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Quest For Enduring Democracy in Nigeria



Quest For Enduring Democracy in Nigeria
By Ehidiamen Isibor

The term “Democracy” is derived from two Greek words “demo” (people) and “kratos” (rule). Meaning, democracy is a form of Government where everybody has the right to take up representative role in positions of authority in a society.

This form of government is preferable globally because of the advantages that are inherent in it which includes: decent standard of living, housing, healthcare, education, equality of persons, freedom of expression and other fundamental rights associated with the concept.

The beginning of democracy in Nigeria can be traced to the early years of independent Nigeria, particularly, the first republic.

Even though Nigeria acquired Republican status in 1963, the first republic in Nigeria began on the 1st of October, 1960 and came to an end on the 15th of January, 1966. Before the commencement of the first republic, structures had been put in place in the course of the late 1950s which ensured that Nigeria adopted the “Westminster” model of parliamentary democracy. Elections were held in December 1959 which ushered in the first republic in which the NPC and NCNC formed a coalition which led to the emergence of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as governor general and later on, as President. From the second year of Nigeria’s independence, there was massive instability and unrest that lasted till the 13th of January 1966 when a military coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu toppled and overthrew the democratically elected government and thus, ending the first republic of Nigeria.

Nigeria was sitting on thin ice, characterized by religious divisions and polarized by governing coalitions that drew their power either from the Christian south of the Muslim north; it was a matter of time that a civil war ripped the country apart from 1967 until 1970. Then, in the ensuing years, civil war turned into failed government after failed government. A few privileged took advantage of the situation, Nigeria was country rich for exploit, with oil profits to pad many pockets. However, such corruption fueled many coups and led to even more unrest. As a result, Nigeria was far from democratic for the first four decades of its existence. Not many thought that the vicious cycle could ever end until October 1979 when Democracy was, once again, restored, thus, announcing the second republic.

The general elections held in August 1979 were won by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) consequent upon which Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the president. Soon enough, corruption allegations were in constant increase against the government and thus producing tension and unrest in the country until finally the democratically elected government was again overthrown by a military coup which ensured that Major General Muhammadu Buhari became the military leader in on the 31st of December, 1983.

The third republic which was fraught with some bit of drama, was aborted prematurely. The elections which held on the 12th of June, 1993 was won by Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, known as MKO Abiola. However, Democracy was not allowed to have its way as Ibrahim Babangida, the then incumbent military leader annulled the elections, hence aborting the Third Republic.

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Democracy took a completely different turn in Nigeria from 1999 till date. After the death of the military dictator, General Sani Abacha in 1998, General Abdusalami Abubakar who took over governance from him is known to have worked out Nigeria’s return to Democracy or Democratic rule. The election that was conducted in April 1999 ensured that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won as a result of which former military leader, Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May 1999. Obasanjo also won the April 13th, 2003 elections and ruled for another term as provided by the constitution. In the 21st, April 2007 elections, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the People’s Democratic Party was elected and sworn in. However, things took a little bit of a different turn when Yar’Adua died on the 5th of May 2010 and Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in, in his place. Jonathan completed Yar’Adua’s term and also won the 16th of April 2011 elections with 22,495187 votes. Powers, however, changed hands in Nigeria’s Democratic rule in the 28, March 2015 elections which when the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the elections and thus, former military leader, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in.

In the annals of democratic evolution in Nigeria, June 12 has been a recurring decimal in the debate on how best to remember the struggle which led to the return of democracy on May 29, 1999 and the roles played by the democracy icons and activists, the most prominent being the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO)

June 12 1993 is believed to be a watershed in Nigeria’s history. Some leaders, which came to power after the botched June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, popularly known as MKO, had tried to wish away that date, but the date has survived political suppression over the years. The June 12 presidential poll was adjudged the freest and the fairest in the history of elections in the country.

However, 25 years later, precisely June 8, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari took a bold step by proposing to recognise June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day as against the May 29 date that had been celebrated since 1999.

Following Buhari’s pronouncement, the Senate, on May 16, 2019, passed the Public Holiday Act Amendment Bill to recognise June 12 as the new Democracy Day. This enactment is symbolic and instructive.

The June 12 struggle started in 1993 immediately after the presidential poll won by MKO was annulled by the Gen Ibrahim Babangida-led military junta. The annulment of the election immediately precipitated political crisis, which was driven by mass protests organised and coordinated by the pro-democracy activists whose goals were to end military dictatorship and to ensure a thorough democratisation of the polity and all aspects of the national life.

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MKO Abiola, who was the flag bearer for Social Democratic Party, had defeated Bashir Tofar, who was the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention, to the chagrin of some vested interest in and out of government. The result of the election was annulled by the military junta and the battle to actualise the mandate kicked off but not without its attendant human carnage and wanton destruction of property.

Tried as they could, democrats and political activists, who led mass revolt struggles to reverse the annulment during the brief Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan between August and November 1993, did not succeed. The late dictator, Gen Sani Abacha, who eased out Shonekan and inherited the June 12 campaign sustained the junta’s resolve not to reverse the annulment.

The Abacha five-year junta, was the high point of the struggle as some activists, including the symbol of the June 12 struggle, MKO Abiola, ended up being imprisoned , while others were either assassinated or forced to go on exile through what was then known as the ‘NADECO Route’.

