Comrade Debo Adeniran, a human rights activist is the Executive Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL).
Has the country fared very well 14 years after the change of baton from military to civilian administration?
Since Nigeria’s independence from our colonial masters in 1960, the country has passed through the most difficult times in terms of the struggle to transform our political landscape. Talking about challenges, Nigeria has fought many survival battles including, but not limited to, a civil war that led to the loss of lives of millions of people. In the internal struggle for power and political control of the nation state, the country has witnessed a number of coups d’état.
The struggle for the enthronement of democracy and representative government has been a major struggle since the years that preceded the country’s independence from Britain in 1960. First, it was the struggle against colonial rule, and later it was the battle for genuine independence and representative government.
While the first, that is the battle against British rule has been won, the struggle for representative government is on-going. It is a common fact today that Nigeria is yet far from the land of our dreams. While many countries in Asia have moved from third to first world, a majority of Nigerians still toil on a daily basis to eke out a living. In saner climes, the rule of law remains the most important instrument of democracy but that is not the case in Nigerian democracy. Over the years, our leaders have acquired the notoriety for flouting our laws with impunity.
Regardless of the spurious claims by our leaders that they have been fighting corruption, which has been a clog in the wheel of progress of our democracy, the evidence is there that corruption is still endemic in our country. Corruption has become the deity to be worshipped rather than being despised and banished. Nigerian institutions become weaker while corrupt elements get stronger enjoying the inordinate loot while the government and its agencies watch with the aura of helplessness.
What were your expectations when you were fighting for the country’s democracy?
At the advent of our democracy in 1999, many Nigerians who fought for its entrenchment celebrated that power had now come into our hands to rule ourselves and harness our resources for our growth. It is, however, unfortunate that the coming of democracy has brought nothing good to us but untold hardship. It is no longer news that our democratically elected leaders have stolen more of our common patrimony than the khaki boys did.
The government has failed the mass of Nigerian people plunging many into chaotic situations. Sincerely speaking, the democracy we tout is more of mere civil rule with the Nigerian elite putting their cronies in power to serve their selfish purposes.
It is preposterous that the government at the centre and in some states in the country run elitist government. This is at the detriment of the Nigerian masses. The apathetic attitude of our so called democratically elected leaders to the plights of the common man is worse than the military boys. Our youths have taken to crimes because of lack of gainful employment. Many are living from hand to mouth because of penury foisted on us by our leaders’ kleptomaniac nature.
Are you satisfied with the present state of democracy in the country?
The present state of our so-called democracy is appalling. Democracy in saner countries has to do with the rule of law, but the present crop of people we have in power at both federal and state levels are heartless. It is so sad that they have lost focus completely, and are even detached from the masses.
When the Federal Government should be chasing and prosecuting elastic criminals that steal in hundreds of billions, it is busy chasing most feeble Boko Haram and militant who took to crimes because of the wickedness of our leaders, both past and present.
The government in Lagos State is busy chasing Okada and Keke Napep operators and ensuring that people are driven away from the city to the hinterlands. One wonders how a government that cannot provide good roads is banning the means of transportation on bad roads. People’s means of earning a living are destroyed because of the insensitivity of the government.
Do you think this presence democracy is worth having?
This is not the democracy we thought of, hoped and some of us died for. Mass organisations must arise, mobilise and dismantle the organised political brigandage in this country; the masses must be set free from leadership-inflicted backwardness, underdevelopment and penury.
If you could see ahead, would you have fought for Nigeria’s democracy?
Ordinarily I don’t predict future, but I would have fought for a different kind of democracy, not this kind of democracy. I would have insisted that democracy should address the need of the people because democracy is a function of people’s options where the generality of the people determines their representatives.