Threats and challenges to Nigeria's nascent democracy

Seminar Paper, 2015

11 Pages

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Table of Contents


The Problems Affecting Democracy in Nigeria:
Poor Justice Delivery
High Cost of Governance: Jumbo Pay for Legislators and Ministries
Poor Supply of Electricity and Petroleum Products
Cross Carpeting and Impeachment

Conclusion and Recommendation


The paper looks at some of the problems negating the democratization efforts in Nigeria. Using the descriptive method of data gathering, the paper identifies Corruption, Partisan umpire and security agencies, Electoral Violence and Malpractices, Poverty, High cost of governance/Jumbo pay for public officers, etc as the threats and challenges facing the nascent democracy. It is recommended that citizenship education be made a compulsory subject in all the schools as well as strengthening the National Orientation Agency to change the avaricious attitude of Nigerians

Key words: Corruption, Cross Carpeting, Oil Marketers, Threats, Nascent, Democracy


Across the globe, many countries want to be seen as being democratic. It is a political arrangement that builds or consolidates an egalitarian society with the full participation of all the adult citizens in a free and fair periodic election, with at least two political parties. This has been seamlessly achieved in civilized climes like the USA, UK, France and even Ghana of yesterday. There are several impediments to this noble concept in Nigeria, hence many political analysts are of the view that some countries in Africa are practicing civilian rule which is far away from democracy. Poverty is one of them. A hungry person can mortgage his or her future for a token commonly referred to as stomach infrastructure to do what is inimical to democracy. Some staff of the electoral umpire can declare a loser of an election as a winner after receiving gratification. Security agencies who are supposed to maintain law and order during elections are now ominously partisan. The jumbo pay for the executive and the legislature in Nigeria has dwarfed the benefits of democracy. Poor justice delivery due to compromise on the part of judges leads to the rule of men rather than the rule of law. There can never be democracy without the rule of law. Electoral violence in some African States, because of the desire to have an undue share of the national cake is a serious impediment to democracy. Claude Ake (1996) wondered if the region was democratizing. He noted that politicians are “like mafias, waging a violent struggle for a lucrative turf’’.

The Problems Affecting Democracy in Nigeria:


Corruption has become a culture in Nigeria such that it now looks strange to condemn it. Many people believe that Nigeria cannot survive without corruption. Some politicians are in office just for the singular aim of stealing. How does one explain a situation whereby elderly politicians are still amassing wealth they don’t need? Does it make sense to the masses to come out to vote in an election that would throw up a cabal of looters? Democracy is supposed to create strong institutions which discourage wastages and profligacy. According to Anyang Nyango (1998) democracy ensures a judicious use of resources.

But the reverse is the case in Nigeria. How has the nation been spending her resources since 1999? Why, in the midst of infrastructural decay, should the nation acquire 11 jets for the presidential fleet? Why should N1billion be budgeted annually for the presidential kitchen? How come that an oil producing nation like Nigeria with four refineries has spent over a trillion Naira to subsidize the importation of fuel while countries not blessed with oil have not spent up to that amount? Why should billions of naira be spent for the renovation of a mere banquet hall? A democratic regime is expected to deliver services to the masses and abolish poverty, but this cannot be achieved if corruption remains a way of life. It is sad that stealing is not corruption in Nigeria, according to the PDP presidential candidate. This is a serious threat to democracy. We cannot easily forget the reason for military intervention in Nigeria. During the campaign days, the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, said that if we didn’t kill corruption, corruption would kill Nigeria. This clearly underscores the grave consequence of this malaise on the polity. The predatory elite in the political scene has an unhealthy urge for primitive accumulation of wealth and this has been responsible for the dilapidated infrastructure, poverty and poor social services. Partisan Security Agencies and Electoral Umpire

Security agencies are supposed to keep law and order and to remain politically neutral during elections, but here in Nigeria the opposite is the case. There are political officers and men in the Nigerian Military, the Police Force and other security agencies. In most cases, they work for the ruling party. Which work do they do? They give cover to thugs when snatching ballot boxes and other voting materials, they unlawfully arrest and detain opposition party chieftains that can mobilize the voters prior to the election, they intimidate the voters sympathetic to the opposition and stuffing of ballot boxes. In an interview with Channels TV, The APC national publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed explained how he was arrested along with other party chieftains in Ekiti State by hood-wearing security men who could not be differentiated from armed robbers. This is possible because the ruling party controls the security agencies.

