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Is “democracy” the answer to Nigeria’s woes?

21 February 2019

Martine Dennis hosted an “Inside Story” discussion on Al Jazeera about Nigeria’s so-called democracy and whether it was the answer to the country’s problems. The three guests, Idayat Hassan – director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Antony Goldman – CEO of Promedia Consulting, former senior Africa analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit and Fisayo Soyombo – winner of the 2017 Nigerian Investigative Journalist of the Year Award, all seemed to think “democracy” was all about elections, which Nigeria is still struggling to come to grips with after 20 years of civilian rule.

Watch the discussion below.

Soyombo made a good point that the postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections from last Saturday to next Saturday will mean that turnout will be low. People have to vote where they registered to vote and for many this means travelling to their states of origin from where they reside. Last weekend’s postponement is likely to put off many from travelling again.

Goldman pointed out what he called a “culture of mediocrity” in public administration in the country. It was not possible to attract the right people to the best jobs in the public sector. The electoral commission replaces its officials after each election and little “institutional memory” is maintained with such regular churn.

Soyombo argued that electronic voting could be a way to minimise low turnout, but he didn’t adequately explain how equipment would cope with poor power supply. Goldman admitted that there was a concern that the biggest bloc of voters are those that don’t vote. Nearly 60% didn’t vote in the last presidential election in 2015.

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