By Olowogboyega Oyebade
Do you know that it is good to listen to music to reflect your trait? Have you read Julius Caesar, Act Scene 2 by by Williams Shakespeare? Listen to a conversation between Caesar and Antony: “ CAESAR: (speaking to ANTONY):
I wish he were fatter! But I’m not afraid of him. And yet, if I were capable of fearing anyone, Cassius would be the first man I’d avoid. He reads a lot, a keen observer, and sees the hidden motives in what men do. He doesn’t like plays the way you do, Antony. He doesn’t listen to music. He rarely smiles, … Men like him are very dangerous.
Can you now see that it is good to listen to music? Do you know Jimmy Cliff, a Jamaican reggae artiste, formerly bearing James Chambers? Are you aware that he is one of the only two living musicians to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievements in the arts and sciences? Have you listened to his tracks such as: “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “Many Rivers to Cross“, “Hakuna-Matata”, to mention but a few? His track titled: “Many Rivers to Cross” cuts in:
Many rivers to cross,
But I can’t seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost,
As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover
Many rivers to cross
And it’s only my will that keeps me alive
I’ve been licked, washed up for years,
And I merely survive because of my pride
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s such a drag to be on your own,
Are you aware that June 12 has been declared as the Democracy Day in Nigeria? Do you know that the Day will be celebrated by all Nigerians home and abroad? Are you aware that foreign dignitaries are expected to join us to celebrate the anniversary of the fairest and most peaceful election held on 12th June, 1993, an election presumed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola but annulled by the then military dictator, General Badamosi Babangida? Do you know that President Muhammadu Buhari will talk on that day, plus what we were expecting him to say at his inauguration ceremony? Do you know that MrAdegboyega Oyetola, the Governor of the State of Osun will rejoice with the people on the Day and the community of Civil Societies? Do you know that the essence of the Day is to teach us new lessons in democracy that puts the people at the centre of development? Do you know that the celebration should make us to approve that Democracy should be treated as a subject in the school curriculum and not just a topic in one of the subjects? You say: why? Come along, please.
Do you know that there are many rivers to cross as far as democracy is concerned in Nigeria? Comrades! Come on! Let us try a test! Can you vote for a woman as the President of Nigeria now, putting everything together? Do you know that there are amazing women that are changing the leadership paradigm in the entire world? Do you know that women had once ruled great empires? Have you not read something about Queen Bersheba of Ethiopia and Queen Amina of Nigeria and how they made great exploits? Do you know that in our contemporary history, the first female Head of State was SirivamoBandaranaike of Sri Lanka who became the world’s first female elected Premier, serving as head of the government in 1960? Are you aware that in 1974, Isabel Peron was secretly sworn in as President of Argentina following the death of her husband, Juan Peron? Do you know that many of the most powerful countries on earth, including Germany, India, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, Chile, and the United Kingdom have elected women as their heads of state? The statement of Nelson Mandela cuts in: “ We are looking forward to a free, just and egalitarian society in which colour, creed, sex and race will form no point of reference.”
