By Precious Akutamadu
Port Harcourt, Jan. 26, 2023
Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria, has advised the country’s leadership to deal with deep cultural and physiological problems to deepen democracy.
Obasanjo gave the advice on Thursday during the 2023 Port Harcourt City International Conference in Port Harcourt.
Obasanjo also commended the organisers of the conference for choosing the theme: “Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security in Nigeria.”
Obasanjo, who delivered the Keynote address titled: “Respecting the Principles of Democracy,” noted that Nigeria had gone through twists, dives and turns since its political independence.
He commended Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers for putting his weight behind the intellectual discourse of the conference.
“Wike’s courage ‘is one of the things’ he believed were essential for the survival of democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
Obasanjo said it had been a while since academics, politicians, policy makers and professionals from all over the world came together to discuss Nigeria the way it was done at the 2023 international conference.
According to him, a nation that does not engage in conversation, self-analysis, self-criticism, regular reading and interactions cannot make meaningful and sustainable progress.
He said true democracy would promote patriotism and nationalism, build confidence in leaders and government and encourages citizenry to reach a high point of their creative and production ability.
He said that democracy when properly practiced in the interest of peace, inclusion, national growth, development, security and sustainability would address the nation’s problems.
According to him, no two democracies are exactly alike because democratic parties and institutions are shaped by the specifics of history, social, culture, nature of production and exchange, orientation, special balancing and the character of the government and the ruling elites.
Obasanjo said that as governing is completely open, the governing and ruling elites not anchored in production would not have the urge to invest in research and development, science and technology and good governance.
According to him, citizens that live in a democracy share common perspectives, the petitions and commitments in the basic terms of democratic practice, and they may turn out to be beneficiaries or victims depending on the cause of the process and practice of democracy.
He said that if after six decades of political independence the country’s leaders are not showing clear capacities to provide a transformative leadership that unites Nigerians but one that contains ethnic, religious, regional, selfish and class proclivities then there is a problem.
He urged Nigerians to be ready to move from democracy to democratisation, saying that this would determine how far politicians and elites were willing to go to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and democratic parties.
He said that Nigerians would begin the conversation of a new national content once they begin to give account, and stress transparency and accountability.
He also urged Nigerians to generate courage and commitment to change the course of events or be ready to head into more trouble.
Similarly, Gov. Wike said that government must derive its authority from the will of the people.
According to Wike, no form of government is better to deliver governance than democracy.
Wike also alleged that none of Nigeria’s elections had been conducted free and fair without violence, insecurity and militarization in the past decades.
He noted that in several instances rigging had scuttled free and fair elections and democracy in Nigeria, adding that “safeguarding and deepening of our democracy is everybody’s business.”
Earlier, Dr Kayode Fayemi, former Governor of Ekiti State, who was also the Chairman of the occasion, said that more work needed to be done to sustain the country’s democracy.
Fayemi, who was also Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum, said that Nigerians were yearning for good governance, adding that the conference’s theme would address issues that would enhance sustainability of democracy in Nigeria.
He said that there would be a lot of lessons to learn from the successes and mistakes of past leaders in the country to have a better democratic governance.