Abacha’s regime ended abruptly in 1998 due to the dictator’s controversial and sudden death which paved the way for AbdulSalam Abubakar who handed over power to Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.

After 20 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, Muhammadu Buhari takes oath of office for a second four-year term as president of Nigeria following his victory as flag bearer of the All Peoples Congress (APC) over Atiku Abubarka of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the February, 23rd 2919 presidential election. 

However, beyond the celebration, we need to reflect on some factors bedeviling the evolution of true and enduring democracy in Nigeria. Some of these factors include but not limited to high level of corruption, poverty, decay infrastructure, unemployment, insecurity and other irregularities.


Elections allow the participation of citizens to choose among contestants in various political parties for political offices. Nigeria elections are conducted by the Electoral Commission that lacks institutional and administrative autonomy as fund is being released by the Federal Government. This led to the power Ibrahim Babangida had to annul June 12 presidential election in 1993. However, since 1999, the Independent National Electoral Commission cannot be said to be independent due to weak institutionalisation, and political interference.

Since 1999, INEC is composed by/with the Federal Government appointment. This makes manipulation very easy by the Presidency and makes their removal possible base on flimsy excuses which was what happened to Humphrey Nwosu in 1993 following the Babangida’s decision to annul June 12 election but was contrary to the commission’s position.  This makes the capability of the electoral body so constrain. Since the Federal Government appoints those persons at their will, it further makes the commission filled with people without professional competence to lead the body. Maurice Iwu, the former Chairman of INEC who was removed by Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in April 2010 after irregularities in 2007 election had no professional experience in electoral management.

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Also, most ad hoc staff use by INEC yearly are often trained a day about what conducting election entails and after failed electoral processes, the body blames the temporary workers instead of accepting their irregularities. Over the years, INEC has failed to organise an election that every Nigerians will applaud its credibility. The INEC has been able to hold five consecutive elections without military intervention in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The results of 1999 presidential election which brought Olusegun Obasanjo over Olu Falae where the former had 62.78% over the later who had 37.22% were challenged and even local and international observers including the Transition Monitoring Group, the International Republican Institute and the EU attested to the incredibility. Notwithstanding, Abubakar handed over to Obasanjo.


Since 1998/1999, there had been men who always want to have their personal interests met through briefcases and they disappear from their constituents and constituency after elections. True, democracy has been buried in the last 20 years of democratic governance as there was/is no difference between the PDP, APC and every other political parties. The players of the game prioritise their survival and aim of remaining relevant when things are not going fine. A typical example is Olusegun Obasanjo; an emergency activist whose recent love is open letters to government in power. Meanwhile, the statesman had forgotten that he had all he could to perfect change as a military ruler and again, as a civilian president. Despite, countless number of political parties in the country, only two or three of the parties are dominating the political atmosphere. In fact, with several parties merging together every year and it is becoming clearer to the people that Nigeria is heading towards a two-party system; the rulling party and a strong opposition.


The level of insurgence in Nigeria over the years is disheartening despite the huge budgetary amount on security yearly. Nigeria has become a country with kidnapping and terrorism as norms. While the militants continue to burst oil pipes and kidnap in the south east, the Boko Haram have become owners of various territory in the northern part and the herdsmen continue to butcher farmers in every part of the nation. While parents of Chibok Girls are still mourning, Dapchi Girls menace follows.  All these have become disaster and pose major difficulties to democratic governance.


Since 1999, hardly we find the government implementing the recommendations of probe panel. It is puzzling that public funds be spent on probe panel whose recommendations will not be put into implementation.  Even with all conditions for enduring democracy are met if the government of the day lacks the much needed political muscle to muzzle evil and bad political practices militating against good governance and democracy, the country will continue to falter and perpetuate in democracy remedial as a relapsing giant. This is not my prayer for Nigeria. 


Nigeria and the Next National Assembly




By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa

Come June 13, 2023 or thereabout, the leadership of the National Assembly will be up for a change, the present set having been elected on June 11, 2019, with Ahmed Lawan (APC) and Femi Gbajabiamila (APC) in charge as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

They were anointed to take over the leadership of the National Assembly in 2015 following the victory of their political party at the general elections, but that was not to be, as certain influential members of the APC lobbied the opposition lawmakers to upset the applecart, thus throwing forward Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as leaders instead.

The lobbying in the present dispensation has been very intense, with all manner of permutations and calculations, from zoning to merit, being bandied to canvass support for certain interests. Some have posited that zoning, faith and gender should play major roles in the recruitment process, given the composition of the leadership of the major political parties.

Deliberately and without mincing words, the framers of the Constitution established the Legislature as the First Arm of government, because law is needed to define all other aspects of human existence.

It is thus expected that through its additional powers of approval and oversight functions, the legislature will work to curb the excesses of the executive arm of government, especially in situations where retired politicians have hijacked the democratic process, having in their prime tasted power and are not unwilling to hand over to others. These factors have shot the legislature into national focus, especially the leadership.

The National Assembly is a bicameral legislature consisting of 109 members of the Senate and 360 members of the House of Representatives, modelled after the federal Congress of the United States and meant to guarantee equal representation. In the current 9th National Assembly, the APC has 66 seats in the Senate, PDP 38, NNPP 1 and YPP 1 whilst in the House of Representatives, the APC has 227 seats, PDP 121, APGA 4, NNPP 3, ADC 1 and PRP 1.

