Veteran Journalist and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, has said that we do not have a democracy yet in Nigeria.

The Veteran said this while speaking on the 2024 June 12 celebration of 25 years of unbroken democracy since 1999 in Nigeria.

“I think we have only celebrated 25 years of civilian rule. I don’t believe we have democracy in Nigeria yet. We might be on the march to it but we are not there yet. There are pillars accepted worldwide as fundamental to the concept of democracy.”

“Not only that you must have good governance, that is executive that is transparent and that is answerable. Do we have that yet? Second one is that you must have a credible opposition. What we call an alternative government in waiting. Do we have that? Do we have alternative viewpoints, brick and bats, boldly and carefully and clearly articulated by alternative parties in waiting? We don’t in 25 years, we have not had a strong opposition. What we have had are parties that are just vote gatherers.”

“When we formed the PDP in 1999, it had no ideology beyond that there will be power shift, and that it will be rotational and that we don’t want the military again. Is that ideology? When they formed the APC, it was just to make sure that they can unseat Goodluck Jonathan. That was all, there was nothing economically or ideological. The third is that you have a legislature that is independent and counterbalancing. We are to have three arms of government, and in Nigerian definition of democracy the three of them are to be independent and to be counterbalancing. Is Nigerian legislature counterbalancing? Even under Olusegun Obasanjo, the succession of senate presidents, the succession of the House of Reps under Jonathan and under Muhammadu Buhari, can we say that we have reached the level at which our legislature can dare the executive? No.”

“Then you talk of the judiciary, do we have a fearless judiciary? Do we have the caliber of Charles Warren of the American Judiciary in Nigeria or Lord Denin of the UK? Do we have justices of the caliber of L. Onyeama or Kayode Eso in the majority? No! we have a judiciary that is creating problem like we have in Kano, judiciary that will go out of their jurisdiction to pass judgement? So, we don’t have judiciary that is okay. Rule of law, do we obey rule of law? Do we obey judgements? They obey judgements they have packaged through judges of their own otherwise they ignore it.”

“Perhaps the only area Nigeria has excelled is the press. We have a vibrant press that fought for us to get independence. Without the press, those who masquerade as fighters of democracy would have paled into insignificance. It was the press that fought the battle that removed the military.”

“So we don’t have a democracy yet.”

Also speaking on the lopsidedness in Nigeria’s structures, Dr. Farounbi revealed that he is happy that the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio prevented cows from becoming the citizens of Nigeria.

“Two things are happening: Those who are benefitting from the centralised unitary system do not want to give up their benefits. And those who are handicapped by this centralised, unified federalism have been pushed to the minority by the provisions of the constitution. They are therefore unable to get a say. But I always tell people, we need peace to be able to have prosperity. We need peace to be able to have progress, but for you to have peace there must be justice, equity and equality.”

“Even the West Indian singer, Peter Tosh said that. So, if we are to give justice to all Nigerians; if we are to treat each Nigerian as an individual that is equal to other Nigerians, if we are not to begin to look at landscape, areas, kilometres or meters, at the unit of the federation – and I’m happy that the Senate President prevented even cows from becoming citizens of Nigeria – it will only ensure that Nigerians are treated justly, fairly and equitably. And we are going to have peace; we are going to have rapid development and prosperity. But those who are benefitting must know that they will not benefit forever because those who are handicapped will not keep quiet forever, and so long as they keep on agitating to have equal benefit with those who are today advantaged by the military-imposed constitution, there would be imbalance and there will be clamour for nation-state, there will be clamour for IPOB, there will be clamour for Islamic State of West Africa, there would be clamour for Islamic State of Greater Sahara etc. All these clamours are products of lack of justice and equity.”

“That is why those who know a little about Marxism know that equitable distribution, justice and justifiable distribution are foundational to progress because once you do not treat all of us as equals, then I begin to talk of ethnicity. I begin to talk of ‘we share the same religion’; ‘we share the same language’, ‘we went to the same school’ – I begin to look for ways to get what I should get because the constitution has not treated all of us equally and rightly.”

“If we all love Nigeria, then we have to realise that what we call a consensus is that, those who are advantaged today will concede. Those who are disadvantaged will also concede. Then we meet at a mutual point that will be of benefit to all of us, and you will find that there will be no grumbling and there will be no rat race to become president or governor. When you get a stable system that is based on justice and equity, you will find that the country can almost run without government – almost on autopilot. But when what you get depends on who is the president, or depends on what language he speaks or what religion he practices or what economic class he belongs, then those who don’t share that with him become handicapped. It is this concept of entitlement – I am entitled because I come from a ‘born-to-rule’ state because I have so much money or I belong to a favoured class or religion – once you have that kind of concept of entitlement that leads a feeling of settlement; when I get entitled then you begin to settle me. When you have entitlement and settlement in place in democracy, then you are not on the way to true democracy nor are you on the way to true federalism.”