Do you know that Sahle-Work Zewde, a woman, has been the President of Ethiopia since 2018? Do you know that Jacinda Ardern, a woman, was elected as Prime Minister of New Zealand since 26th October, 2017? Do you know that she was born on 26th July, 1980? Do you know that Katrín Jakobsdóttir, a woman was elected as Prime Minister of Iceland in 2017? Do you know that Angela Merkel is the current Chancellor of Germany and the head of the political party CDU in Germany , holding the position of Chancellor since 2005? Do you know that she is also considered by Forbes magazine to be the most powerful woman in the world? Do you remember Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a woman who became the President of Liberia in 2006, making Liberia the first African nation with a female president? Are you aware that Sheikh Hasina, a woman served as Prime Minister from 1996 to 2001, and elected again as Prime Minister of Bangladesh since 2008? Do you know that Dalia Grybauskaitė, a woman, served as President of Lithuania since 2009 and re-elected in May 2014? Do you know that she is the country’s first female President and the first to be elected for a second term? Do you remember Dilma Rousseff, a woman, elected President of Brazil in 2011, the 36th President of Brazil and the first woman to hold the office? Do you remember Park Geun-hye, the 18thPresident of South Korea from 2013 to 2017? Are you aware of Erna Solberg, a woman elected as the Prime Minister of Norway since 2013? Are you aware of Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, a woman, elected as the President of Malta since 2014? Are you aware of SaaraKuugongelwa, a woman, elected as the Prime Minister of Namibia since 2015? Do you know that AmeenahGurib, a woman, was elected President of Mauritius since 2015? Do you know that Bidhya Devi Bhandari, a woman, was elected President of Nepal since 2015? Do you know that Hilda Heine, a woman was elected President of the Marshall Islands since 2016? Do you know that Doris Bures, a woman, was appointed Joint Acting President of Austria since 2016? Do you know that Nigeria cannot be taken seriously to be committed to democracy if we do not give our women the opportunity to rule as Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Governors? Jimmy Cliff cuts in: “So many rivers to cross..”
Do you know that for 20 years now, not only has no woman been elected president or Vice President, none has been elected as governor? Do you know that the 49 per cent figure of women to men released by the National Population Commission (NPC) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have never turned in favour of women in elective positions? Do you know that in the out-going Senate, there were only seven female Senators out of 109 representing only 6.2 % while men constituted 93.8%? Do you know that in the last dispensation only six women emerged Deputy Governors and no woman was elected Governor? Do you know that the fact sheet of Centre for Development and Democracy (CDD), about women representation is besmearing..year 2000 (3.40%) 2007 ( 7.00%), 2011 (6.80%) 2015 (5.60%) 2018 (5.60%) representing 49 per cent of our population? Do you know that these are reflections of the gender inequalities in the allocation of such vital resources as education, health care, nutrition, and political voice in relation to economic growth?
Do you know that a statistics made available by the President of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) during their summit in Abuja, showed that Nigerian women in the national parliament represent only 6.4%, the lowest in the sub-region? According to the President of the Association Stella Oduah, out of the 438 members of the Nigerian bi-cameral national parliament, there are only 30 women: seven senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives. Do you know that Nigeria also has the lowest women representation at the ECOWAS Parliament? Are you aware that out of the 35 seats allocated to Nigeria, women occupied only four, representing a meagre 11.4 per cent? Do you know that ahead of Nigeria at number 14th position is the Republic of Benin which has 8.4 per cent women representation in the national parliament, out of the 83 parliamentary seats, women occupy seven while men occupy 76? Do you know that at the sub-regional level however Republic of Benin is at number sixth position with 20% women representation at the ECOWAS Parliament? Do you know that at the national level, Mali occupies number 13th position with 14 female parliamentarians out of 147, but at the sub-regional level, Mali occupies number fourth? Do you know that on the number 12th position at the national level is The Gambia (10.3%) with six female lawmakers out of 58 seats and occupies sixth position at the regional level? Do you know that Liberia occupies the 11th position at the national level (10.6 %) with 11 females out of 92 seats followed by Sierra Leone at 10th position (10.7%) with 12 females out of 112 seats? Do you know that at the national level, Cote D’ Iviore holds number ninth position (11%), Ghana eighth (12.7), Guinea Bissau seventh (13.7%), Burkina Faso sixth (14.2%), Togo at fifth (16.5%), Niger fourth (17%), Cape Verde third (17.4%) and Guinea second with 22.8 female parliamentarians? Do you know that in the whole of West Africa, the first position at the national level is Senegal with 69 female lawmakers out of 165 seats, representing 41.8 per cent, beating Nigeria to a rear position? Do you know the question women are asking: Is this democracy?
