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Democracy Day 2018 3 times Nigeria's democracy has been dragged in the mud under Buhari

It's critical to examine how democracy has been running under the president for the past three years.

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The National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Shettima Yerima has said that Nigerian youths are ready to vote President Buhari out. play

President Muhammadu Buhari

(Twitter/@NGRPresident)
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When Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president on May 29, 2015, he described it as "a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy".

Well-aware of his controversial past as a military dictator, the president sold himself as a reformed democrat and promised Nigerians to play by the rules as far as the constitution would allow him.

Three years on from that inauguration speech, and it's not been smooth sailing for the president's administration no matter what he or his people care to tell the world.

Certain events have happened under the president that has brought Nigeria's democracy into question and sometimes disrepute. While all of it is not directly the president's fault, some of it somehow lead back to his doorstep.

1. Magu's failed nomination

Ibrahim Magu has been the chairman of anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for nearly three years now but he's only been in the role in an acting capacity.

Magu has made two appearances before the National Assembly hoping to be confirmed as a substantive chairman of the agency but has been rejected both times.

After the presidency first forwarded his name to lawmakers for confirmation in July 2016, a hearing was not scheduled for months, a development that fueled speculations about a plan to reject him.

When he eventually made an appearance in December 2016, his nomination was indeed rejected mainly due to a damning security report written by the Department of State Services against him.

While many protested that the rejection was motivated by lawmakers' fears that Magu would prosecute them, the National Assembly insisted that they were doing the Nigerian people a favour by being meticulous with who assumed leadership of an important institution.

It's important to note here that in his inauguration speech, President Buhari promised, "The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the legislative and judicial arms of government."

However, unsatisfied with rejection, he sent Magu's nomination to the National Assembly a second time but met with the same rejection that boiled down to the controversial DSS report whose credibility has been brought into question.

President Muhammadu Buhari with acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu play

President Muhammadu Buhari with acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu

(TheCable)

 

Despite the rejections, the presidency has kept Magu in his role, an action that led to the breakdown in the relationship between the executive and legislature until earlier this year.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo's remark that executive appointments did not require legislative approval based on Section 171 of the Nigerian constitution had angered legislators so much that they resolved to suspend all issues relating to the confirmation of nominees from the executive until the laws of the federation are adhered to.

This led to a cold war between two of the nation's three organs of government as federal appointments stalled in the legislative chambers for months, with untold consequences.

While speaking about the issue in August 2017, Senate President Bukola Saraki described the presidency's decision to keep Magu on as EFCC boss, despite the rejections, as a violation of the principle of checks and balances enabled by democracy.

He said, "We cannot belittle or weaken the institution because it is that institution that separates democracy from dictatorship. When you weaken the parliament, you have weakened democracy."

Over time, from what public records indicate, Magu has grown chummy with the leadership of the National Assembly, so maybe third time is the charm.

2. Nnamdi Kanu and Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, is fast becoming history on Nigeria's political landscape, and it's for some pretty unsettling reason.

After he was held by the federal government for two years on charges of treason, Kanu was released on bail in April 2017 for health reasons. The leader of the separatist movement soon cranked up ethnic tension in the country while also violating the bail conditions set by the court.

Rather than revoke his bail through civil means, the government allowed his nuisance to fester for months until a military exercise in his hometown worsened the situation.

The commencement of Operation Python Dance II in the southeast region triggered fears that it was targeted at Kanu and IPOB and that was soon aggravated after reports emerged that soldiers tried to gain access into Kanu's father's compound in Afaraukwu, Umuahia and shot at IPOB members who formed a human shield to keep them out.

The army countered the claims and said the soldiers had been attacked with stones by IPOB members while on a routine parade exercise in the Abia state capital, but things only got worse from there.

Days after Kanu accused the army of trying to provoke his group to war, he disappeared without a trace.

IPOB says Buhari's re-election bid a "welcome development" play Nnamdi Kanu has not been seen in public since September 14, 2017 (AFP/File)

 

While the federal government has insisted that Kanu is on the run from his court trouble, IPOB has relentlessly claimed that soldiers had succeeded in invading his house and abducting him while also killing dozens, a claim his counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, has repeated to the court several times.

His parents, HRH Eze Israel Kanu and Lolo Sally, have also been missing since then, raising even more suspicion.

The belief that Kanu might secretly be in the government's custody is not a big leap in logic when you consider that the government has previously pulled a similar move with the spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

The cleric's residence in Kaduna state was invaded by soldiers in December 2015 after his followers' clashed with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai. During the invasion, hundreds of his followers, including three of his sons were killed by soldiers.

Despite a court order to release the cleric in 2016, he's remained in government detention since 2015 and wasn't arraigned before a Kaduna High Court until May 2018 as he's been charged with unlawful gathering, criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide of a soldier that died in the 2015 clash.

The treatment of Kanu and El-Zakzaky has been noted to be major excesses of the federal government circumventing the constitution of the country to run with impunity that has no place in a democracy.

3. Mace theft

When 'unknown' hoodlums invaded the National Assembly on April 18, 2018, and stole the mace of the upper legislative chamber, it was a physical violation of the nation's democracy.

Not only because the mace is the symbol of authority in the legislative chamber, but because the theft was allegedly masterminded by one of its members, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege who had recently been suspended for 90 legislative days for his conduct in objecting to the electoral amendment bill. The lawmaker had run into trouble for accusing his colleagues of targeting Buhari with the bill.

NASS DPO 'transferred to Adamawa over mace theft testimony' play

Hoodlums associated with Senator Ovie Omo-Agege run out of the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly with the mace

(Twitter/@PRINCE_VIIII)

 

He was arrested by the police at the National Assembly complex hours after the theft but was released after interrogation as he maintained his innocence.

Even though the mace was recovered the next day where it was abandoned, one of Nigeria's most democratic institutions took a huge dent that should embarrass all involved.

Despite currently enjoying its longest streak of democratic governance since independence in 1960, it's disingenuous to say Nigeria's system is anywhere close to running properly and this has not improved under President Buhari even if it didn't start under him.

According to President Buhari's inaugural speech in 2015, Nigeria has a democratically-elected government in place. However, what it doesn't have is a reliable democratic system and more needs to be done for the country to get out of this rut.

Happy Democracy Day.

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