Three seats are vacant in the Senate while one seat is vacant in the House of Representatives. In the 10th National Assembly that will be inaugurated in June, APC has 59 senators, PDP 36, LP 8, SDP 2 NNPP 2, APGA 1 and YPP 1. In this composition, the ruling party has 59 senators whilst the opposition parties altogether have 50, which gives renewed strength for diversity. In the House of Representatives, the APC has 162 seats, PDP 102, LP 34, NNPP 18, APGA 4, ADC 2, SDP 2 and YPP 1.

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What this has shown is that it is not possible for the ruling party to foist any candidate upon the National Assembly, even though the same scenario played out in the 9th Assembly with the opposition parties unable to pull their weight when it mattered most.

Notwithstanding the seeming plurality of representation, the 9th National Assembly has not been able to assert itself as an autonomous institution, preferring rather to treasure political party affiliation over and above the national interest. In that dispensation, the executive arm of government was always certain of maximum support and approval of all proposals and requests, no matter how unpopular, injurious or backward. In the jurisdiction for which our legislative arm has been patterned, there is the robust system of separation of powers and the doctrine of checks and balances.

The three arms of government are expected to operate independently and complimentarily, not dependent upon or patronizing, in the manner that the 9th Assembly has carried on. No doubt it is good to have a responsible legislature for the purpose of harmonization and development but when it gets to the level where the executive is always right, then such level of dubious cooperation should worry all lovers of true democracy.

A legislature that cannot supervise and check the excesses of the executive is not worth its name at all. Truth is, such an assembly of persons cannot claim to represent anyone, when the chips are down. They represent only themselves, only their interests and their stomachs. However, the 9th Asssembly was able to conclude the process of the amendment of the Constitution and it also gave us the new Electoral Act, with all its booby traps.

Owing largely to the independent mode of its leadership recruitment, the 8th National Assembly under Saraki and Dogara turned out to be one of the best ever, at least in taming the monstrous executive arm. You can imagine what would have happened under Saraki should the Central Bank of Nigeria dream of the calamitous project of Naira redesign or the needless loans that the federal government has embarked upon in its dying days.

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It was not business as usual in the National Assembly under Saraki and Dogara, as the legislators asserted their powers to the fullest and held the executive down to follow due process, at all times. As an appointee of the President, you would have to prepare very well for your screening, and ministries and other government agencies had to sit up to defend their budgets and actions.

They were very daring, courageous and they took steps to protect the people from an overbearing executive. It was little wonder then that the ruling party did all its best to ensure that most members of that collective did not return to the 9th National Assembly. But Nigeria has paid dearly for that selfish agenda as the 9th National Assembly operated more like a weeping institution, a clearing house and a reporting Chamber, where elected representatives of the people stoop to beg directors of parastatals to attend public hearings, at times issuing empty threats without any follow-up action and granting virtually all the requests of the executive. Having succeeded in installing its cronies in positions of authority at the National Assembly, the executive has since then embarked upon mindless borrowings, putting our nation at the mercy of shylock imperialists, who whimsically drafted contracts that threaten even our cherished sovereignty, at times in their own language. Yes, it is a National Assembly that prides itself in ‘reporting’ errant serving ministers and heads of parastatals who defy its summons, to the President.

As elected representatives of the people, the National Assembly is expected to assert the will of the people by invoking the relevant provisions of the constitution in the discharge of their statutory responsibilities of law making, supervising the executive arm and also to prevent waste and corruption.

Lawmakers who scramble for constituency projects cannot be in the best position to make laws that will impact the people positively. So much has been invested in the National Assembly in order to guarantee optimum performance and so the leadership of such a crucial organ should not be a matter of political patronage or reward for perceived electoral support.

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We cannot afford the misfortune of parading elected representatives who are whipped along the lines of executive preferences, all the time. There has to be a balance of power and of forces, for our nation to ever dream of attaining the expected growth that our leaders have touted so often.

In choosing the leadership of the 10th National Assembly therefore, the most important criteria should be competence, which can also include experience, qualification and indeed reputation.

As the saying goes, the fish gets rotten from the head, so the kind of leaders to be entrusted with the management of the National Assembly is key to our national development. Of course we need to be sensitive to issues of gender parity, faith and indeed zoning, all of which could be accommodated in the primary consideration of merit as indeed it is possible for the right candidate to possess all these features all at once. Although the tradition is for the ranking members-elect of the political party with the highest number to produce the leadership of the National Assembly, it does not have to be along party lines, given that the laws governing the choice of leadership is internal to the legislature.

For instance, the opposition parties, either in the name of “the Greater Majority” or any other forum, can swing the tide if they remain united. In this regard, legislators should be allowed to vote according to their convictions, not vote buying.

The news filtering that certain candidates for the leadership are campaigning with dollars to garner support should be a disqualifying factor, if at all it is true. Security agencies should beam their searchlight on the members-elect to monitor their activities, especially their finances.

We cannot afford to reduce the next leadership of the National Assembly to commercial ventures to be sold to the highest bidders, as once corruption has been laid upon the foundation of that hallowed institution, then we can all predict what would happen in the next four years.

Members-elect are thus enjoined to discountenance the APC contraption of leadership by zoning. I vote for an independent, vibrant and active National Assembly.

Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos

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Commencement Speech AUN 2023




I am highly honoured by the opportunity to deliver the 2023 commencement address of this highly respected University. Many thanks to the Founder and former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E Atiku Abubakar, for the wisdom of establishing this university and making it a beacon of hope for the minds willing and able to explore the unknown.

I thank him for his vision in setting up a university of this excellence and also in the decision to focus the University on development issues.
His support for education in Nigeria is legendary.  In addition to this University, I am also aware of the AUN Academy as well as his advocacy work for improvements in the education sector overall.

Special appreciation to Senator Ben Obi, members of the Board of Trustees and members of the Governing Council for this privilege and for finding me deserving of the very high honor of the award of an honorary degree of Doctor of Human Letters of this Prestigious University.  

To you, the graduands, whom we are all gathered here to celebrate, I say “Congratulations”! I am sure your years at this great University have severely tested your talents, perseverance and your commitment to hard work. You sit in this hall today, hooded, because you all passed the tests. Now that it is all over and you step into a new beginning, I am sure some of you will do so with trepidation, unsure of what the future holds. That is understandable because as you look into the horizon, you see thickening clouds of uncertainty and few rays of hope. Wars, hunger, violence, terrorism, climate change, poverty and overall economic malaise define your daily encounter with the news and present a most daunting environment for any young graduand. As difficult as it may sound, I want you to know that the situation is not unique to you. I want you to know that like the legendary Egyptian bird, Phoenix, that got burnt and rose from its ashes, you too can emerge as a star out of the violent cacophony of today’s turbulent world.  

As you ponder your future, I will like you to listen to my own story. Forty years ago, back in 1983, I was like you, a young graduate full of life, ideas and aspirations. I also graduated into a Nigeria that was going through its worst economic crisis in decades. The economy was in a very bad shape. A crash in oil prices exposed macroeconomic management weaknesses, which tipped the economy into recession; the economy contracted by more than 10%; there was massive unemployment, inflation soared as import licensing and, price controls led to unprecedented scarcity of basic supplies. Citizens queued for hours to buy simple cooking oil, for instance. The environment was most daunting for a young man fresh out of school, with big ideas about how to contribute to society.  

In the midst of the challenges, I saw an opportunity and invested my time and energy in it. I chose not to be controlled by development I had no control over. I charted my own course in the midst of the turbulence. And today, I stand before you, 40 years later as President of African Export-Import Bank, a bank that has become a critical piece of Africa’s financial architecture. So, dear graduands, I want to assure you that you can be all you want to be; you are the author of your destiny, dream big dreams and allow your aspirations to roam. You will soon find that as you turn the corner of any adversity, an opportunity may beckon.  

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And the opportunity for you today may be found in the story of my life I just narrated. If you listened carefully, you would have noticed that, as it was forty years ago, so it is today. I am sure you will be wondering whether time stood still in Nigeria.  

Over-dependence on crude oil was at the root of the economic crisis in 1983; it is the same today. And therein lies the opportunity, the chance to contribute in building an economy that is diversified, resilient and dynamic so that in 40 years’ time we will have a transformed, more modern society. 

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement and Digital technology have provided platforms that are helping to unleash the power and creativity of our youth, even in the midst of difficulties. A quiet revolution that will redefine our future is in the offing. 

So, graduands, you have your destiny in your hands; your future is yours to shape. American Philosopher, Eric Hoffer, once wrote that those with skills to move mountains do not need the faith that moves mountains. Your training in this university has prepared you for the future. There is no “mountain” you cannot move; there is no challenge you cannot overcome. 

Today, we must celebrate not just the end of your most recent academic journey, but the beginning of a life-long commitment to making a difference. The core of my message today is focused on the latter. Making a difference means more when you are from a continent where young and able people believe that they have no better option but to attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of greener pastures, despite the high probability of death. It means more when you are from a continent that is home to more than 60% of the world’s arable land but can’t feed itself. It means more when we are home to much of the world’s remaining mineral resources but account for only 3% of global trade and 3% of Global GDP. It means more when you are from a continent that accounts for 17% of the world’s population and 66% of all young people globally yet contributes almost 40% of the global poor. Making a difference means abandoning all those evils that hold us back as a people. You must say no to tribalism, religious bigotry and extremism, greed and selfishness. You must always strive to rise above the self and protect the collective interest because in an interconnected world, you will prosper when the group prospers.   

You have all acquired an important asset, namely education. However, I would like you to see education from perspective offered by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats who noted that “Education is not about filling a bucket but lighting a fire”. I hope that your time over the last few years at AUN has lit a fire in you, a fire to go and change the world, starting with Africa. I would also like to emphasize that education is not a finite destination, rather it is a lifelong pursuit.  

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While hard work and education are critical, they are not enough. I can’t think of anything more important than love for country and continent. It is through the love for country and continent that we develop the deep passion that is required to drive change.  

I would also like to remind you that those who fought for the independence of African nations, did so as young people. As I said in another speech, Kwame Nkrumah and his contemporaries “invested their youth in that project. Instead of the luxury of serving the colonial masters, they chose deprivation that came with agitation for independence; instead of the safety that subservience would have assured them, they chose the danger that littered the path to political independence; instead of living for the present, many sacrificed their present for a better future for all Africans”.  

