Wednesday, May 28, 2014 5:26 pm
Abuja – Some lawmakers in the National Assembly, have described Nigeria’s 15 years of uninterrupted democracy as a ‘significant milestone’ in the life of the nation.
They also re-affirmed their determination to pursue `aggressive’ legislative agenda to reposition the legislature as a key branch of government.
The lawmakers said this on Wednesday in Abuja in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to mark the 2014 Democracy Day.
Senate Minority Whip, Sen. Ganiyu Solomon (APC- Lagos), said that although Nigeria had achieved tremendous growth in the last 15 years of democracy, a lot more could still be achieved.
“We have witnessed some political development and political growth.
“If you are talking of democracy as participatory governance as against other forms of government, I think we have achieved some development.
“We have had four elections even at a time when we thought it was going to tear the country apart, we still held ourselves.
“By and large, we have achieved quite a number of successes as far as democracy is concerned.
“But relating that to economic development and the living standard of the populace, we still have a very long way to go and they must go hand in hand,” Solomon said.
Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP Bayelsa) asserted that the country was better off under democracy, adding that the worst democracy was better than the best dictatorship.
Lokpobiri, who described democracy as `a very slow journey,’ however expressed confidence that the country was making progress under democratic governance.
“We are making progress, for instance in the issue of human rights. A lot of Nigerians enjoy their fundamental human right particularly under president Jonathan.
“It is also only in a democracy that you can constuctively or destructively criticise any government or anybody.
“It is only in a democracy that you can hold your leaders accountable.
“I believe that Nigeria’s parliament is the most active in the world given our age; you don’t expect us to attain the same level of perfection as the older democracies like America which is over 200 years, ours is just 15,’’ he said.
Sen. Robert Boroffice (APC-Ondo) said that though the Nigerians were not enjoying democractic dividends as expected, it was better to practice democracy than military dictatorship.
He said: “It depends on the way you see it, but as it is said, the worse democracy is better than the best dictatorship.
“I think so far so good, we are enjoying our freedom. The dividends of democracy may not be coming as we expect and we know why it is so.
“This largely is because of the problem of corruption in the society, impunity on the part of government in some decisions taken which contradict the principles of democracy because there is no accountability.”
Rep. Farouk Lawan (PDP-Kano) said that Nigeria had recorded `noticeable and laudable’ achievements since the return of democracy to the country 15 years ago.
He said that Nigerians were now free to exercise their fundamental human right which was not the case under military government.
He said that the country also made `remarkable’ achievements in the last 15 years of democracy.
“In election matters, there has been noticeable improvement. We made improvements in 2007, there were improvements in 2011 and I expect that by 2015 they would be improvements,” he said.
Rep Innocent Tirsel (PDP-Plateau) said the country had benefitted from the dividends under civilian rule.
He cited rehabilitation of roads, the on-going resuscitation of railways and improvement in the power sector as some of the gains of democracy.
Rep. Ossai Ossai (PDP-Delta) said that developments recorded under the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration were some of the dividends of democracy.
However, the Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC Lagos) did not share these sentiments saying “there is nothing to celebrate in 15 years of democratic rule.
“I don’t think that we have anything to celebrate.
“I said this in 2013, I said it even the year before. God has given us so much and we acting like toddlers; so why would you celebrate stunted growth when you have all the potentials.
“We can mark our democracy day but we shouldn’t be celebrating; there is a difference between marking and celebrating.
“You celebrate something when you are happy; when you are grateful, you mark something on the calendar, so that is what we should be doing.
“We should be marking our democracy day not celebrating it,” Gbajabiamila said.