The ignoble role of the security agencies in Ekiti State during the governorship election in 2014 and in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States in 2015 general elections was absurdly bizarre and grotesque. This would not be forgotten so soon. It was a courageous and patriotic Captain Sagir Ikoli of the Nigerian Army who revealed the Ekiti Rigging Saga where the security agents allegedly played a dastardly role in the audio tape he recorded secretly. If not for his courage this would have been replicated in Osun governorship election (Sahara Reporters, 2014). The Nigerian Army, through the director of Public Relations denied being in possession of the certificates of the APC Presidential candidate, Muhamadu Buhari, before the elections in response to the affidavit deposed to by the latter. This was aimed at disqualifying him from contesting the election in favour of the then ruling PDP (Vanguard Newspapers,January 21,2015) Is the Nigerian Army not supposed to be politically neutral? Shamefully, after he won the election, the Army announced that it was in possession of the certificates.

Where were the security agents when political thugs were burning houses and killing people in Rivers State during the campaigns and on Election Day? Why did the presidency order AIG Tunde Ogusanki out of Rivers State on governorship election day? Because he wanted to do the right thing expected from a professional police officer. He wanted to maintain his integrity and he was seen as an OBOTE man (enemy). The AIG refused to do the bidding of PDP and the presidency ordered him out of the state (The Nation Newspapers, April 11, 2015)

As soon as the former speaker of the House of Representatives announced his defection to APC, the policemen guarding him were promptly withdrawn by the then Inspector General of Police. To the IG, he ceased to be the speaker as a result of his defection. Is it the duty of the police to determine who heads the parliament? Is it the duty of the police to interprete the law? Chief Obafemi Awolowo had complained bitterly about a similar issue in 1983 when the then Police IG, Sunday Adewusi, delved into a very serious constitutional matter by ordering the press to stop publishing the election results (Joseph A.R, 1991) For democracy to germinate, the security agencies must at all times remain politically neutral.

There is no doubt that some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are corrupt and partisan. Some actually worked for some candidates. There were bribery allegations against some Resident Electoral Commissioners in almost all the elections. Some INEC officials have been arrested in the past with thumb printed ballot papers. Again, there were allegations of falsifying results after collation. INEC chairman, Prof Atahiru Jega confirmed the presence of corrupt officials who connived with politicians to carry out rigging and other electoral malpractices in the commission and stated that those indicted have been dismissed from the commission (Vanguard Newspapers, June 27, 2013). Until all the partisan and corrupt officials of the electoral umpire are removed from office, credible elections will remain a wild goose chase in Nigeria

Poor Justice Delivery

The Nigerian Judiciary is confused and in disarray. It is only the rich that get justice because they can afford it. While the rich are above the law, the poor are below it. Most of the court verdicts are conflicting. While a man who stole N23 billion from police pension fund was given two years behind bars with the option of a fine of N750,000 by Abuja High Court (Vanguard Newspapers, Jan. 29, 2013), the man who stole a Governor’s GSM phone would spend eight harrowing years in prison without an option of a fine! With money one can obtain frivolous injunctions to truncate or impede the wheel of justice, referred to as black market injunctions by Edo state Governor Oshiomhole. Some injunctions are perpetual, that is, they cannot be vacated.

This is why some high profile criminals such as corrupt state governors and some petroleum subsidy thieves are freely enjoying their loots. But the poor who cannot afford the services of senior advocates of Nigeria are languishing in jail over minor offenses. The law is interpreted and applied in Nigeria based on status differentials. One can now see the level of debauchery into which the judiciary has sunk. This is anathemic to the rule of law and a negation to democracy. As observed by Professor Itse Sagay (1996), the rule of law is democracy and without it there is no democracy.