While they won the battle for political independence, which you and I enjoy today, we are deep into another struggle, the fight for economic independence. How would we fight this raging battle? The leaders of my generation have made efforts in this regard but have had limited success. It is You, the educated African youth in this arena and similar universities around the world, that can help us to eventually win the battle. And it is a battle we must engage in and win as it will define the future of the African. Otherwise, we will remain at the periphery of the global scheme of things. It is because of the new knowledge economy that Apple has a valuation today that is almost the size of Africa’s GDP. And as Artificial Intelligence and other technology gain ground, it is you, our youth that will ensure that this time, the country is not left behind and that we take control of our destiny and compete effectively globally. In this new world we are in, a new struggle is raging.  

As I had said in the past and repeat here in quote “A revolution is sweeping across the African continent without bloodshed or conflict. It is peaceful and will fundamentally alter our world, shatter old assumptions and reshape our lives. It is easy to underestimate as it is not accompanied by banners or fanfare. The revolutionaries are of a different breed. Instead of being trained in military camps, the freedom fighters for this new battle are being trained in technical schools and universities; instead of fighting in trenches, this battle will be fought in factory floors and tech incubation centres; instead of guns, the battle will be fought with ideas, hard work and investments. While bravery was required for the political struggle, courage is a necessity for the economic liberation struggle. Tech, and not armed guerrillas; ideas and not bullets will constitute the potent forces for victory in this new struggle. And as with the political struggle, Africa needs partners that can support it to prevail. The partnership we seek is one beyond aid and grant, but one founded on mutual respect and trust, win-win economic cooperation and pursuit of shared prosperity.” 

We will know we are winning when we produce as many tech Unicorns as other parts of the world. We will know we are winning when we have mechanisms for control of our intellectual property. There is still some way to go to arrive at the promised land but the journey has commenced.  

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To be clear, it is not all doom and gloom, there are some examples we can look at. Despite infrastructural challenges, the youth-led entertainment industry in Nigeria has achieved tremendous success over the last two decades. Nigerian movies have now become a staple on Netflix and Amazon Prime and watched across the globe. Nigerian artistes have become household names and now play in the topmost arenas and events around the world, including World Cup Finals, Champions League Finals amongst others. It is no longer rare to have Nigerian artistes nominated for most respected entertainment awards. The entertainment industry now contributes more than 5% to Nigeria’s GDP and is growing at a fast pace. 

Nigeria has also produced a few Unicorns, such as Flutterwave, Interswitch, Opay and Andela. And in the old economy sphere, the gigantic Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Plant was commissioned just a few days ago placing Nigeria in the global map of serious players in petrochemical and petroleum refining industries.  

Nigeria also has a significant pool of entrepreneurs and bankers who made the most of what Nigeria has to offer. As you graduate today, you must set your goals clearly and keep your eyes on the ball. The quality of education you received in this University has prepared you for the World. You will always aim for the best and never be content with substitutes. You must never allow yourself to be consumed by those negative attributes that divide us as a people because you can thrive without them and help us to build a better Nigeria.  

As I close, I will like to once again congratulate all graduands for making a huge success of their endeavors in this great university. Congrats are also in order for your parents and guardians for their support and commitment to your success. 

As you enter the world, I will like to inform you that Afreximbank, the Bank that I lead offers a comprehensive suite of products that can support you as you build your career. For those of you intent on pursuing higher degrees who will like to be considered for internship positions, the opportunities abound.  

Finally, I would like to convey my appreciation to the Founder, H.E Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as well as to Senator Ben Obi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, members of the Board of Trustees and Governing Council and the Interim President for the honour to address you today. I am in particular very grateful for the high honor of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Human Letters awarded me. I will cherish it throughout my life. And as this University has proven itself in the fields of development, we will explore other support and linkages we can develop, such as sabbatical opportunities, internships, research grants etc. We look forward to a deeper and broader partnership. 

Thank you for your kind attention. 

Speech delivered by B. O. Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors , Afreximbank  on the Occasion of the Fourteenth Graduation Ceremony of the American University of Nigeria and Receiving a Honorary Degree of Doctor Commencement Speech Delivered by Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of thr of Human Letters  on 27 May 2023 

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Imperatives of Good Governance in a Depressed Economy with Security Challenges




By Attahiru M. Jega, PhD

Keynote Address at the Inaugural Lecture, Organized in Honour of Rt. Hon. Umaru Bago Mohammed, the Governor-Elect, Niger State, May 25, 2023, at the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre, Minna, Niger State.

“Bad Governance is being increasingly regarded as one of the root causes of all evil within our societies” — UNESCAP 


Governance is defined by UNESCAP as “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.

Thus defined, governance is necessary for societal transformation, especially in the liberal democratic contexts of modern nation states, in which, theoretically and philosophically, the “state”, or narrowly “government”, led by elected representatives of the citizens, is assigned the key role of protecting lives and property, and advancing the welfare of citizens.

However, the nature and extent of societal transformation, positively or negatively, is conditional on whether a modern nation state is characterised by ‘good’ or ‘bad’ governance. 

Good governance is driven by elected representatives / public officials/ public office holders who are selfless, visionary, and who are responsible and responsive to the needs and aspirations of those who elected them; those whom they represent. Such officeholders operate within the constitutional and legal framework, lead by example, and ensure that policies are planned, designed and implemented for the benefit of all, without discrimination, inequality and inequity. They harness societal resources to efficiently and effectively address the fundamental needs and aspirations of all citizens. 

