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As Nigeria is still in the mood of the celebration of 21 years of Democracy, PTL News seeks audience with some notable men of God, among which was Rev. Gideon Oyedepo, of Cherubim amd Seraphim Church, Bible Ministries, Ijesatedo, Lagos. He bares his mind about what he sees as landmark of democracy in Nigeria and Nigeria’s problems with democracy.

Sir, in the 21 Years of Democracy in Nigeria, do we have any cause for celebration?

I will not say we don’t have anything to celebrate. There have been a lot of differences, it might not have gone the way we expected but Nigeria has not remained the same since 21 years ago.

What can we identify as the positive and negative sides of the experience?

For instance, we can say we enjoy protection of human rights unlike the time of the military when we could not ask questions on many things that had to do with governance. Now, there are governments and there are opposition parties, and governments are being changed across parties and Nigeria has been moving forward.

Two, I will also say that there have been open access for everyone to become something in life, provided, the people are willing. For example some people have emerged as politicians almost from nowhere, they have become notable people and they have been growing in their ranks. They have also been making their impacts in a way.

Also the will of the people has been relevant. Even though elections are rigged, it has been due to the cooperation the rigging teams get from majority of the people as represented by those who exercise their electoral right. Yet, our nation is also better respected among the comity of nations.

In governance, there are checks and balances. Although few members of the executive still disobey the courts, it’s obvious we are learning how to share power. This shows that we are gradually becoming mentally equipped for the future.

We can also talk of greater economic activities. The economic environment has been a better one except for security breaches. But the problem is that Nigeria is underpoliced.

There has also been sharing of national benefits. Because of democracy and fear of the electorate, schools are built nationwide by the Federal government, universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, and other establishments. Call it dividends of democracy. So, I would say, Democracy has been beneficial to us as a people.

What about the people?

We can also appreciate active citizenry.  A healthy democracy requires awareness with active citizenry that do not see their duties ending at the ballot box. Even if a nation only has nominal democratic institutions, astute democratic forces make full use of the constitution and the law to keep the state on its toes.They wouldn’t be easily labeled as involved in “illegal activities like holding placards.” That is why Nigerians are free to comment about just anything on the internet.

Are our political leaders meeting up to our expectations?

About most of Nigerian political elites, many of them are not well informed and are not prepared for true leadership. Remember, majority of them were hungry before they took power. So, their goals are different from those of the citizens.

The citizens may claim to have been disappointed by political leaders but it would remain so until the people decide to elect only those whose minds are trained and properly guided to work for the masses.

With 21 years down the line, what is our hope as a democratic country?

Do we have hope? I believe Nigeria has a great hope concerning its democratic practices especially if genuine, authentic, fearless and selfless persons are elected into the legislative chambers.

There is more hope for sustainable improvement in governance and society as a whole. The various stakeholders in the society must be taken along while formulating a policy regarding their domain, so the results can be more sustainable than the usual top-down approach.This will lead to better approaches towards governance such as inclusion of diverse factions, dialogue, negotiations, compromises, concessions, consensus etc. As the ability of various sections of society to negotiate and cooperate increases, so do the chances of decrease in class warfare, ethnic rivalry, religious hatred, etc. Bureaucracies will no longer slow us down and the military would never dream to usurp power.

What can you see as the problem of our democracy and the solution?

Presently, our politicians have cancer of greed and covetousness, and it is metamorphosing speedily. If that cancer is not cured, our nation will never, and can not recover. At this moment therefore, we can say our democracy is a cancerous one.

There is no amount of government regulations that can cure this corruption, greed, sloth, deception and perversion that is daily baked by the way we practise our  democracy. The electorate should ensure that men who never managed their own lives well are not saddled with managing the lives of all of us.

What about our youth? What can we expect of them in the democratic journey?

First thing to look at is this, are the young minds preparing to take over? Very few of the young people have access to quality political education. The older generation does not want to train successors. They will prefer to use manipulative method over majority that could not get enlightened.

So, it’s a bit difficult to say. When the youths are indeed ready, the masses, the villagers, rural people and others will sit up. The Nigerian youths are very great. Many are lazy but most of them really want to work. We can not generalize on the issue of whether they are trust worthy or not until they are tested. I think Nigerians should give the youths the chance to demonstrate their love for the country.

In the light of the above how will you like to rate President Buhari as the country’s Commander-in-Chief?

Rating Buhari, against what are we going to rate him? Only Obasanjo and Yar’Adua have done reasonable governance in our democracy. Jonathan and Buhari are in the same class. The problems Jonathan left got aggravated under Buhari. Personally I believe the last two governments are puppets living under internal fear that blinded them from the ability for real performance.

What about his team?

He doesn’t have a team. He presides over the most incoherent, indisciplined, and divided government I have ever known in Africa. Funny enough; I was one of those who supported him then. Imagine different government officials attacking each other and saying different things for government only to have some policies reversed after shameful drama. This government has no team. Maybe from the words of the wife of the President, we can say they have a cabal.

Is he doing enough to hold Nigeria together as one?

I don’t think this government is doing enough to unite Nigeria. From the appointments made into Nigeria’s security apparatuses, and other establishments, a group is favoured to the detriment of others.

What kind of a President will you like to see succeeding Buhari?

Whoever wants to succeed Buhari must be someone who has good understanding of the benefits of true federalism. He must work to restructure Nigeria for effective growth. He must convince Nigerians that every group will benefit from a restructured Nigeria.

How will you like to pray for Nigeria?

My prayers for Nigerians and Nigeria will go the following way. I will pray that Nigeria should be delivered from the spirit of slavery at home and outside home. I will pray for national healing from cancer of covetousness and political apathy.

What do you mean by spirit of slavery?

It is deeply spiritual. Nigeria was coined from NiggaArea, meaning “domain of slaves”. It is a British/American slang of old.

That is why the North tries to enslave South, Fulani minority enslaves the rest, Muslims like to enslave the Christians, politicians are enslaving the citizens. As our name is, so we are. It is not yet Uhuru in Nigeria. My third prayer point for Nigeria is that righteousness will prevail.

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Julius Adegunna, a writer, and publisher of good news and reports. He is also a trainer in Writing and Publishing, a Media Consultant and an Entrepreneur. A 1987 Graduate of International Relations of the University of Ife, (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) with Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations, and Master in Communication Studies of Lagos State University. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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