By Chuks Ehirim
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties[CNPP], says Nigeria is yet to attain the status of democratic country. The coalition’s National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, who expressed this opinion at the ceremony marking this year’s law week of the students of the Faculty of Law, University of Abuja, asserted that no society can lay claim to being democratic when the votes of the people do not count and both its judiciary and legislative arms are compromised.
Osita who was a recipient of an award by the students as an outstanding opposition political activist of the year 2011, told the organizers to fight for the enthronement of genuine democracy rather than dissipate energy in giving people awards.
“One reasoned that instead of the ritual of award, it is better for me to use this occasion to elucidate on the importance of the role some of you have to play in making sure that the civil rule we are now in will soon blossom into true democracy”, he said.
He added that “the truth of the matter is that Nigeria is not yet in a democracy, we are in the actual sense of the word in civil rule; for in any clime where the peoples vote do not count, where the legislature is a trade center or rubber stamp and the judiciary is 95% compromised, there is no democracy.
“Building of roads, fixing of electric poles, drilling of bore-holes and feeble attempts to provide social services are not the benchmarks or core ingredients of democracy; democracy is where the rule of law thrives, where the people’s votes to 80% count. The minus in our situation is that even those basic infrastructures are not only criminally neglected but abandoned in spite of our unprecedented oil revenue.
“A cursory glance on the federal roads for instance shows that none has been fully completed since 1999. Few examples which gazette the rot are East-West road covering between Warri – Port Harcourt, Agege-Ota-Abeokuta, Lagos –Benin, Ilorin-Ibadan, Owerri-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene, Calabar-Uyo, Kano-Maiduguri, Maiduguri-Gombe, Abuja-Lokoja, Kaduna-Katsina etc.
“The Abacha regime with $18 per barrel of crude oil did better than the civil regime of the past 13 years, where the price of crude oil rose from $22 per barrel to $145 and today over $100 per barrel”
Okechukwu reminded the students that “there is no time and space to mention neither the billions of dollars expended fraudulently on electricity nor the billions fleeced away by state governors. My simple mission here is to put on record that corruption and nepotism are the basic factors dangerously sliding Nigeria into a failed state”.
He said that “Nigeria is not yet a failed state but the slide into it is alarming and the judiciary more than any other arm of government, has immense role to play.
“Those less than honourable judges, senior and junior lawyers who discredit our judiciary are the greatest threat to the actualization, growth and survival of our democracy; for the maximum scale of measuring any democratic society is the piety, sanity and impeccability of administration of justice.
“The culture of impunity and monumental corruption in the land, the sham elections, the kidnapping and the insurgencies of Boko Haram variant are the outcome of compromised judiciary.
“No society can advance to modernity or inch near to 50 strong economies in the world when there are no canon sanctions to those who commit crimes and impeccable rewards for the citizenry who perform creditably.
“We are witnesses to how the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and former governors after exiting from the immunity clause have remained evasive to answer criminal allegations over their less than transparent leadership.
“We are witnesses to how those culpable in the Halliburton, Seimens and other heinous scandals abroad were thoroughly sanctioned, thrown into jail in their home countries; while their partners in crime are today ministers in Abuja, captains of industry and leaders of thought in Nigeria.
“We are witnesses how James Ibori who was cleared by the Nigerian judiciary was thrown into jail in the United Kingdom on similar if not less charges.
“We are witnesses to how President Goodluck Jonathan hurriedly approved the suspension of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami in August 2011, when the National Judicial Council recommended his suspension in spite of pending case; and shamefully reluctant Mr President is in approving the recommendation of the same National Judicial Council to reinstate him.
“In a nutshell, those who discredit the judiciary, discredit our democracy and the image of our dear country”, he posited.
By Chuks Ehirim