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Nigeria bleeding, without true democracy since 1999 –Ozekhome



•Utomi says division along  ethnic, religious lines portends danger

By Gabriel Dike

Despite running a democratic government since 1999,  human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, yesterday, said Nigeria was not practising true democracy as elections do not reflect wishes of the electorate.

Ozekhome, who spoke at the 22nd edition of the annual Bishop Mike Okonkwo Lecture in Lagos, also said Nigeria was bleeding and required urgent action from the ruled and rulers to address the situation.

This is as  former presidential aspirant and Professor of Political Economy, Pat Utomi, warned that the country had become more divided than before, warning that the situation portends grave danger.

Ozekhome, who spoke on “Nigerianisation of Nigeria: A Look Inward” claimed that the nation’s political governance began to be thwarted since1966. He said there had been several military takeover until 1999, when the fourth republic came into being following the emergence of General Olusegun Obasenjo as civilian president.

His words: “This is 24 years of uninterrupted democracy. However, issues of national concern still abound that place the stability of the nation under conscious threats.”

He said no nation would develop or grow without putting forward its first 11 but “in Nigeria, we put forward our worst 11 players.”

Ozekhome explained that national/state political actors have captured Nigeria and they decide what happens in the country without reference to the populace.

“Nigeria is a nation still seeking nationhood at 63. Can we really say we are experiencing democracy? Nigeria is a country where cows are more cherished than human beings. It is even a country where vehicle owners wait for cows to cross the road.

“We practice electionocracy, a process in which people select their leaders. Nigeria is a country without democratic dividend for the people. Nigerians have not reaped the dividends of democracy. We do not elect our leaders but select them.

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“We saw it yesterday (Wednesday) at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. It is called judocracy, it is a process in which people vote but their votes do not count. We don’t practice democracy in this county. We have people that have stolen mandates governing us. We have rulers in the country and not leaders.”

To achieve Nigerianisation, Ozekhome recommended a home grown Constitution made by the people rather than an imposed one.

“We need a Constitution with Nigerians’ input. We need to do away with the 1999 Constitution and come up with a new one produced by the people.”

The legal luminary said if the country must move forward, “we need to remove ethnicity and religion. We need a credible election process to elect new leaders.”

Chairman of the annual occasion, Prof. Utomi, said “Nigeria has never been divided like this before and the political class do not care.”

He added that in other countries, leaders build strong institutions to promote and protect democracy while in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.

“Nigeria has managed to become a criminal enterprise. Nigeria is moving but not heading anywhere,” he observed.

In his remarks, Bishop Mike Okonkwo said some politicians have badstardised the country and many of them were only interested in themselves.

He warned that the country was leaning towards ethnicity and religious intolerance and urged Nigerians not to follow the crowd.

The foremost cleric, who turned 78, thanked God for the annual lecture, which focuses on national issues.

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