Nigeria’s Democracy Endangered – Savannah Centre

The Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD) has called for urgent action by all players to save the nation’s democracy from looming danger.

The call came in a statement signed by the Executive Director of the centre, Mr Abdullahi Omaki, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

SCDDD noted that some recent developments in the polity ahead of the 2019 general elections were threatening “democracy itself and our collective aspiration for a stable and progressive nation’’.

It highlighted the issues to include the leadership crisis in the National Assembly (NASS), the gale of political defections, the lingering insurgency in the northeast and the “pervasive insecurity across the country’’.

The group stated that the Aug. 7 invasion of the NASS complex by DSS operatives was rooted in realignment of forces by political actors jostling for elective political positions in 2019.

It said the wave of defections was driven by lack of ideological base and internal democracy by the political parties.

These, in addition to the fear of possible leadership changes in both chambers of NASS, are at the heart of current events that have heated up the polity, according to SCDDD.

“Related to the foregoing is the pervasive insecurity across the country. Leading this basket of challenges is the resurgence of insurgency in the Northeast.

“This is accompanied by banditry and related criminal activities, horrendous attacks and killings as a result of the herders/farmers conflicts and cattle rustlings in Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Katsina and Sokoto states.

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“The pervasive restiveness in the South-South is another. There is also the rise of armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom across the country.

“The astronomical rise of IDPs as a result of these acts remains worrisome as these cumulative security challenges portend great threats not only for the 2019 elections but national cohesion, safety and survival of our dear country.’’

To avert trouble, the body called on the Federal Government to urgently address the frosty relationship between and among the security agencies.

It underscored the need for the security agencies to see themselves as “national institutions whose acts and conducts must reflect national concerns rather than getting unduly attached to the government of the day”.

SCDDD urged the agencies to operate within the ambit of the nation’s laws and the Constitution, and subordinate themselves to democratic institutions of the land.

“The penchant for their being drafted into constitutional matters must be halted except in such grave circumstances for which the constitution provides appropriate levels of responsibilities,’’ it said.

Savannah Centre also called on political party leaders to strictly adhere to due process and uphold high standards of civility in conducting their affairs to inspire confidence in their followers.

“Statements emanating from political party leadership must be devoid of brazen acts of insensitivity, tantamount to hate speech that now dots Nigeria’s political landscape without minding their destructive consequences in Rwanda, Cote d’ivoire and Kenya in recent times.

“Political actors must also note that `politics and election will be meaningless if they do not translate into meaningful dividends to the electorate’.

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“The political parties must also address the leadership selection process that works for the electorate rather than some group of elites, in what Dr Alex Otti referred to as ‘Blood Tonic’.’’

SCDDD also had a word for the media, which it described as critical determinants of political stability in a democratic setting.

It drew the nation’s attention to the dangers of the media “becoming politically inclined and purveyor of hate speech, inflammatory language and inciting conducts’’.

It called on all regulatory bodies to rise up to the occasion and ensure no media outfits (including social media users) overstep their constitutional limits to freedom of speech and expression.

Savannah Centres urged the media to be responsible and lead the campaign for national unity, cohesion and development.

To the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), SCDDD sued for understanding of the sensitive nature of its national assignment and constantly strive to carry all stakeholders along.

“The political processes leading to the election must be transparent and inclusive, and interpretations of the Electoral Act explicit to political parties, candidates, the electorate, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

“The Savannah Centre believes strongly that the use of card readers, would be indispensable to valid electoral processes and outcome and this must not be discountenanced for whatever reasons.

“Efforts are also needed to insulate the political and electoral processes from undue militarisation.

“The role of the security agencies, especially the Police, Civil Defence and the Army, must be distinctively explicit in order not to impede on the otherwise purely civic responsibility of citizens,’’ it said.

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The group also urged government to employ inclusive approaches in discharging its responsibility of securing citizens and the nation’s territorial space.

Government, it said, must constantly seek common grounds for national unity and ensure that national institutions are broadly national in outlook, and discharge of their responsibilities to the entire nation.

“The Government/Executive should engage in a sustained dialogue with NASS, irrespective of political or other differences.

“Politics is by nature, about resolving differences and they are also necessarily, argumentative, but what is important is to seek common grounds that ultimately benefit the majority of the citizens.

“While the on-going bickering, are not unconnected with posturing for 2019 elections, the central Government’s commitment to a level-playing field for all political actors must not be in doubt,’’ it said.

SCDDD advised the Federal Government to reconvene an expanded National Peace Committee to seek consensus around electoral matters.

In all these, the group said it was willing and ready as usual to contribute its quota.

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