Dear Nigerian Youth,
Today is Democracy day in Nigeria, so let me say to you, Congratulations!
Happy Democracy Day! May we continue this journey of democracy that our fathers have fought hard for, died for and have strived to make better.
You will ask me why I am congratulating us even though it is glaring that this Nigeria is a thick shadow of itself and by all indications, the country for the last two years has witnessed one of the darkest moments of our economic existence.
Even though today also marks the second year in office of the APC administration, that is not what we are celebrating. The hardship that has been brought upon the average Nigerian in the last two years is so evident of the failure of leadership in all quarters in our country.
From North to South, the institutions of democracy continue to weaken; rule of law is now dependent on the opinion of the executives, the freedom of speech is now under attack and the parliament is now filled with those who lack the capacity to put the republic first.
These and many more are obvious to most, but still, Congratulations! What we should not do is lose sight of the fact that today is Democracy Day, not APC Day.
For the first time since Nigeria’s independence, we now have Nigerians who can vote in our elections and have not witnessed a day of military rule. Our Democracy is now 18 years old! No matter how we look at this, it is worthy of note!
Should we then be so sad that the current administration’s woes will make us forget how far we have come? No! We will be an ungrateful generation to do that. You might want to say we have not come any far, but have we not?
In so short a time, we have had our own historical moments. But, because we are right in the middle of history when it is happening, we don’t get to appreciate it. That the parliament did not bring the country down to its knees in the first 10 years of the millennium was not just by a stroke of fate. After some point, the same man who ensured our parliament was somehow conserved attempted a spit at the constitution in what was a ‘third term agenda’ (which by the way would have turned into fourth term and a fifth term and a sixth term by now) and Nigeria said a big NO!
At the point when the legacy of the first eight years came crumbling in a constitutional crisis and the reign of the cabal resumed, it was a doctrine of necessity that saved the day. Nigeria insisted that it was the right of the vice president to assume office in that situation and that was what prevailed. This democracy, our democracy survived that! When the then vice president, from a minority tribe in the southern part of the country where the mainstay of the economy came, this democracy fought against the traditional, undemocratic rotational principle of a political party and won! The Ijaw man from the south became President.
When the Ijaw man from the south fumbled in office, we had our own movement that shook the entire country. No matter how flawed the Occupy Naija movement was in 2012, it showed once again, the power and the strength of our democracy once we choose to leave our differences and come together under one umbrella.
Three years later, in a twist of events, the same former vice president whom the nation rallied behind for a doctrine of necessity couldn’t withstand the power of our democracy, even with all the privileges of incumbency at the elections. We had a peaceful transition of power and put to shame the rest of the world who expected nothing but chaos.
Our uninterrupted democracy by the military for at least 18 years is not a coincidence and even though most of us do not have an idea what that means, it shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate the opportunity that it gives, which is what I really hope we can focus on as a generation today.
We can say that the Nigeria we have been handed is not good enough, that it stinks of corruption in high places and absolute poverty in the lowest places. We can say that this Nigeria is not the Nigeria that we want, that this Nigeria is entrenched in gross inequality and a system that feeds off the cycle of wickedness by our own people, designed only to favour a certain class of people from 1966. We can say that this Nigeria is not our Nigeria, that we want another one.
What we CANNOT say is that the Nigeria handed over to our parents was by every measure of democracy, which we celebrate today, better than what we have. Theirs was first of all led by whites until they demanded independence in 1960 and then they battled division and the lack of unity for the rest of the century and then ended up battling military rule till the dawn of the millennium.
The opportunity that we have in this Nigeria is to build on an 18 year foundation of democracy, the exact kind of Nigeria that we want. We can start advocacy on an issue we care about and engage the government like the #BringBackOurGirls movement and the #OpenNASS campaign. We can build political parties and wage organised opposition to government and provide alternatives all year round, policy after policy, we can continue to protest and march and demand a stop, a NO, a continuation, a sack, a resignation and if all of that fails to meet up our expectation, we can go to the ballot like we did in 2015 and remove an incumbent.
This is the opportunity that we have as a generation and this is what we should keep our focus on. I strongly believe that our obligation as a generation is no longer to work on a foundation of democracy, our parents have done that! Our obligation is to now begin to evolve a system where we can put forward a political environment where it is conducive for the best of us to emerge as leaders for the rest of us.
This is what some of us have started doing. For without a political atmosphere for the young, compassionate, competent Nigerian to emerge as leader for our society, we do not only risk a continuation of this ridiculously abysmal performance of this administration, we also risk going back to ground zero where we will have to start fighting for a 5th Republic. God Forbid!
It is at this juncture that I will like to add my voice to those insinuating a military coup in Nigeria at such a time as this. Whoever harbours such thoughts or plans or strategy as a means of enriching themselves or ego or class will be doing so at the risk of everything they have and hold dear.
Happy Democracy Day and May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Jude Feranmi (JFK) is National Youth Leader of KOWA PARTY in Nigeria and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter via @JudeFeranmi