Monday, 29 May 2017


It was with every hope in the air that Nigerians bade farewell to military dictatorship on May 29, 1999.

It was everybody’s hope that, with the ostracization of the military from the political sphere, an enviable country that apotheosizes democratic ethos and gives pertinence to its citizens’ welfare would be built with time. It was in the light of such expectations that all compatriots fought so hard to return the country to democratic governance.

Sadly, however, in its eighteen years of uninterrupted democratic governance, there are mixed feelings and a high degree of animosity towards our style of democracy. This is not because democracy, in itself, is bad, but for the singular fact that the political elites in Nigeria have leveraged on democratic governance to achieve one-and only one-aim: self-aggrandizement to the detriment of the populace.

Consequently, the country is inundated, today, with a lot of societal misdemeanours than had existed in the 1990s.
While it may seem plausible to argue that Nigeria’s economic indicators espouse some sort of ambivalence, in reality, it is indisputably apparent that the wellbeing of citizens has plummeted, and that the immiseration and discontent among the so-called ordinary Nigerians is palpable. Although the country’s economy grew from USD36 billion in 1999 to its current value of about USD500 billion, its per capita income only increased from USD299 to about USD3,000. It remains inscrutable that the country’s population which increased from 119 million to the present 180 million people could not be adequately and effectively harnessed to catapult the country’s economy to an enviable height in the comity of nations. Most troubling, however, is the fact that the country recorded -1.5% and -0.52% contractions in its economy in 2016 and the first quarter of this year respectively. These figures typify a marked deviation from the 1.1% growth rate recorded in 1999.

In spite of the fact that the country’s foreign exchange reserves have increased from USD5.4 billion in 1999 to its current value of about USD30 billion, the exchange rate of the naira has plummeted, hovering around NGN380 per dollar. While the exchange rate crisis has been blamed on the slump in the international price of crude oil, it is safe to say that the problem has been exacerbated, remotedly, by the profligacy and kleptomania of the country’s ruling class, basically since the birth of this republic. This is quite evident in the fact that the period between 1999 and 2014 recorded intermittent windfall hikes in the price of crude, and frugality on the part of our leaders could have been the magic wand.

Our national assets have, today, become more inefficient than they were in 1999. In fact, they are now either redundant, defunct or comatose! The country’s refineries are of a dead-weight effect to the country’s economy, draining its resources but contributing insignificantly to the economy; our textile industries have become moribund; Ajaokuta Steel Company is now history; and the power sector, in spite of all reforms, continues to render erratic and poor services to citizens of the country. Lest we forget, the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which stood at NGN20 in 1999 is now NGN145!

The country’s unemployment rate and misery index are on the trajectory. National dailies are often replete with news of mass sacks in both local and multinational corporations, and the government claims to fish out ghost workers from its payroll.

Those who are rendered unemployed through these exercises, in addition to the hundreds of thousands that are added to the labour force of the country on an annual basis, constitute a huge burden to our economy. However, it remains to be seen if our democracy would evolve to that level where we could have a leader tackle these challenges head-on. Until such a time, one is compelled to ask: is our democracy worth celebrating?

Samuel Gonna Adoga, a social activist cum public affairs analyst, sent in this piece from Otukpo, Benue State.  

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