A non-governmental organization (NGO), the Centre for Democracy and Development [CDD], has alleged that Nigeria’s democratic structures were sliding back to the dark days of military rulership, especially in the past six years of the present administration.
This position was reached after a two-day meeting of the group held at Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital yesterday.
Working in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa [OSIWA], the group in a communique issued and signed by leaders of the organization, Mr. Hassan Maina, Dr. Abiola Afolabi and Jaiye Gaskia, further accused the present government of becoming hostile to civic expressions and activities.
“The meeting acknowledges that there is worsening fear over democratic backsliding across all levels of government in Nigeria, particularly in the past six years. The current government is increasingly becoming hostile to civic expressions and activities that are guaranteed in a democracy. Through subtle and glaring executive policies, failed and successful legislative measures, the government has sustained the attacks on fundamental democratic freedoms and the civic space. Like the dark years of military rule, Nigerians now live under the fear of authoritarianism as the noose tightens on democratic freedoms.
“Anti-democratic actions of federal and state governments, such as using state security forces to repress protests and the unlawful Twitter ban in direct contravention of Section 39, (1) of the 1999 Constitution, have contributed to a rolling back of democratic gains. Particularly in danger is the civic space, ‘the political, legislative, social and economic environment which enables citizens to come together, share their interests and concerns and act individually and collectively to influence and shape their societies’. The meeting agrees that democracy thrives with continuous efforts to expand and not shrink the civic space”.
The Civil Society group whose theme of discussion centered on ‘National Intergenerational Conversation on Addressing Creeping Authoritarianism’, lamented that the hard-fought democracy in the past 22years through pro-democratic activism was being threatened by authoritarian tendencies.
“After 22 years of democracy in Nigeria, the culmination of bold and vibrant pro-democracy activism by Nigerians who stood in defiance of military usurpers who, until May 1999 enforced their illegitimate rule through repression, rights violations, and the proscription of democratic institutions, such as the legislature and the Constitution.
“However, 22 years into the hard-won democracy, there is growing fear about the rise of authoritarian tendencies among those in charge of Nigeria”, the communique said.
The CDD and OSIWA however noted that all hope is not lost and recommended that Civil Societies Organizations and activists be mobilized to counter through legitimate means all anti- democratic forces and actions in the country.
“CSOs and activists will build new systems for mutual support and greater synergy in pro-democracy activism and for mobilising mass support. The newer activists remain critical to Nigeria’s democratic progress and have the right to take necessary actions, including the rights to organise and protest. Therefore, the government must respect this right.
“This conversation shall continue at the generational and intergenerational levels to further build the momentum of socio-political organising and mobilising for the social transformation of Nigeria.
“There is a need for a far-reaching, tailored enlightenment programme to address observed deficiencies in political awareness among young Nigerians. We propose the National Youth Political Education Programme to be designed and resourced by CSOs and other concerned private groups”, the communique added.