The senior lawyers in Nigeria (SANs) are not helping matters. I used to see them as role models, people with working conscience. Due to the morbid thirst for wealth they can appear in court to defend the undefendable. Why should a senior advocate wear a wig and go to court to defend a terrorist that kidnapped and raped married women and later collected ransom before releasing them? Why should a senior lawyer put on his robe to defend a man who embezzled funds meant for pensioners who have served their fatherland? Is it morally right to benefit from the proceeds of crime? Why are the senior lawyers struggling to be chosen as defense lawyers for indicted corrupt governors who had subjected their people to unnecessary hardship? I, like many Nigerians, am wondering if the judiciary is really interested in the fight against corruption and terrorism.

High Cost of Governance: Jumbo Pay for Legislators and Ministries

One of the cardinal objectives of any serious government is to improve on the living standard of its citizens. This is achieved when capital projects are executed and social amenities are provided. In Nigeria since 1999, the federal and state governments have only improved on the living standard of very few people-the legislators and other appointed public office holders. The Federal Government has not shown interest in the welfare of the common people. If a senator earns over N20 million a month as being reported, then the country is not serious. Ministers are not left out. A former minister was accused of wasting several millions of Naira on bullet proof cars while another was accused of wasting over N10 billion on flights.

As noted earlier, there were 11 jets in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) even when British Prime Minister and US President are flying commercial jets. The former president visited Kenya on December 12, 2013 with seven jets during the Independence Anniversary, conveying a large entourage that stunned world leaders. The hotel bills and estacodes can best be imagined (Punch Newspapers, Jan.7th 2014) Why should this happen in a country that pays N18,000 as minimum wage? Many Nigerians became disenchanted as the promise of investing the funds freed up from partial subsidy removal for their benefit was reneged upon by the government. The prodigious and reckless spending of tax payers’ money is unacceptable and it would be a hard sell to convince the masses to make further sacrifices.

The former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido, had said that 25% of the national budget was gulped by the national assembly. Prof Itse Sagay condemned the Nigeria situation as a breach of public trust, adding that the jumbo pay for the legislators could endanger the nascent democracy. According to him, a senator earns N240 million in salaries and allowances while a member of the House of Representatives earns N204 million per annum. This is far above what obtains in the US and UK (Vanguard Newspapers, July 27, 2010). A Nigerian federal lawmaker even earns more than US president and UK prime minister. This is madness in a country where hospitals, described as mere consulting clinics over 30 years ago by Sanni Abacha, are increasingly becoming abattoirs and other critical infrastructures terribly dilapidated.

The lawmakers are too many for the economy. The ministers in the past regime were also too many. We had two ministers in one ministry and a large retinue of idle special advisers and assistants, making the government unnecessarily bloated. This was why recurrent expenditure had always been higher than the capital expenditure. This cannot be sustained as a result of the dwindling national resources occasioned by drop in oil prices. We don’t need a motley crowd in government houses any longer if Nigerians are poised to establish a democracy that guarantees the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, not a selected few. In a stratified society of misery, poverty, agony, hunger, unemployment, comatose social amenities, democracy cannot survive. Poverty and Illiteracy/Electoral Violence

The challenges of poverty and illiteracy to Nigeria democracy cannot be over-emphasized. 80% of the population is poor and uneducated. The hungry and uninformed people are easily bought over by irresponsible politicians with ill-gotten wealth. This makes it difficult for good people to win election as we play money politics. Again, thugs are easily recruited from among the poor and uneducated to cause electoral violence. Can a renegade politician recruit the son of a successful businessman as a thug? There is no doubt that an educated person can vote against his conscience because of little sum of money. How many well-informed people show interest in voting? This contributes to the nation’s poor leadership recruitment process.

Some educated young men who are in the labour market can be easily recruited as thugs during elections. There were many reported cases of electoral violence in Rivers State in the last general elections. People were killed and several houses burnt. So the issue of job creation is important here. Democracy cannot flourish in a docile society. The electorate must be capable of asking questions, taking their representatives to task, criticizing anti-people policies of the government, asking public officials how the resources are being allocated, making demands on the government. By this, the masses partake in the agenda setting and this is what democracy is all about. When we have a vibrant and well informed electorate, job opportunity, the problem of electoral violence will disappear and democracy will become everybody’s bride.


