It seems like a mixed grill, a revelation of sort, on who actually, is the true face of Nigeria’s democracy. Like a recurring decimal, this long-lasting argument resurfaced during a national discourse yesterday on the credible 2023 general elections held in Lagos state. Contrary to the long-held notions that some politicians, dead or alive, are the true face of nation’s democracy, the Director-General, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, MINILS, Ilorin, Kwara state, Mr Issa Aremu has countered it, disclosing, that the actual heroes of democracy in Nigeria, is the media, considering the roles they played from military era to democratic struggles in the country.
Aremu, who disclosed this on Tuesday, during a one-day media engagements, organised by the Labour Writers Association of Nigeria, LAWAN, in collaboration with Friedrich Erbert Stiftung, FES, Foundation, to suggest lasting and enduring ways for free, fair and credible 2023 general elections, said despite, the military threats, the media stood their ground, to right the wrongs of the junta.
“The media fought seriously for the nation’s democracy. Despite the observed challenges, they never gave up. They continued the struggle until Nigeria gained her democratic freedom. The media is actually, the true face of democracy”, Aremu noted. He said, Nigeria is doing well in terms of democracy, but needs quality control, explaining that ’’quality control means that issues must be on the agenda: candidates interrogated on what they stand for and not based on religion or ethnicity.
He described the crisis of naira redesign, as well as the protracted fuel crisis, as a fallout of “insufficiency of democracy”.
He, however, called for the democratisation of corporate governance of public institutions, including the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as well as Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
‘’It is time for us to deepen the democratic oversight of the CBN, in spite of its Act that says it is independent.”
The naira crisis, he noted would have been avoided, if there was more consultations, stressing that less participations, means less democracy.
Tagged, ‘’Beyond Voting: Roles of Citizens in Ensuring Free, Fair, and Transparent 2023 Elections’’, the media engagement also saw some major stakeholders in attendance. The President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance, and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, Mr Olusoji Oluwole in his own submission noted that the successful outcome or otherwise of the forthcoming general elections lies in the hands of the voters, even, as he decries several challenges facing the country like cash crunch as well as fuel scarcity, amid forthcoming polls.
His statements, ‘’We have a lot of Nigerians, who for their own personal reasons, registered in their home states, communities and there are also people, who because of the nature of their jobs, are located outside their own residences, and need to travel and there is no fuel”
‘’We also have information that schools have been ordered to vacate for the period of the elections.
‘’Now, the challenge that we face is the ability of those people to go to those locations to exercise their civic responsibility because they do not have the ability to pay their way through to those places.
‘’We are still hoping that there could be some kind of succour”, he stated.
In the same vein, the Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Lagos Chapter, Mrs Funmi Sessi, said her members have been very cautious to avoid issues that may worsen the situation.
“We, as NLC members have refrained from adding to the situation Nigerians are currently passing through because we do not want the government, or individuals or group of people to put the blame at the doorstep of the state NLC.
‘’We know that these are hard times for Nigerians, but it is just a passing phase; it will come to pass” she stated.
‘’Let us keep faith with our Permanent Voter Cards and go out on February 25, to cast our votes and ensure free, fair, and credible elections” she added.
Responding in her earlier remarks, the Project Manager, Media and 2023 General Elections, FES Foundation, Mrs Remi Ihejirika, said, Nigeria could not be truly democratic without its citizens having the opportunity to choose their representatives through general elections, adjudged as free and fair.
‘’The essence of this project is how do we ensure that elections are free and fair, people continue to have confidence in the electoral process”?
‘’At this engagements today, it will be an assessment of the preparedness of all stakeholders to the forthcoming elections: how prepared are Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the citizens to participate in the process, ‘’ she asked.
In his own submission, the Chairman, Labour Writers Association of Nigeria, LAWAN, Mr Toba Agboola, said the media workshop, built on the last one held in 2022, was expected to capture progress achieved so far as well as challenges, needed to be addressed.
‘’The purpose of this workshop is also to assess the current political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the presidential and governorship elections in the country”, Agboola noted.
According to LAWAN Chairman, the engagement would also also assess the level of the preparations and at the same time, offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the 2023 general elections in the country.