have become so rampant that the education calendar for most of the institutions of higher learning is distorted. Even the regular payment of salaries is becoming a problem. Despite the laudable objectives of the UBE, there is nothing to show for the N12 billion said to have been invested in that programme. Cost of education has risen astronomically.

The sector has become anarchic if not chaotic, as standards are not enforced.

For a country like Nigeria where nearly 80% of the population is involved in agriculture, we expect that this area of prime importance should have been accorded the attention it deserves by the governments.

This is not even to mention the fact that agriculture is and has always been the mainstay of our economy.

This tragic neglect of the agricultural sector is best testified to by the ever increasing prices of farm inputs and implements, beyond the reach of the ordinary farmer. The situation is made worse by the refusal of the federal government to seriously support farmers by way of subsidy of fertiliser, seeds, chemicals, pumps and implements. It is not therefore, surprising that the government's programme of food security failed to take-off despite the claims, the President lays to being a farmer.

The neglect of the economy by this government is not limited to agriculture. It is evident that the government does not have an industrial policy. For, since the coming into office of this administration, the industrial sector has been going down the drain.

Many factories are now closing down because of the failure of the government to protect them from the dumping of cheap foreign goods. And recently, because of the astronomical and irresponsible hiking of the rates per unit for electricity supplied by NEPA, a number of textile factories are about to close.

The closure of industries is worsening the unemployment situation in the country as well as increasing, in a geometric progression, the insecurity of lives and properties. This is a clear contravention of the provisions of section 14 sub-section 2 (b) of the 1999 Constitution. This section provides that ".the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government." One of the often-repeated promises of this government since it took office is the restoration of uninterrupted power supply in the country. Although the government has publicly owned up to its failure to live up to this promise, the situation in the power sector has even worsened to frightening levels. This is happening despite the sinking of N100 billion into this sector by this government in its first 30 months in office, through the Technical Committee under the chairmanship of former Senator L. Emoke. The failure to overcome this basic problem of power supply greatly undermines the industrial and all forms of modern developments in the country.

The Way Forward We, of the Movement for Democracy and Justice, believe in the following as the twelve fundamental principles of our movement, as the ideals which give our mission its unique sense of common purpose, as the cement which binds us together in our common cause, and as the beacons of light illuminating our path towards our shared vision of a great future for our beloved country.

1. The Essence of Democracy is the People's Right to Choose.

We, believe that, it is the inalienable democratic right of the people to choose how they are governed and to elect, hold to public account, and remove, those who govern them; and to always, freely, exercise this democratic right to choose over the formulation and implementation of the policies and programmes shaping their lives and the destiny of their families, their communities and their country.

2.  Democracy is Built on Free, Fair and Clean Elections.

We, believe that, the democratic system of government can only be built, sustained, and defended, by the people when, the people exercise their fundamental democratic right to choose, through free, fair, and clean, elections, with all eligible citizens properly registered and all political movements, political parties, and independent candidates, given a fair chance to freely, organise, campaign and monitor, the registration of voters, the delimitation of constituencies, the location of polling stations, the polling, the counting of the votes, the announcement of the election results, the adjudication of election petitions, and all aspects of  the  whole organisation and conduct of the elections; and with all forms of corrupt electoral practices promptly investigated and promptly punished, in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral laws.

3.  The Defence of Democracy is the Duty of the People.

We, believe that, the inalienable democratic right of the people to choose how they are governed and by whom, can only be sustained when the people, by themselves and for themselves, shoulder the responsibility of the defence of this right, by making it their duty to, collectively, and courageously, resist any attempt at its violation, from any quarter, in all circumstances and at all times.

4. Democracy Requires the Politics of Civic Responsibility.

We believe that the democratic system of government can only be built and sustained by the politics of civic responsibility, in which, politically active citizens shoulder together, in an organised and disciplined manner, the responsibilities involved in the formation and running of democratic political movements, political parties and other political organisations, on the basis of equality and mutual respect and the fair sharing of the burdens, the sacrifices, and duties of membership.

5.   Democracy is Sustained by Organised Grassroots Participation.

We believe that the democratic system of government can only be sustained by the conscious, organised and vigilant participation of the ordinary people at the grassroots, in politics and in government, in such a way that the people become empowered, on a regular basis, to take control of their destiny and defend their concrete common interests, locally and nationally, in all circumstances and at all times.