Now, let us move to the second test. Imagine that fifty percent of all appointments that are to be made by President Buhari are women, how will you feel? Eureka! South Africa has found it! Are you aware that the newly sworn-in President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa has cut cabinet ministers from 36 to 28 to tackle “bloated” government and improve efficiency? Are you aware that he has appointed more women in cabinet to achieve gender diversity, giving women 50% of the cabinet membership, making South Africa one of the world’s few gender-balanced governments? Do you know that Nigeria cannot grow beyond the level we put our women? Do you know that the road leading to the declaration of Democracy Day was paved with sweat and blood in many nations? You care? Come along.
It was in Philippines. Ferdinand Marcos was elected president in 1965. He was re-elected in the presidential election of 1969 in an election marred by corruption. The Constitution barred him from running for a third term as president in 1973. President Marcos shunned the Constitution and declared martial law through Public Proclamation No. 1081 on September 23, 1972. His emergency powers gave him full control of the military and the authority to suppress and abolish the freedom of speech, press, and other civil liberties. He dissolved the Congress and clamped down on the media establishments critical of his administration. He ordered for the arrest of his political opponents and critics including Senator BenignoAquino Jr., On November 25, 1977, the Military Commission charged Aquino along with others, guiltyof all charges and sentenced them to death by firing squad. Aquino escaped into exile.
Do you know that in order for Marcos to extend his tenure further, he inaugurated a new Constitution in 1973, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary, a law that allowed him to stay in power beyond 1973?Are you aware that on August 21, 1983, after a three-year exile in the United States, Aquino decided to come back home? And you know what? Do you know that as he was disembarking from a Taiwanese flight at the Manila International Airport, Senator Aquino, the opposition arrow-head was assassinated? That assassination shocked and outraged the world. Do you know that the tension that was generated forced President Marcos to call for an election on November 3, 1985, an election that he thought he would rig without question? Do you know that the opposition fielded the widow of Senator Aquino, Corazon Aquino, as their Presidential candidate? Do you know that the elections were held on February 7, 1986, an election which an accredited poll watcher declared Aquino as winner with 7,835,070 votes against Marcos’ 7,053,068 votes? Do you know that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) led the liberation theology and campaigns for Marcos to step down? Do you know that the Church went to every door, including all schools, police and military barracks to demand for the sanctity of that election? Do you know that barricades were mounted and vigils were kept to demand for democracy? The statement of the Church cuts in:
“Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organized. So must its correction be. But as in the election itself, that depends fully on the people; on what they are willing and ready to do.”
Do you know that with the persistence of the people, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as the 11th president of the Philippines on February 25, 1986? Do you know that same night, President Marcos, the rare dictator of Philippines had to escape from power when he saw brutal anguish on the faces of the people, making the event to be called “The People Power Revolution? What are the effects? Come along.
The year was 1988. President Corazon Aquino of the inaugurated international conferences on new and restored democracies to celebrate this Revolution that overthrew the 20-year dictatorship of Marcos. The Conference witnessed the participation of governments, parliaments and civil society community. The sixth conference took place in Doha, Qatar, in 2006 where Qatar decided to promote an International Day of Democracy as a resolution at the United Nations. It was in September 1997. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a Universal Declaration on Democracy. That Declaration affirms the principles of democracy, the elements and exercise of democratic government, and the international scope of democracy. Do you know Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)? Come on!
The Inter-Parliamentary Union is a global inter-parliamentary institution established in 1889 as the first permanent forum for political multilateral negotiations comprising of national parliaments of 178 countries with the objective of the arbitration of conflicts. It has its Headquarters in Geneva. Its organs include Assembly, Governing Council, Executive Committee and Secretariat. The UN passed the resolution entitled “Support by the UN system of efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies” by consensus on 8 November 2007 and adopted 15 September as the International Day of Democracy and invited all member states and organizations to commemorate the day. The preamble of the resolution affirms:
…while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region……democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.
Hurray! The June 12 Democracy Day in Nigeria is to celebrate the political revolution that saw the military back to the barracks. If we reflect very well, are they not coming through the back door? Do you know that we deserve a genuine democracy in all aspects of our lives? Do you ask: how? Come along, please.
