Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, on Friday said Nigeria’s democracy was not thriving in Nigeria because of the autocratic nature of politicians, who obviously were connected to military rule.
“In Nigeria, we have been talking about `militicians’; many of the prominent politicians now are people who learnt politics under military rule, particularly under the Babangida politics of transition.
“Many of them now have a do-or-die mentality of engaging in election and it is a mind-set that was imbibed under the military rule,’’ he said.
Mr Jega made this known while contributing in a panel discussion on “Three Decades of Democratic Transition in Africa’’ organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in Abuja.
He said that democracy was in a state of flux in African continent and that there were very serious challenges of whether democracy was delivering dividends to the citizens.
According to him, Africa’s democracy, instead of providing the dividends to the people, is creating instability and crisis.
The former INEC chairman said, “the challenges most African countries are faced with is that democratisation in most of the countries are on account of legacies of military rule.
“Clearly, everybody knows that military rule is an aberration, and if it has done anything in our continent here in Africa is that it has created very dangerous legacies.”
He said that there was growing frustration that democracy was not delivering what was expected of it whether in terms of legitimacy of regimes, in terms of stability, peaceful coexistence and quality of governance.
“Most times, the electoral process is just a routine because candidates who do not represent the people are imposed on the people.
“So, the lack of integrity of the election coming from a military approach is responsible for undermining democracy in Africa.’’
Mr Jega, however, advised that caution should be taken in proffering solution to the challenges of democracy, saying “yes, democracy may be challenging, but we can address this within the democratic framework.’’
He added that military rule was not the solution to democratic challenges because it would only aid in exacerbating the issue because no country had successfully developed with a military mind-set.
He said that one of the key tenets of electoral democracy was regularity of elections, adding that though most African countries now conducted elections regularly, the quality of these elections were not sound.
Mr Jega called on Nigerians to rethink the practice of democracy to enable it to drive development and impact positively on the wellbeing of citizens.
In her remark, the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, said Africa was practising a hybrid system of democracy, adding that though Africans practised democracy, it had become authoritarian for selfish reasons.
She said that the freedom of the press in the last two years across Africa, particularly in South Africa and Nigeria, had not been commendable because many people who spoke against some people were dealt with.
Hassan said that successive administration in the country had continued to use democracy to their personal advantage.
She said that the government assumed power through democratic principles but that they had remained autocratic in their conduct.
Ms Hassan said that real democracy should be inclusive and delivering development to the people and that it was beyond building institutions and economic growth.