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Sunday, 18 November 2012

BETWEEN MILITARY GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY (1)

                                                                           
Since the military incursion into the Nigerian political scene on January 15, 1966, all the woes of this country are placed on the military. Most Nigerians do not want to hear the word “military”. They see the military as synonymous with evil. But does the military symbolize evil? Colonel Muamma Gaddafi is a military officer who seized power from the Libyan Monarch in 1969. Colonel Muamma Gaddafi as a military leader, was able to transform Libya to the envy of the world so much that other nationals including Nigerians are queuing at the Libyan embassy for her visa.
 Under a military leadership in Libya, Nigerians are rushing to the country on a daily basis because the country has a lower inflation of 1% than that of Nigeria which is 20% and a per capita of $8,400 while Nigeria’s per capital is $50. If military regime is synonymous with evil, why are Nigerians running from a country that is under civil rule to a country which is under a military leader? Ghana, our neighbouring West African country was also transformed from a corrupt and poverty stricken nation it was, to a transparent and an accountable nation by a military officer, Flight lieutenant, John Jerry Rawlings. At the moment, Nigerians are running to live in Ghana because the country has improved tremendously in terms of economy and infrastructural development. Ghana has also attained democratic growth and stability having transited from one democratically elected government to another two times. However, let us now compare and contrast the difference between military and civil rules in Nigeria. Nigeria gained independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. Out of the 50 years of Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation, the military has ruled the country for 29 years. Within the 29 years the military ruled the country, 3 years were used to prosecute the Nigerian civil war, between 1967 to 1970, this means the military actually spent 26 years to rule the country. Out of the 50 years of the nation’s existence, civilians have ruled for 21 years. So, the difference between the years the military have ruled the country and those of civilians nine years. The questions one is asking are, if the military has destroyed the country within the space of 29 years as claimed by the civil leaders, can’t the civil leaders repair it within a space of 21 years? How long does it take to repair what is damaged? What has the civilian leaders be able to remedy since they have been ruling the country? Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, we are still hearing the same old song by politicians, “You know the military have destroyed the country and you know that it is not easy to repair what has been destroyed”. I find this excuse unacceptable to the Nigerian people because something that was destroyed can be repaired. For instance, Germany, France, Austria etc were devastated during the first and second World War but today they have rebuilt to enviable status. Of all the things the military destroyed, which of them has the civilian leaders been able to put right? Some politicians who are out to deceive the poor masses will say that “the worst civilian regime is better than military regime.” But is it always true that the worst civilian regime is better than military regime? Politicians are also quick to say that “at least we can talk now that we are in a civilian regime and that we could not talk during the military administrations.” I found this argument very amusing because our mouths were not muzzled by the military during their administrations. I make bold to say that we spoke more during the military administrations than we do today because then we all saw the military as our common enemy and were united to fight against them. There were so many civil society organizations such as National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which was headed by late Pa Adekunle Ajasin, Campaign for Democracy headed by late Dr. Beko Ransom Kuti, Civil Liberties Organization headed by former President of Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA ), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Afenifere, the Yoruba socio- cultural group headed by late Pa Abraham Adesanya, Association of Senior Staff Union of Universities, headed by the INEC Chairman, Professor Atahiru Jega, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ( PENGASSAN ), headed by Chief Frank Ovie Kokori etc. These civil society groups spoke openly against the ills of the military and sent them back to the barracks. At that time too, journalists engaged in revolutionary journalism which made the press very vibrant and added impetus to the voice of the masses. During the military era, television and radio stations were mostly owned by both states and the federal governments. DAAR communications, owner of African Independent Television and Ray power Radio station and Minaj television and FM radio station which started in 1994 were the only privately owned broadcast organizations in the country, the rest belonged to both the states and federal governments. Would the governments have allowed the masses to use their media to criticize them? There is no government that allows such a thing in any part of the world. Let us assume that we did not talk during military administrations, what have we achieved since 1999 that we have been talking? Have those who claimed to be representing us both in the State Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly ever taken our advise? We said the National Assembly should pass the Freedom of Information Bill into law, have they done it since it was introduced into the house? We said the Justice Mohammed Uwais recommendations on Electoral Reform be adopted by the National Assembly, have they adopted them? The Federal Government has earmarked #6.6 billion towards the celebration of Nigeria’s 50th anniversary, which the masses condemned in totality, yet the Federal Government is bent on wasting such amount of money on the celebration of failure. Will the States and Federal Governments ever listen to the masses? We said the huge allowances our so call representatives are receiving should be reduced, did they agree to reduce their allowances? A senator receives #45 million allowance quarterly, while each member of the House of Representatives receives #27.2 million allowance quarterly. Each senator receives #500 million constituency development allowance yearly which is not accounted for. Their salaries and other benefits are not included these allowances. Is there justification for such huge allowances considering the fact that they sit for 180 days in a year? Can we say with a sense of pride that the lives of Nigerians have improved positively since we returned to democracy in 1999? Let me make it clear that democracy is not just about having freedom to talk, it goes beyond mere talking. Democracy is about quality leadership that translates into accelerated development and growth in all areas of human aspirations. Democracy goes beyond just having civilians in government. Any administration, be it military or civil government that cannot better or improve the lives of the people is a monumental failure. The main purpose of governance is to coordinate and harness the wealth of the people for an effective development that will enhance the standard of living of the people. Have we seen such achievements and development since 1999? Let us compare and contrast civil administrations since 1999 till date and military administrations from 1985 till 1999 when the military handed over the reins of power to civilians. We shall start this comparison with the economy. Before the civilians took over government in 1999, a 50 kg bag of rice was sold for N2,500, today it is selling for N8,000. A small bag of beans that was sold for N1,800, now sells for as much as N7,000. Is this not outrageous. Before the commencement of the Obasanjo’s regime in 1999, Nigerians were able to eat twice daily. Morning and night, which was popularly called one –zero-one. At present, most Nigerians eat once daily, which is popularly called zero - one- zero. Is this not regression? If the agricultural sector is well funded and productive, why are prices of foodstuffs on the increase? The unemployment rate has gone up drastically because many industries are closing down while some are relocating to our neighbouring countries due to lack of regular supply of electricity. The Obasanjo’s regime in 1999, inherited 3,500 megawatts of electricity from the military, today it has reduced to a mere 2,500 megawatts for a population of 150 million people. The problems of industries and other organizations that consume large quantity of electricity are compounded as a result of the high cost of petroleum products such as petrol and diesel. These products are used to power generators which provide alternative power for industries. As at the time Nigeria return to democracy in 1999, the prices of petroleum product were cheap. But before ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, who also doubled as petroleum minister, left office in 2007, he had increased the prices of these products eleven times. A litre of kerosene that cost N9.00 in 1999, now sells for N125.00. Petrol that cost N11.00 at that time, now goes for N65.00 while diesel that cost N10.00 then now sells for N120 per litre.

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