Have you stopped awhile to ask why the Supreme Court sacked the entire elected members of the ruling party in Zamfara and gave the crowns to the opposition? Why was it that the party in power could not field candidates in Rivers State for Governorship and House of Assembly elections? Do you know that the military traits in some of the political gladiators in the two States were too big to obey the party to conduct primary elections? Why did the party in power lose Imo State to the opposition? Are you aware that the immediate past governor of the State was bigger than the party and the State all together by insisting on who should be elected governor after him as if it was a family affair? Do you know that the reflex of the military which is still abiding in us made the new governor, within 24 hours of assuming power, to demolish billion naira-denominated monument left behind by the immediate past governor? What a queer way to celebrate democracy? In our country, we always put Mathematics wrong in all its principles. A good way to prove that, contrary to Mathematics, a part is always greater than the whole. Allah Akbar! Have you not wondered about the drama in Ogun State where a sitting two-term Governor was sponsoring and physically campaigning for the gubernatorial candidate of another party just to undermine his own political party? Is not a democracy taken too far?
Do you know that one of the greatest intellectual property of our country is a Nobel Laureate, a brain teaching the ‘Oyinbo’ people how to speak their language? Do you know that as valuable as he is and for what he can do to transit good life to all Nigerians, do you know that our democratic corridor can notthrow him up to be elected to serve us? Will the poor not demand for money? Will the party allow him to secure the ticket in the murky stream of primary elections? Have you forgotten that there is no room for independent candidates in our Constitution and the Electoral Act? Have you read the Odegbami’s political Odyssey as a gubernatorial candidate in the last election in Ogun State? Do you know that Odegbami, an international star whose name and investments in his village are the only emblems of civilization in the area, lost election in his polling booth, ward, Local Government and State. Do you know that he learnt a bitter lesson that the masses of this country may at times prefer temporary relief of poverty than to work with others for total liberation? Do you know that the villagers dropped their election crown at the shrine of few Naira notes, thus annulling the dream of an international star to move to the Governor’s Lodge? Have you forgotten that Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the conscience of the collective morality, probity and accountability for all Nigerians (while alive), the signature of human rights activism, lost election in his ward as a presidential candidate in 2003 election? Stubborn Jimmy cuts in again: “ Many rivers to cross”
Do you know that democracy is sign-posted by periodic elections? Do you know that one of the cardinal principles of democracy is majority rule? Do you know that during the last election, out of 201 million Nigerians, 84 million voters were registered? Are you aware that only 72.8 million voters collected their permanent voters card, meaning that 11 million eligible voters who registered did not bother at all to aspire to vote? Are you aware that out of the 72.8 million voters who possessed permanent voters cards, only 28,614,190 million voters came out to vote at the presidential election, representing only 34.75% of the eligible voters? Can you see that we there are “many rivers to cross”?
Did you read about various violent attacks that greeted the elections? Can you forget in a hurry, the gruesome assassination of a House of Representative member (Sugar) in a polling booth in Ibadan….a high caliber bullet shot into his eye, blowing his head into pieces? Can we forget in a hurry the mass murder of voters in some States during the elections? Do you know that no Nigerian was wounded on June 12 election? Do you know that no Nigerian died? Do you know that democracy is about choice and not war? Do you know that all of us have to go back to class to learn this ethos? Do you know that democracy is about solving problems and not a mine- field of ballistics? Do you know that our democracy should attempt to solve problems and not to create more? Do you know that we need to rescue 90.1 million Nigerians that are now counted to be in abject poverty? Do you know that we have to send back to school thousands of the out-of –school children in our country? Do you know that one of the challenges is the lack of adherence to ethos, rule of law and constitutionality? Do you know that the democratization of corruption through high cost of running government is now fighting back in Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, organ-harvesting, ritual killings, assassinations, accelerated suicide, rape, man-inhumanity –to-man and ethno-centric clamourfor economic self determinism, especially by the people of the Niger Delta, a tragedy of lamentable proportion?
