Oseloka Obaze is a diplomat, writer, public policy expert, politician and Nigerian patriot. In this interview, the former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State in November 2014 reflects on Nigeria’s twenty years of uninterrupted democracy and the value of Democracy Day to Nigeria. He shared his views with correspondents of major national newspapers.
How would you describe Nigeria’s uninterrupted democracy for the past 20 years….how smooth, good or bad has it been so far?
Uninterrupted but halting. As you may have observed today’s Democracy Day celebration was muted. While generally, there is a sense on democratic continuity, which is positive, in the scheme of events, potentials, aspirations, and dividends, our democracy has been not-so-smooth and hence laggardly. Of late, our democracy has manifested certain troubling traits of illiberalism. But as the cliche says, democracy even in its most ill-adjusted form is to be preferred over all other forms of governance.
Are there challenges or threats recorded so far? If there are; how can this be improved, especially now that another set of national leaders warm up for another four-year journey?
Of course there are grave and great challenges. There are also some clear and present threats and danger. Democracy is hard work. We can’t take that for granted. We must continue to work hard on it. It’s about inclusivity and not a zero-sum-game.
A critical component of democracy – elections- remains a source of our trepidation, challenge and high dissonance. It ought not be. If Nigeria and those charged with elections will guarantee the holding of periodic and genuine elections bereft of ‘rigging’ and ‘election theft’ controversies, we will make a headway. Commitment, patriotism and political remain critical imperatives in our overall quest for an entrenched and resilient democracy.
Do you think President Buhari was right by ‘moving ‘ the Democracy Day from May 29th to June 12th, in honour of Chief MKO Abiola, or would you view it as having a political undertone ? Is this the posthumous honour Chief MKO deserves?
Chief MKO Abiola deserves the honours and then some. Yet one can’t shirk the feeling that such a symbolic gesture was politically motivated, but that ought not to diminish its reconciliatory and overall value, even if only psychological. Other than that, the swapping of dates is purely administrative.
Still what Nigeria needs is a national day that is collectively observed, owned and celebrated; a sort of a Memorial Day, in which we celebrate the sacrifices and the labours of our heroes past, and each person, ethnicity and political persuasion or colouration can find a justifiable basis to interpret and indeed, celebrate those ‘Nigerian causes’ that are dearest to their hearts.