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Celebrating 25 years democracy while making sense of Tinubu’s 365 days

For many Nigerians, whether it’s called democracy or uninterrupted civilian rule, the past 25 years have been a rollercoaster of a journey. But it remains a milestone for the country, considering that in the almost 64 years of independence, Nigerians have only experienced democracy between 1960-1966, 1979-1983 and now the longest of the stretch, 1999-2024.

Within this long stretch, while many Nigerians have been left disappointed at not only the pace of the journey, some have observed that it is difficult to understand if the movement is progressive or retrogressive. Those in this category, mostly the majority of the masses, continuously lament that the dividends of the democracy have not been forthcoming and that it has become difficult to understand the brand of democracy being practiced in the country when compared to other climes.

But the other category, mostly the ruling class, believe that though the country may not be where it ought to be, the journey has been promising, arguing that within this period, Nigeria has witnessed significant opening of civic spaces with the traditional media and now in conjunction with the social media playing critical roles in not just electioneering periods, but also governance. They also argue that though 25 years may be a long time for humans, it remains insignificant in measuring the progress of a country.

In this special edition of the Daily Trust newspaper to celebrate the journey so far, we spoke with one of the major players in the journey, who has been at the top at both the legislative and executive arms. We also present an expert’s perspective of Nigeria’s security challenges and its impact on its democratic journey and vice versa. 

With five presidents produced in the 25 years, Nigeria has also seen five different First Ladies with their different styles. Ace journalist, Tunde Asaju looks at their fashion and influence over the years.

Buhari: The Deng Xiaoping Nigeria Needed in 2015

Social Media Savages and Wole Soyinka

Also, with the special position the 2015 presidential election holds in Nigeria’s democratic journey, we present an expertly curated piece on the process and the man that came out of it with a promise of change.

In the early publications that started on Monday, May 27, we looked at some of the major bills that have shaped the democratic journey; some politicians who once held sway at the national level but simply faded into political oblivion. The Tuesday, May 28 edition looked at major scandals that have rocked the journey.


Tinubu’s one year on the saddle

For the first time in Nigeria’s 25 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, a kingmaker is at the helm of affairs, bringing forth a combination of governance and political scheming never before experienced. While it has been the common practice of having two years of governance (some say two and a half year) in every four-year term of presidents since 1999 before full-fledge politicking kicks in, President Bola Ahmad Tinubu’s one year in office has defied this unwritten timetable.

From his first speech as president on May 29, 2023, the handwriting on the wall has been that of a governance style never before seen. Making a major policy statement like the removal of fuel subsidy without a cabinet came as a shock to many, but also as a sign of many of the things to follow. The president, according to analysts, left no doubt in the mind of Nigerians on who will be taking the decisions and on whose table the bucks stop.

”I am unafraid of the consequences once I know that my actions are in the best long-term interests of all Nigerians,” the president said last month.

His statement, which came at a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in The Hague, came as a general reaction to the cries that have emanated from Nigerians over the several policies his administration has taken in its first year that has not only seen inflation rise to a worrisome 33.69%, but left many Nigerians unsure of their daily breads.

Encapsulating how many Nigerians feel about the past one-year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said “the present administration has not found the right way to handle the economy to engender confidence and trust for investors to start trooping in.”

Commenting at a colloquium with the topic “Nigeria’s Development: Navigating the Way Out of the Current Economic Crisis and Insecurity”, Obasanjo commented on recent government decisions, describing for the instance, the policy on fuel subsidy removal and exchange rates as necessary but “wrongly implemented.”

He also mentioned the handling of a military coup in Niger Republic. 

Obasanjo emphasised that the path to economic progress lies in production and productivity, which requires trust in government leadership. Building investor confidence, he argued, necessitates changes in leadership characteristics and attitudes.

Of course, the former president has never been a fan of President Tinubu with bad blood between them dating as far back as the beginning of the 4th republic when the former was commander in chief of the federation and the latter was the governor of Lagos State. But, such was the acceptability of his assessment of the present administration that many Nigerians opine that while the messenger can be ignored, the message should not. 

The negative reception of President Tinubu’s critical policies has been exacerbated not least by the process that produced him as president. The 2023 presidential election seen in many quarters as arguably Nigeria’s most divisive election left further doubt in Nigerians and increased the distrust among the populace, especially towards the ruling class.

And because of the president’s background as a kingmaker, it is difficult for most Nigerians to separate his policies from political strategies towards replicating his stronghold on Lagos State at the national level. Where the political dimension comes in as argued by those close to the president and leaders of his political party is that the tough decisions had to be taken early so as not to jeopardise the second term bid. What they mean by this is that regardless of how Nigerians feel about the decisions now, things can only pick up and by the time 2027 approaches, most Nigerians would have forgotten the pains of the first year with the expected positive impacts of the tough decisions.

In this special edition that, we looked at not only his economic policies, but also some of the issues that have trailed his appointments, the good, the bad and the ugly of diplomatic relations under him, the several yet-to-be-fulfilled promises, and the men that make up the president’s kitchen cabinet.