Do you know that one of the strengths of democracy is judicial safeguard in terms of regular prosecution and punishment adequately entrenched into a political system? Do you know that all is not well with our judiciary as far as election matters are concerned? Do you know that democracy should provide relevant and adequate checks and balances among the three organs of government and the executive should not be over-bearing? Why has it taken so long a time for the legislature to have their autonomy? Why has it taken too long a time for the judiciary to have its full autonomy? The common man on the street continues to ask: is this democracy? Do you know that democracy is not just about elections for representations? Do you know that democratic principles must follow all actions of government through the conduct of referenda? Do you know what a referendum is? You care for it? Come along. Jimmy Cliff resonates again: “Many rivers to cross..”
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal, possibly to adopta new law or a new policy. In some jurisdictions, it is called ‘plebiscite’. Do you know that referenda can be mandatory as prescribed by law or voluntary as initiated by the legislature or government or citizens? Do you know that referenda are an expression of direct democracy conferring legitimacy from time to time on the policies of government? Do you know that Nigeria had used it before in 1959 and 1961? Do you know that knotty issues such as fuel subsidy, federal allocation, autonomy to the judiciary and the legislature, State Police, Local Government autonomy could have been resolved long time ago by referenda? Do you know that Section 14(2) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) says that the constitution derives its legitimacy from the people? Yet, are you aware that the provision for referenda through which the people could approve the actions of government is conspicuously absent? Do you know that for any section to be altered in the Constitution, you need two third majority of both chambers of the National Assembly and two third of State assemblies? Do you know that in less than two years, Britain heldtwo referenda to settle some thorny socio-political questions plaguing her when they voted in a referendum on June 23, 2016 to decide their continued membership in the European Union (EU)? Do you know that lack of it compromises security of democracy as a choice of government?
Are you aware that against the backdrop of the continued comatose state of the Nigeria’s local refining capacity, it had been reported that Nigeria might have spent about N10 trillion as subsidy on imported petroleum products from 2006 to 2018? Do you know that the report also indicated that the subsidy regime opened Nigeria’s public finance to huge corruption and illegal diversion of petroleum products to neighbouringcountries? The report titled, “Nigeria’s Petrol Subsidy Regime: Dilemma of the World’s Most Populous Black Nation”, interludes:
“Nigeria currently imports an average of 91 percent of its daily petrol needs, thus disproportionately exposing local petrol prices to price shocks from international factors of production and exchange rate volatility. “There is a near perfectly inverse relationship between the fall in the value of Naira and the rise in the cost of imported petrol. That is, when next the Naira is devalued, Nigeria’s subsidy bill can be expected to jump. The continuation of petrol price regulation perpetuates safety nests for exceptional forms of corruption within the country’s subsidy regime. Import subsidy creates petrol price arbitrage – the differential between the regulated price in Nigeria and the high petrol prices in neighbouring countries – which is big enough to incentivise smuggling of subsidized products to neighbouring border towns.”
Do you know that research shows that the #10 trillion consumed by the subsidy regime is sufficient to construct 27,000MW of electricity or build about 2,400 units of 1000-bed standard hospitals across 774 local government areas of Nigeria? Do you know that the #10 trillion could create gainful employment and good social protection to 90.1 million Nigerians that are declared as grindingly poor in Nigeria,thus making us the poverty capital of the world? Do you know that this amount could reactivate education and agriculture and move us closer to civilization? Do you know that N305 billion was earmarked for petrol subsidy in the 2019 budget proposal? Do you know that despite subsidy regime in the market for petroleum products, do you know that the subsidy on kerosene is not reflecting in the prices it is sold to the common man? Yet, the Constitution says that power belongs to the people.