Insecurity is unarguably the greatest threat to Nigeria nascent democracy. In the southern part of Nigeria, there is the menace of kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery. Several lives have been lost in the process. In the northern part of the country, there is the problem of a mindless sect, Boko Haram! that has wasted several lives and destroyed property worth billions of Naira. This group defies logic: what is it fighting for? The members of the group are just killing, raping women and girls and destroying houses. Over 200 secondary school girls were kidnapped by the sect over a year now.

Insecurity is capable of shaking the corporate existence of our nation. A serious challenge of the 5th republic is how to completely annihilate the sect. Apart from the sect, there are other ethnic militias in other parts of the country. The group in the South-South Region, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), uses economic sabotage to draw government attention to its demand for infrastructural development of the region. The group in the South-East,

Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), wants Independence for the region while its counterpart in the South-West, Odua People Congress (OPC), is mainly concerned with ethnic jingoism. The problem of insecurity must be addressed holistically by the new administration if the democracy must stay.

Poor Supply of Electricity and Petroleum Products

Electricity and fuel are very essential commodities in Nigeria and as such should never have been left in the hands of those that cannot make them available to the masses. Recently the country was locked down for some days because there was no power as well as fuel. Communication firms closed shops, banks were working half day, Television houses were off the air. This is not healthy for democracy as anything could have happened. The privatization of the Power Sector has not yielded dividends. It appears that the new investors, mostly cronies of officials of the immediate past regime, are not ready for business. They are kept afloat with outrageous estimated bills and the unholy electricity fixed charges paid by Nigerians for staying in darkness.

An important commodity such as fuel should not be left in the hands of profiteers like the oil marketers. Why do we have the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)? Why is it that petroleum products are imported as if Nigeria never owned refineries? Why should an oil producing nation be importing fuel? A situation whereby oil marketers or an oil workers union like NUPENG could hold the entire country to ransom is capable of jeopardizing the nascent democracy.

Cross Carpeting and Impeachment

Many politicians in Nigeria are greedy and as such they always want to remain in power at all cost and coupled with the lack of ideological orientation, they see nothing wrong in defecting to other political parties that offer them the opportunity to stand for election. They defect from their parties to the ruling party at the centre. The recent wave of cross carpeting from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is a good example. Several politicians, used to the spoils of office, defected from PDP to APC as soon as the latter was declared as the winner of the presidential election (Guardian Newspapers, April 10, 2015).

Democracy can only be strengthened if there is a vibrant and credible opposition. But if members of an opposition party defect to the ruling party in droves, the country will gravitate towards a one-party state which is even worse than military regime. Without opposition, there can never be good governance because the ruling party can misbehave without fear of being unseated in the next election. What is democracy without good governance? The stability and good governance being experienced in the US, UK, France and other countries are as a result of vibrant, serious and purposeful opposition parties with strong ideological orientation. Political parties in Nigeria must imitate the political parties in the US and UK.

Another issue negating the Nigeria democracy is the spate of childish impeachments. Impeachment is a legislative tool inappropriately used in Nigeria. To impeach does not mean to remove somebody from office. It means to level charges against an office holder which he or she is allowed to defend. If a deputy governor disagrees with his principal, the next thing is threat of removal from office on spurious charges. These are made easy with the conspiratorial assistance of the largely ineffectual state lawmakers or are they lawbreakers? Many deputy governors and speakers of houses of assembly have been removed on spurious charges. The deputy governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi, was removed from office in 2014 because he ran poultry at the state house (Thisday Newspapers, August 3, 2014). Is it an offense for a man to be a farmer and a deputy governor the same time? A governor who does not meet the unlawful demands of the greedy legislators faces their wrath. After inaugurating the state houses of assembly, what some governors do is to throw largesse of about N100 million at each of the legislators at the expense of the masses. With this, a governor can do anything except turning a man to woman or vice versa (Odisu 2015). Democracy cannot be entrenched in a polity where impeachment is a household word.