6.   The Pillar of Democracy is the Rule of Law.

We, believe that, the inalienable right of the people to a democratic system of government can only be sustained on the strong pillar of the rule of law, which ensures that, all individuals, all political movements, all political parties, all governments, and all organisations and associations, operate strictly under the Constitution and the laws of the country, and also ensures that the safety, security of life and property, and the fundamental human rights of all citizens are guaranteed, with all citizens treated equally before the law and are,  always and everywhere, assured of fair trial by an independent and capable judiciary.

7. The Survival of Democracy Depends on  Public Accountability.

We, believe that a democratic system of government can only survive if its built on a system of public accountability, and of transparency, in the operations of public finance, at all levels of government and in all public institutions, by ensuring that the lawfully enacted financial and accounting regulations and procedures, are strictly enforced, and are seen to be enforced by the public; by firmly separating the holding of public office from private enterprise; by the leadership setting a clear and unambiguous example of probity and of service; and by ensuring the prompt investigation, trial and punishment of all those found guilty of embezzlement, corruption, and all forms of abuse of public office and the betrayal of public trust.

8. The Foundation of Democracy is Social Justice.

We, believe that, the inalienable right of the people to a democratic system of government, can only be secured when this system of government is built on the solid foundations of social justice, with all citizens being provided with the opportunities for the development of their creative human potential to the fullest and by their being assured of fair returns for their labour and their private enterprise, so that they have concrete reasons for always rising to the defence of this democratic system of government, in all circumstances, and at all times.

9.  Democracy is Built on Productive Economic Activity.

We, believe that, the building and the sustaining of the democratic system of government requires the engagement of the people in productive economic activity, in which they use their labour and their private enterprise, to improve their living standards, develop the dignity of labour, enhance their entrepreneurial skills, advance their creative capacity, and obtain the material requirements for building, operating, sustaining and defending their democratic political movements, parties, organisations, and democratic institutions.

10.  Democracy is Essential for National Unity.

We, believe that, the democratic system of government provides the necessary, and essential requirement for a genuinely federal system of government, which forges national unity on the basis of justice, equity and fairness to all nationalities, sub-nationalities and communities in the country, and provides the democratic safeguards for the rights of all minorities, and eliminates unjust relations between, and within ethnic groups and communities, and ensuring the development of a national sense of purpose and of a common national destiny.

11. Democracy Requires African Unity and Solidarity.

We, believe that, the democratic system of government, in Nigeria, and in all the countries of Africa, can only be sustained and defended by the forging of the bonds of unity and solidarity between patriotic, and democratic, African political movements, political parties and other civil organisations, on the basis of the renewal and the revitalisation, across the continent, of the original Pan-African vision, commitment and action, in order to ensure peaceful and harmonious development, prosperity, the defence of democratic governments, human dignity and the inseparable, common, interests of all the African people, within and outside the African continent.

12.  Democracy Requires a Just International Order.

We, believe that, the democratic system of government can only be sustained and developed in a global context in which a just international order prevails, which is built on, mutually beneficial, economic, cultural and political relations of equality and mutual respect among nations, which promotes the sustainable use of the natural environment, combats racism, ensures complete nuclear disarmament, and an end to all forms of the arms race and fosters genuine world peace.

Conclusion We, in the Movement for Democracy and Justice believe that, the failures of governments at the three tiers are the direct result of the absence of public accountability in governance. We believe that public accountability is the foundation of democracy and its survival. We said so in 1998 when we issued the twelve fundamental principles of our party reproduced above, but we were ignored. Everyone can now see what parties and politicians who have neither principles nor programmes are capable of doing. We call on Nigerians, of all ages and occupations, to join the MDJ so that together we can salvage our country from corruption, ineptitude, lack of vision and kleptocracy.  The clear and unambiguous failures recorded by the Federal Government with respect to basic areas of human existence calls for a rethinking about the leadership of this country. But it is obvious that it is not just the federal government that failed. Most of the states and the local governments have equally performed far below expectation. It is, therefore, obvious that the people's right to choose is going to be the only basis on which public confidence could be restored to our democratic system. It is this right to choose which president Obasanjo, the governors and the local government chairpersons are doing all in their power to subvert. They are determined to impose the anti-democratic self-succession syndrome of Tazarce to kill democracy in this country. They want to ensure that no new parties are registered and no new young and alert voters are registered to vote. They are completely frightened of free and fair competition at all levels; within the parties and between the parties.

The MDJ, consistent with its origins is one of the most forthright democratic organisations, which challenged Abacha's self-succession campaign, is still determined to bring all this to an end. We invite all patriotic and democratically committed Nigerians to join our party so that together we can rescue our country from the clutches of its present rulers who have clearly failed and have to be changed if democracy is to survive in this country. Long live the MDJ. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thank you for your attention.

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