On the contrary, bad governance is occasioned by bad and reckless elected officeholders/ representatives; who are either in experienced and/or incompetent, but in any case self-serving and narrow-minded; who either personalise state treasury, or look the other way while others do so; and who pursue divisive and exclusionary policies, without regard to principles of equality of opportunity, equity, justice and the rule of law.

A nation, which has the misfortune of being bedevilled by bad governance, squanders its resources and opportunities for protecting and defending the human dignity and security of the overwhelming majority its citizens. Rather, such a nation only very narrowly, if at all, satisfies the idiosyncratic and greedy aspirations of a small clique of the ruling elite and their clients to the detriment of collective needs and aspirations of all its citizens. In such a nation state, socio-economic, and democratic development on the trajectory of liberal / representative democracy, is obstructed and subverted by reckless, insensitive and self-serving ruling cliques and their clients.

In such a situation, the prospects for socioeconomic and democratic development are only possible and realisable, if the imperatives of good governance are recognised, nurtured and entrenched, in spite of the senseless proclivities of the ruling / ‘governing classes.’ 

Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations of Representation Democracy

Liberal / representative democracy is premised on the theoretical and philosophical postulation that in modern nation-states, citizens should freely choose / elect their representatives into elective positions of leadership in the governance institutions, notably the executive, legislative and sometimes even judicial, branches of government. For the purpose of choosing representatives, modern nation-states are divided into electoral constituencies and citizens in each constituency elect one or more persons from among themselves to represent them in the governance organs and institutions of their country at all levels, national, state and local. Those elected are said to be granted a mandate to act on behalf of the other citizens, the electorate, while occupying the positions into which they have been elected. Representatives are elected for a defined tenure (for example 4-, 5-, or 7- year tenure), mostly renewable, and regularly validated through periodic elections or withdrawn through recall elections. 

Similarly, in this theoretical and philosophical postulation, political parties play the role of interest aggregation and articulation, they organize citizens on the basis of the aggregated interests, and they select, recruit and field candidates for elections based on those aggregated and articulated interests, which are presented as political parties’ electoral platform/manifestoes. Once elected, representatives are expected to act in accordance with these articulated interests.

In addition, elections are perceived as necessary for choosing good representatives who help to nurture good democratic governance, in terms of efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services to the public, and especially with regards to protecting and advancing human dignity, as well as human security in all its ramifications. Similarly, it is perceived that electoral integrity gives rise to good quality choice of representatives, when those who prepare for, and conduct, elections are seen to be independent, impartial, non-partisan, professional, competent and efficient, and the conduct of the elections is perceived nationally and internationally to be credible. Other necessary requirements for electoral integrity are: strict adherence to the electoral legal framework by all those involved in the electoral process, from political parties, to candidates, election officials, voters and other stakeholders; efficient and adequate logistical preparations for elections; transparent and efficient conduct of all aspects of the election; and a well secured electoral environment, which eliminates fear that can immobilize or demobilize the electorate, with regards to harassment, violence and irregular disruption of the electoral/electioneering processes.

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It is the expectation that, ideally, a country that evolves within this liberal democratic tradition, would have responsible and responsive elected, representative officeholders, who would nurture, entrench, and institutionalise values, beliefs and practice of good governance, for their societal progress and development. 

In reality, however, the ideal is hardly ever attained. Political culture is differentiated, character and disposition of human agency impact on historical experiences, and the quality of governance becomes differentiated. Thus, while some countries over long periods, through practice, have refined and strengthened their political culture strengthened their governance institutions, deepened their democratic development towards sustainability, in other countries, due to certain historical experiences and circumstances, have remained fragile, unstable, characterised by bad governance, and constantly threatened by the possibility of authoritarian reversal. Countries, such as Nigeria belong to this category.

Nigeria: Background and context

Nigeria in its present form is no doubt a modern-nation state, albeit of complex diversity, manufactured by the British colonialists, and it has been epileptically pursuing a ‘democratic development’ trajectory, of the liberal democratic tradition. This commenced with precolonial and post-colonial governance institutions and processes, until 1966 when the military took over power from elected civilians. After prolonged authoritarian rule, the military returned the country on the same liberal democratic development trajectory, with slight modification, i.e., from the British type parliamentary system of government (1946 – 1966), to the American type presidential system of government (from 1979 – 83), and indeed for the past 23/24 years, since 1999. 

During this period, neither desirable democratic development nor good governance have been institutionalised and entrenched, except perhaps, arguably, in the short period 1960 – 1966. In particular, in the period since return to civil rule in 1999, the quality of Nigeria’s governance and democratic development seems to have deteriorated. While Nigeria seems to have evaded a total slide back into authoritarian rule in the past 24 years, it has merely been muddling through socio-economic development engulfed in bad governance.  

Whatever global comparative indices / measures one uses, there is no doubting that bad governance is, in general being, recklessly, ‘institutionalised’, if not entrenched. The country is, literally, being run aground, as illustrated by the worrisome data of high incidences of poverty, high statistics of unemployment especially among the youthful population, high rates of inflation, heightened and generalised insecurity, and acute threats to human security generally. As Table 1 illustrates, Nigeria ranks lowly on many of these comparative ranking variables. Similarly, even in comparison to other countries in the ECOWAS, West African sub-region, as Tables 2 and 3 illustrate, Nigeria’s comparative ranking, with regards to democracy, and perception of electoral integrity, is not at all impressive. 