Hurray! We have found it! Do you know that the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that there are about 11.8 million licensed cars on Nigeria’s roads as at Q4 of 2018, compared to 11.6 million in the corresponding period of 2017? Do you know that according to the report, Nigeria witnessed a 2% increase in the number of licensed cars year on year; that is between Q4 of 2018 and Q4 of 2017, respectively? Do you know that Nigeria’s vehicle per population ratio is 0.06, assumimg that our population is 200 million people? Are you aware that the Bureau’s report shows that 630,868 drivers’ licenses were produced in 2018? Come to think quick about it! Is it democratic for 11.8 million vehicles including the vehicles of the richest man in Africa in our midst, top political and career office holders to continue to enjoy subsidy regimes from the resources of 201 million Nigerians out of who 90.1 are dangerously poor? A quick question for all of us now! Who should enjoy subsidy? The rich or the poor? The rich riding on several cars or the poor riding on his testicles? Can you now see why we need a referendum as a provision in our Constitution to give the voiceless majority the opportunity to air out their grinding pains?
Do you know that the undemocratic nature of the subsidy regime has created a resource-curse on our roads? Do you know that the National Bureau of Statistics has reported that the number of people involved in road accidents in 2018 increased by 19% in Q4 of 2018? . According to the report, do you know that in Q4 of 2018, the number of people involved in road accidents increased to 18,729, as against 15,696 people in Q4 2017, a dividend of democracy? Are you aware that, according to the report, most vehicles involved in road accidents were cars, a conspicuous consumption of the rich? Do you know that out of 3,495 vehicles involved in road accidents in Q4 of 2018, cars recorded the highest number with 1,312, followed only by mini-buses recording 821, motorcycles recording 747, while trucks recorded 460, tankers recorded 85 while trailer recorded 182? Are our roads not cursed by the spirits of the people cheated by our collective undemocratic actions of spending #10 trillion on fuel subsidy? .
Do you know that one of the pillars of democracy is the issue of human rights? Do you know that the few rights that are guaranteed for Nigerians are inserted in Chapter 4 of the Constitution, 1999 as amended? Do you know that all the other rights that could have made Nigerians closer to civilization are just put in Chapter Two which are not enforceable? Do you know that there are some new rights that have been approved by the United Nations to be enjoyed by the whole of humanity but are yet to find their ways into our Constitution? Do you know that the more we depart from respecting these rights, the less we become democratic? Do you want to know some of these rights? Come along, please.
Are you aware that Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is titled Fundamental Rights which include: s33 (right to life), s34 (right to respect for the dignity of his person,) s35(right to personal liberty), s36 (right to fair hearing), s37 (right to privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications), s38 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) s39 (right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference) s 40 (right to freedom of association), s41(right to freedom of movement), s 42 ( right against discrimination), s43 (right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria), s44.(right against compulsory acquisition of moveable property or any interest in an immovable property of any person,)
Do you know that there are some other rights which have been approved at the UN that are not in our Constitution? They include: right to marriage and family, right to democracy, right to social security in terms of affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old, workers’ rights. right to play, right to food, right to education, copyright for artistic creations and writings; right to water and sanitation, right to assisted death, right to be forgotten and gay rights, right to abortion, right against involuntary female genital mutilation inter-sex human rights, women reproductive health right, right against torture to mention but a few. Do you know that the celebration of Democracy Day on June 12 is not just to mourn Mko Abiola or to mock the villains that got us to that abyss? Do you know that it is a Day to look at these issues and see how we can adopt the changes to join us with the rest of the civilized democratic world? Balarabe Musa once said: “ We are living today in terms of great changes. The old order is crumbling fast and new system of life is emerging. Our task is to understand these changes and utilise them for human progress.”
We must thank Mr Adegboyega Oyetola for creating conducive atmosphere for all the residents of the State. We are bold to say that there is no political prisoner in our State. The human rights community is partnering with government in education, health, social interventions and all areas essential for the good life of the people of our State. Happy Democracy Day! The voice of Jimmy Cliff cuts in:
“ Many rivers to cross.
And it’s only my will that keeps me alive
I’ve been licked, washed up for years,
And I merely survive because of my pride
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s such a drag to be on your own.