A group under the aegis of The Coalition for the Protection of Democracy (COPDEM) has described the state of Nigeria’s democracy as being at its lowest ebb and far from being commendable since the inception of the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government, inaugurated May 29, 2023.
The group, during a World Press Conference on the state of the nation’s democracy, cited threat to the judiciary and the rule of law as a major concern, as well as the increasing public outcry over the high-handed removal of fuel subsidy, which has ultimately plunged more Nigerians into poverty.
COPDEM stressed that any threat to the judiciary was a threat to democracy, even as it expressed its belief in the rule of law and justice.
The group said: “Justice is the ultimate pillar of any democracy: it must be done and be seen to done.
“COPDEM is in support and advocates for the absolute independence and integrity of the judiciary as fundamental to the success of our democracy and for the peace and unity of Nigeria as a nation.
“It is a threat to the judiciary and rule of law for a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to presume and invoke anarchy in Nigeria if the victory of his client, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is judiciously overturned by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) before the whole world.
“The requirement of 25% in the FCT is in the Nigerian constitution not a party constitution. Upholding the provisions of the constitution is a fundamental democratic ideal while its interpretation and determination for all intents are the sole mandates of the judiciary. Notably, such insinuations are threats to the peace and unity of Nigeria and therefore must be condemned and withdrawn.
“We call on all Nigerian patriots, democrats and the legal profession to see this as a threat to the judiciary as an institution and our democracy.
“We urge President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to dissociate himself from such anti-democratic aberrations in line with his commitment to democracy and to express his readiness to accept the verdict of the court whether it is for him or against him and to challenge same in accordance with the rule of law.”
While noting that a group of APC supporters have also come out to tell the world that “only God can remove Bola Ahmed Tinubu from office,” COPDEM explained that this statement was borne out of sheer contempt and ignorance of the functions of the judiciary in democracy.
It insisted that the President, like every other person, was subject to the rule of law in a functional democracy.
The group added: “We condemn in strong terms, such unguided and unguarded utterances in the name of drumming support for the President for cheap political goals as anti-judicial, anti-democratic and capable of directly undermining our core democratic values.
“Our law enforcement agencies and the media are State actors in upholding the tenets of democracy in Nigeria. They must never be used.”
While describing the law enforcement agencies as the players and actors that ought to be guided by the rules of the game and not the dictates of any person or sentiments, COPDEM also cited the media as the umpire that must remain unbiased.
“It does not speak well of a nation like Nigeria to witness the fracas between the DSS and Correctional Services over the custody of Mr Godwin Emefile in an alleged case of illegal possession of fire arms while other bandits and warlords brandish their sophisticated weapons and mercenaries, openly and freely spewing hate speech and threatening genocide.
“We particularly call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his government to dissociate themselves from Asari Dokubo and his machinations in the name of supporting the President. It is a threat to the peace and unity of the country.
“COPDEM equally urge our lawmakers to let the judiciary breath. The revelations by Senator Bulkachuwa, in a Senate plenary, of how he has been influencing his wife, then a justice, to favour his friends and colleagues, shows the susceptibility of our judiciary to undue influences and threats even from those that are supposed to safeguard it.
“COPDEM found it necessary to express its concerns over the unnecessary hardship that Nigerians have been plunged into by the abrupt removal of subsidy without palliative measures in place. The government needs to be inclined to masses-friendly policies that would put smiles on the faces of ordinary Nigerians. A democratic government should be masses-oriented.
“In less than 30 days in office, of the incumbent government, a 114% increase in the salaries of elected politicians, including the President, Vice President, Governors, lawmakers as well as judicial and public office holders was made. Any genuine commitment to democracy must put the people first.
“The masses are more vulnerable to the scourge of poverty and the effects of the subsidy removal. The bulk of the career civil servants and pensioners are not included even though they bear the brunt of the subsidy removal more than the politicians whose allowances and salaries are world class.
“A democratically elected government ought to consider the plight of the masses in both public and private sector that are the majority and the most vulnerable.”
COPDEM further recalled that a 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Yola town, Adamawa State capital, which has resulted in mass looting of foodstuff warehouses by people, as was experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. It described it as a clear indication of indignation and destitution that may likely become endemic.
COPDEM further called on governments at all levels to be responsive and sensitive to the plight of the people, noting that Democracy can best thrive if poverty and unemployment are reduced.
It used the opportunity to urge all Nigerians to continue to pray for the country in these trying times, saying: “It is equally significant to maintain the values of peace and unity through respect and tolerance for each other, while appreciating our differences and diversities.
“Active participation in politics and governance by all and sundry is a sure way of protecting and promoting our democracy.
“Critical to the emergence of COPDEM is the conduct of the 2023 general elections that was marred by electoral, political malpractices and gross infractions of the 2022 Electoral Act.
“The observer report released by the reputable European Union election observers on the conduct of the 2023 electoral cycle is an unbiased testimony that indicted state and non-state actors from the electoral body INEC, political parties, politicians and down to the electorate.
“These are salient indications that our democracy is being threatened and must be protected by patriotic citizens through campaign projects that focus on government policies and actions as well as tasking the government to be responsive, transparent, prudent and democratic in all its policies and actions.
“These can only be achieved through functional checks and balances among the arms of government through clear separation of powers and upholding the tenets of rule of law, unbiased and independent judiciary, active participation of citizens in politics and governance, among others.”