ANALYSIS: Assessing Nigeria’s 25 years of unbroken democracy

In 1999, Nigeria embarked on a journey, saying goodbye to years of military rule and establishing the Fourth Republic.

For Africa’s most populous nation, the past 25 years of uninterrupted democratic governance were characterised by achievements, challenges and lessons that continue to shape its political landscape.

Analysts believe that challenges such as corruption, electoral malpractice, economic instability, security threats, ethnic and religious bigotry continue to test national unity but in spite of these, democracy remains consolidated.

Prof. Femi Otubanjo, a Research Professor at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), says Nigeria having democratic governance for the past 25 years is commendable.

‘We can congratulate ourselves that we are moving along democratic development,’ he says.

He, however, remarks that the country’s democracy is imperfect.

According to him, the quality of Nigeria’s elections over the years has been low, with the exception of the 2023 elections during whi
ch a bit of technology was introduced.

Otubanjo notes that election is an aspect of democracy that enables people to make choices.

‘If we don’t get this element of democracy right, the democratic process is undermined. The more technological our elections become, the more credible they will be,’ he argues.

He identifies ethnic and religious intolerance as a hinderance to effective democratic choices.

‘We have an imperfect democratic system but democracy is not a finished product; that is why it is called democratisation.

‘If it is nurtured well, it will grow,’ he adds.

See also Appointments: Foundation demands 35% affirmative action for women

Prof. Joshua Bolarinwa, a Senior Research Fellow and Head, Security and Strategic Studies Division at NIIA, also lauds Nigeria for sustaining democratic rule for 25 years.

He is convinced that Nigeria has curtailed some challenges associated with democracy.

‘Democracy is not easy all over the world. It has challenges, and there is a new discourse about the democ
racy being practised in Africa.

‘This means liberal democracy is not working in Africa now because it does not fit into our way of life. Democracy in this part of the world has been too expensive.

‘We have enjoyed a long run of democracy. We have identified that it is expensive, and Africa needs to rethink its own democracy,’ Bolarinwa argues.

For Mr Chude Achike, a public affairs analyst and Deputy Chairman of Joint Action Front, the essence of democracy is better life for the people.

He strongly believes that Nigeria’s 25 years of unbroken democratic governance is a great achievement because of the tendency of the military to interrupt, which he describes as aberration to democracy.

According to him, coups are unconstitutional and have a way of setting countries backwards.

He, however, argues that when other indices of democracy are checked, Nigeria has not fared too well.

‘When you look at the engagement of the political elite, you see a level of high handedness, a level of military tendency.

have not imbibed the ethos of democracy because its essence is better life for the people.

‘Much needs to be done to address electoral issues in the country, basic infrastructure and intolerance.

See also Senate President condemns Kagara school abduction

‘The population of the country has grown much but we have not put enough economic resources, we have not expanded the economy enough to be able to absorb the realities of a growing population,’ he says.

He notes that other democratic nations also have their peculiarities and challenges.

Achike says Nigeria has diverse ethnic groups which may not be fully comparable to other nations.

‘India, a multi-cultural country with different ethnic groups, has its own challenges even in terms of religious intolerance.’

He lauded India’s electoral process, describing it as an example.

‘India has over 1.4 billion people and yet it conducts elections much more peacefully.

‘India’s democracy has been able to bring about a lot of economic successes leading to it bein
g a well-developed industrial country with a much stronger industrial base,’ he says.

According to him, Nigeria should be playing at that stage, using its population strength and other resources.

Achike urges the political class to have a greater sense of patriotism and responsibility.

Analyst are convinced that sustainability of Nigeria’s democracy will require addressing structural issues, promoting inclusive economic growth, and ensuring electoral integrity.

They believe that resilience of the country’s democratic institutions and active participation of its citizenry will be crucial in navigating the paths ahead.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria