Democracy day in Nigeria
Democracy as a political concept in the management and regulation of exercise of power and
authority within the framework of a polity is readily traced to the Greek city-state of Athens. The
concept is a derivative from two words; demos meaning the people/citizens and kratus meaning
rule. It simply means rule by the people as against rule by an oligarchy or aristocracy. It remains
the greatest legacy of the Greeks and Romans to the modern world.
In the contemporary world, democracy has its root in the 1215 Charter ‘the Magna Carter’ in
England. This was the Charter that subordinated the English monarch to the English Parliament
and the rule of law. At its declaration of independence, the USA penned down in her constitution
the framework of what is today referred to as republican democracy; a system that has no room
for aristocrats and kings but which is not oblivious of the fact that unchecked rule by the
majority could become mob rule and devoid of the wisdom and proper safeguards required for
the stability and efficiency of governments. The American republican democracy is therefore a
model that seeks the rule of citizens with the manifest capacity to form the government of their
country and govern through their representatives. It is government by the rule of law, separation
of powers, and decentralization of economic and political authority as well as pluralism;
contestations and tolerance.
It is therefore clearly discernable that the fundamental threshold of any democracy is that the
sovereign authority of State power rest with the citizens. In exercising this sovereignty, the
citizens elect some of its members and give them consent to create and maintain institutions for
the sustenance of law and order as well as manage certain material resources for the benefit of
the citizens. This is also called the social contract.
Democracy is therefore only possible where there is a community; micro or macro in which the
people share common interests and consensus towards an egalitarian life. It must be a
community of mutual interdependence not that of groups of co-existing parties with
contradicting and irreconcilable aspirations. It must be a polity in which the people have the
capacity to make and unmake government through free, fair and credible periodic elections. The
government must not just dominate the citizens, but accept structural differentiation and cultural
secularization such that there must be functional autonomous existence of other groups in
decentralization of political and economic powers as well in religious and cultural life.
It is in the light of the above that we must ask ourselves whether Nigeria in the first place could
be called a democratic nation as to make a day set outside as Democracy Day relevant to her
To us; June 20 not June 12, 1993 will forever remain a significant day in the history of Nigeria.
Yes; the ill-fated Presidential Election took place on June 12 but the annulment of its result was
on June 20. This day the annulment was announced has the same significance with January 16,
1966 and July 29, 1966 these three days in the political history of Nigeria are of greater
importance than January 1, 1914 and October 1, 1960.
While January 1, 1914 and October 1, 1960 represent the fallacy called Nigeria, January 16,
1966, July 29, 1966 and June 20, 1993 represent its reality. This reality is the demonstrated fact
on the three occasions that Nigeria is at best a group of micro nations co-existing in mutual
suspicion, and that its military apparatus is not in the service of the nation. These historical
events are nothing but eloquent testimonies that Nigeria is grossly lacking in the first cardinal
pillar of a democratic nation. A nation in which the military could be partisan in politics, be used
to prosecute a sectional mission within the country, willfully subvert the will of the people
cannot refer to itself as a democracy.
We pride ourselves with the cross ethnic and cross religious nature of the result of that June 12,
1993 Presidential Election, but what can we say about the response that greeted its annulment.
Did the agitations reflect the fact that what was being trepanned upon is a consensus of the
Nigerian people? If Nigerians across the country poured out to the streets as witnessed in the
South West of the country, would the annulment have been sustained? Can democracy thrive
without the common will of the citizens to act together? After the will of God, the next most
potent power on earth is the power of a people acting in a common resolve and towards a
Furthermore; looking at the structural aberrations and the deep rooted contradictions of our
country, and judging by how the country is being administered, there can be no contradicting the
fact that the country as constituted and managed can neither be stable nor democratic.