Table 1: Nigeria’s Ranking and Scores in Global Indices of Democracy, Governance, Freedom, Corruption, Human Development, Electoral Integrity, Quality of Life, Security, Etc.


Global Index

Ranking among number of countries measured

Score (measured over 100; or or over 10 or 1)


Corruption Perception Index (CPI)




Censorship Index








Ease of Doing Business




Fragile State Index




Gender Gap Index




Human Freedom Index

Partly Free



Ibrahim Index of African Governance




Human Development Index




Organized Crime Index (African)




Perception of Electoral Integrity 



Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)



Quality of Life (PQLI)




Religious Freedom Index




Insecurity / Global Peace Index



Global Hunger Index (GHI)




1. UNDP and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). The 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

2. Global Initiative Against Organized Crime. Organized Crime Index. Africa2019. 

3. 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

4. Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2020.

5. World Bank. Doing Business 2020. 

6. Transparency International. The Corruption Perception Index. 

7. World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap Report 2020. 

8. Mo Ibrahim Foundation. 2019 African Governance Report.

9. Electoral Integrity Project. 2019. Electoral Integrity Worldwide 2012 – 2018.

10. UNDP. 2019. Human Development Report.

10. Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty. World Index of Moral Freedom.

11. Fund for Peace. Fragile States Index 2020.

12. Quality of Life Index by Country. 

13. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Democracy Index 2020

14. 2022 Global Peace Index. 

15. Global Hunger Index 2022




Political Regime Type/Classification



Cabo Verde

Flawed Democracy




Flawed Democracy




Hybrid Democracy







Sierra Leone








The Gambia




Cote d’Ivoire












Burkina Faso




















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SSA (44 Countries) AVERAGE


Source: Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2020. Wikipedia.webarchive






Cabo Verde









Cote d’Ivoire










Burkina Faso


Sierra Leone






The Gambia











Source: Norris, P. and Max Gromping. Electoral Integrity Worldwide. PEI 7.0 May 2019, page 6.

Nigerian Economic Crisis: Recession, Depression, Etc.

While economists may bicker as to whether the Nigerian economy is in recession or depression, what is clear is that the Nigerian economy is engulfed in a multi-dimensional crisis, characterised by slow GDP growth rate (3.10 in 2022 compared to 3.40 in 2021); high unemployment rate (37.7% in 2022 compared to 33.3% in 2021; indeed KPMG project this to rise to 41% in 2023); humongous debt profile of N46.25 trillion in 2022, according to DMO; and high inflation rate of 22.22% in 2023, according to NBS. Other dimensions of the Nigerian economic crisis include declining productivity in the manufacturing sector, excessive reliance on imported manufactured goods in the context of rising exchange rate of the dollar and the pound against the naira; and continued dependence on revenues from the export of crude oil, which in 2022 represented 80% of national revenue.

The crisis is essentially attributable to bad governance, represented by lack of visionary planning, prioritisation and programming, lack of efficiency and effectiveness in the management of resources, an ineffective and/or inefficient regulatory framework.

Pervasive National Security Challenges 

Many of the prevailing national security challenges in Nigeria are on account of poor management of complex diversity and poor governance, complicated by heightened mobilization of ethno-religious identities, especially political and electoral contestations. Thus, communal, ethno-religious, and even farmer-herder conflicts belong to this category of conflicts. Weak institutional framework for policing and general security provisioning, as well as pervasive corruption in the judiciary have all combined to heighten these security challenges. Since 2009, however, relatively newer challenges have emerged with more damaging consequences on peaceful coexistence in the country, such as the Boko Haram insurgency, militancy in the Niger Delta, IPOB irredentism in the Southeast, and cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom in virtually all parts of the country, and banditry in the Northwest geopolitical zone. The number of recorded deaths from Boko Haram insurgency and kidnappings alone, rose from 4,633 in 2017, to 6565 in 2018, to 8340 in 2019, and 9,694 in 2020 (EONS Intelligence). While the Buhari government has claimed to have degraded Boko Haram, the inability to totally defeat their insurgency, as well as sufficiently contain the other dimensions of insecurity, which have emerged and flourished, further highlighted the crisis of governance, the collapse of the national security architecture, and the increasing failure of the state to discharge one of its main constitutional responsibility, of protecting lives and property and securing the citizens.

In the present circumstances, after 7 electoral cycles since return to civil rule in 1999, the challenges posed by bad governance are pervasive and all-encompassing. They have bequeathed on Nigeria a relatively dysfunctional system of government, which is increasingly becoming incapable of effectively and efficiently addressing the fundamental needs and aspirations of citizens, with regards to human dignity and security.

Imperatives of Good Governance

At this stage of our national democratic development, given the nature and character of the Nigerian state (as manifested at all levels, federal, state and local), bedevilled as it has been by a ‘depressed’ economy and systemic security challenges, and the disposition of its ruling elite, who have basically generally preoccupied themselves with the pursuit of their self-serving objectives, it is indeed necessary to discuss how best to reposition the political economy towards democratic development predicated on good, democratic governance. 

