ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, in this piece, captures the interventions proffered by guests during the Democracy lecture held in Port Harcourt last week.
On Monday, May 21, 2018, two prominent Nigerians, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Rev. Dr. Mathew Hassan Kukah and a seasoned constitutional lawyer and foremost Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Ben Obi Nwabueze, were in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital as guests of the Rivers State government.
While Kukah was the guest speaker at the third anniversary public lecture of the administration of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Nwabueze, who is a one-time Minister of Education, was Chairman of the occasion.
The public lecture, which was the second in the series of programmes lined up to celebrate the third anniversary of the Wike-led administration in the state, was attended by former Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili, High Court Judges, Legislators, Traditional Rulers and the academia.
Delivering the lecture titled “Democracy in Nigeria: Still Many Rivers To Cross,” at the well-attended event held at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre, located along GU Make Road, Port Harcourt, Kukah, said any assault on the judiciary is the greatest threat to democracy.
The cleric, who stated that Nigerians must find a way of developing a country of democrats where democratic tenets can thrive, added that Nigeria needs to invest in the architecture of peace by making the nation’s environment sufficiently habitable.
Kukah stated that the country still has a long way to go in the journey of attaining a functional democracy, and challenging Nigerians to unity to achieve it.
The fiery cleric stated that Nigeria’s democracy was characterized by distortion, disruption and destruction adding that if 90 million out of the 190 or 200 million of the nation’s population cannot vote during an election, it is an indication that the country’s democracy has a problem.
He lamented that, “Nigeria has not developed a political culture, which has consequences on democracy. Political parties should not be created just to get power. Nigerians need to increase the consciousness of ideology of their political parties.”
Kukah further stated the urgency to develop the culture of life, noting that the Nigerians have lost the sacredness of human life, which underscores a democratic process.
He said, “We need to invest in the architecture of peace. We have to make our environment seriously habitable; and this we do by taking political seriously.”
Laying foundation for the public lecture earlier, Nwabueze, who became a SAN in 1978, declared that Nigeria is being administered as if it belongs to just one section, insisting that the country belongs to all Nigerians.
The former Secretary-General of Ohaneze-Ndigbo, said, ‘We are all Nigerians and we abhor what is happening today. We want an all-inclusive government.”
He noted that the promotion of nepotism and sectionalism is killing the country, adding that the country needs to cross the river of pervasion, to stop the several pervasive actions that undermines democracy.
Nwabueze said, “It is the pervasion of Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the residence of a serving governor to be searched.
“You can investigate the governor, but you cannot execute a search warrant on the residence of a governor. If the residence of the President cannot be searched, why should anyone search the residence of a governor?”
The seasoned constitutional lawyer stated that the salvation of Nigeria rests with youthful leaders who are expected to drive the development process.
He said, “Governor Wike is one of the young people that can take over. My generation is gone. My generation cannot save this country. We are charging Governor Wike as a leader of this generation, with the energy of youth, to take up the mantle.”
For the Rivers State Governor, Wike, the only way democracy can function is for the right thing to be done at all times. He insisted that the will of the people is critical for the survival of democracy.
The governor noted that the Rivers State government will always rise in defence of the mandate of the people, irrespective of the negative actions of anti-democratic forces.
The further noted that it is not in the interest of democracy for the people to sit idly and allow criminal elements undermine democracy.
Wike said, “The system in Nigeria has intimidated the judiciary and INEC. If the people did not resist the invasion of the court, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Police would have gotten away with it.”
The governor stated that opposition leaders in Rivers State play self-centred politics which makes it difficult for them to appreciate the state-wide development.
With these interventions on the current state of the country’s democratic sojourn, it is hoped that the key actors would imbibe the appropriate political culture necessary for national development and growth.
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