Conclusion and Recommendation

An attempt has been made to identify the threats facing Nigerian nascent democracy. They include corruption, high cost of governance as a result of prodigious and reckless spending as well as the jumbo salaries of legislators and other public officials, insecurity, poverty and illiteracy, poor justice delivery, partisan security agencies and electoral umpire, and poor supply of power and fuel as well as cross carpeting and impeachment. All these are capable of endangering the democracy. The first and second republics fell due to corruption, electoral violence in the western region (the wild wild west) and several other factors. So the challenge now is how the new regime can surmount these problems as soon as possible.

It is recommended that:

- Citizenship or civic education is made a compulsory subject in all Nigerian schools and the National Orientation Agency be strengthened to change the avaricious attitude of Nigerians.
- Any person found guilty of corruption, economic sabotage, electoral violence and malpractice, and terrorism be executed without death warrant.
- Elected or appointed public office holders be taken to mortuaries of general hospitals as part of orientation. The gory sight of poorly kept corpses could checkmate their unhealthy desire for material acquisition.
- The head of the electoral body be allowed to appoint his commissioners and also be given the power to discipline any of them that commits infractions. This would enable him to pick trusted Nigerians that will not bring shame to the electoral body.
- Nigeria should adopt a unicameral legislature of only the senate to be made up of 36 senators on a part time basis. The 36 states should have six regional assemblies to be made up of 36 members each on a part time basis. The president can work with 12 ministers and 6 special advisers. The governors can work with 10 commissioners and 4 special advisers. This will reduce the high cost of governance.
- Even though the government has no business in business, essential services should not be in the hands of greedy profiteers. So the federal government must urgently review the privatization of the power sector with a view to revoking the licenses of investors that are not ready for business and ascertaining the real owners of the distribution companies. The fraudulent and ungodly electricity fixed charge be abolished immediately. The NNPC be overhauled to refine enough fuel for local consumption and the fuel subsidy be abolished. This will prevent a situation whereby the nation could be held to ransom by a cabal of oil marketers/importers.
- A single term of five years be adopted for the president and the governors to ensure a level playing field for all politicians.
- The salaries and allowances of public office holders be drastically reviewed downward for the benefit of the masses from whom political power is derived.
- Judges and security agents found guilty of corruption and partisanship be dismissed without gratuity and be prosecuted. The Ekiti State Rigging Saga be investigated and the culprits dealt with to deter others.
- The appointments of all the service chiefs be tenured so that they won’t play partisan politics to keep their jobs.


1. Ake C. Is Africa Democratising? Centre for Advanced Social Scence, Lagos, 1996.
2. Anyang Nyango, Political Instability and the Prospects of Democracy in Africa. Africa Development, Vol X111, No 1, 1998.
3. Captain Sagir Ikoli, How the Army was used to Rig Ekiti State GovernorshipElection. An Interview with Sahara Reporters on 7th Feb, 2015.
4. Joseph A. R, Democracy and Prebendal Politics In Nigeria: The Rise and Fallof the 2nd Republic, London, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
5. Itse Sagay, Nigeria: The Travails of Democracy and the Rule of Law, Ibadan, Spectrum books, 1996.
6. Itse Sagay, Legislating for the Common Good : Contemporary Issues andPerspectives, Vanguard Newspapers, July 27TH 2010.
7. Odisu Terry Andrews, Corruption and Insecurity in Nigeria: A Comparative Analysis of Civilian and Military Regimes, Basic Research Journal of Social and Political Science, Vol 3, Issue 1. 2015
8. Lai Mohammed Interview with Channels TV, 2014.
9. 11 Jets in The Presidential Air Fleet & the Visit to Kenya with 7 Jets, Punch Newspapers, January 7th 2014
10. Corrupt and partisan staff of INEC, Vanguard Newspapers, June 27th 2013.
11. Verdict for theft of N23 billion Police Pension Fund, Vanguard Newspapers,January 29, 2013
12. Impeachment of Enugu State Deputy Governor, Thisday Newspapers, August 3, 2014
13. Defection to APC after winning Presidential election, Guardian Newspapers, April 10, 2015
14. Missing Buhari Certificates, Vanguard Newspapers,January 21,2015

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Threats and challenges to Nigeria's nascent democracy
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Corruption, Cross Carpeting, Oil Marketers, Threats, Nigeria, Democracy
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Terry Andrews Odisu (Author), 2015, Threats and challenges to Nigeria's nascent democracy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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