Citizens of a country that is globally recognised and acknowledged to be essentially characterised by bad governance, need to understand the imperatives of good governance, and work towards bringing it about. This is the situation in which Nigeria currently finds itself.

Drawing from the extensive literature on the subject matter of governance, the essentials of good governance, which Nigeria’s elected leaders / representatives, in particular, and Nigerian patriots/democrats in general, need to appropriately recognise, and take into consideration, in the striving to replace endemic bad governance with good, democratic governance, are as follows:

Providing good quality leadership: predicated on knowledge, experience, competence, integrity, vision, and selflessness

Transparency and accountability in policies and decision-making processes. This would go a long way to engender trust for government among citizens, which is essential during times of crises.

Respect for and compliance with Rule of Law. This is required to mitigate excessive impunity and executive lawlessness, which is all pervasive at all levels of governance.

Efficiency and effectiveness in the management of public resources can go a long way to free resources for prioritisation of citizens welfare and social justice to address the needs and aspirations of the most vulnerable members of society, especially in times of crises.

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Participation of citizens in discussing what affects them, based on deliberate inclusivity, is necessary to ender trust, and generate additional ideas and perspectives, and citizens buy-in for addressing collective concerns

Project/programme deliverability, based on a rational, knowledge based deliberative processes should be engendered and sustained.

Careful, even visionary planning is a requirement, and should also be broadly participatory, utilizing a bottom-up approach.

Harnessing resources to address the fundamental needs and aspirations of the citizens with respect to human dignity and security

Equity, equality of opportunity, justice and fair-play, are requirements to ensure that citizens have equal rights and obligations and are treated without fear or favour.

It is noteworthy that, a ‘developing’ if not ‘underdeveloped’ nation-state, such as Nigeria, requires for its sustainable progress and development, not just “good governance”, which is just merely about efficiency and delivery of public goods and services to the citizens, as popularized by the World Bank and IMF since the 1990s, as they strove to mitigate the failure of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP). What is most especially required is what I define as Good Democratic Governance, which is a fundamentally inclusive and participatory form of governance in which citizens, as sovereigns, are truly masters of their own destiny in determining who governs them, how they are governed and how governance addresses their fundamental needs and aspirations (see Jega 2021b). For, mere “good governance”, devoid of substantive democratic content, is something that can be found even in brutal authoritarian regimes, via the avenues of “benevolent dictatorship” or “military vanguardism”. However, as the experience of many countries globally has shown, especially those of the so-called “Asian Tigers” fame, mere “good governance” as conceived and promoted by the Bretton Woods institutions is, in the long term, unsustainable and must necessarily be infused with substantive democratic content.

After 21years of ‘transition to democracy’ with increasingly waning, if any, positive beneficial results to overwhelming majority of its citizens, Nigeria needs to reposition its democratic development away from the notion of mere “good governance”, towards the more substantive and desirable notion of good democratic governance. The protection, defence and promotion of citizenship rights and citizens’ human dignity and human security, should be the main purpose of governance, and the overriding activity of government, presided over or led by representatives carefully chosen and mandated by the citizens, through their active participation in elections that have credibility and integrity; elected representatives who are responsible and responsive to the needs and aspirations of those who elected them.


Nigeria has suffered from the grip of bad governance, especially since 1999 under civil ‘democratic’ rule, with serious consequences for unity, stability and sustainable socio-economic and democratic development. All hands need to be on deck to bring into effect sustainable good, democratic governance., as a panacea for socio-economic and democratic development. In essence, good governance, especially what I refer to as good, democratic governance, is necessary for would engender stability, guarantee human dignity and human security, as well as catalyse socio-economic and sustainable democratic development.

All elected officeholders need to study, understand, be able to explain, and put to good use, in practice, the essentials of good democratic governance, namely: leadership by example, transparency and accountability, engendering citizens participation in governance, selflessness, consensus-building, and responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of the citizens. Efficient and effective utilization of collective, public resources, is absolutely necessary, devoid of wastages, and personal aggrandisement. We must develop the competence and capacity to hold public office and provide the required leadership for focused planning, decision-making and policy implementation for societal progress and development. 


Jega, A. M. 2021a. Governance, Insecurity, Poverty and Socio-Economic Development in Contemporary Nigeria: Which Way Forward?, 7th Goddy Jidenma Foundation Public Lecture. 30th November. AGIP Recital Hall, Muson Centre, 8/9 Marina Road, Onikan, Lagos.

Jega, A. M. 2021b. “Election Security and Good Democratic Governance in Nigeria”, 4th Annual Senator Abiola Ajimobi Roundtable Lead Paper, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, 16th December, 2021.

UNDP and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). The 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

Global Initiative Against Organized Crime. Organized Crime Index. Africa2019. 

2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2020.

World Bank. Doing Business 2020. 

Transparency International. The Corruption Perception Index. 

World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap Report 2020. 

Mo Ibrahim Foundation. 2019 African Governance Report.

Electoral Integrity Project. 2019. Electoral Integrity Worldwide 2012 – 2018.

UNDP. 2019. Human Development Report. “What is Good Governance?”

Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty. World Index of Moral Freedom.

Fund for Peace. Fragile States Index 2020.

Quality of Life Index by Country. 

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Democracy Index 2020

2022 Global Peace Index. 

Global Hunger Index 2022

By Attahiru M. Jega, PhD Department of Political Science Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria

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