There are strong indications that the Federal Government may take the concept of Democracy Day beyond mere ceremonies and parades, come Wednesday, May 29. Sources close to the Presidency and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) disclosed that President Jonathan would like to use the occasion to emphasise that democracy is as much about a culture of consultation, negotiation and consensus, as it is about sound policies, good governance and service delivery.
The Federal Government’s position derives from the realisation that the only way to bring home the concept of a Democracy Day is to ordinary Nigerians is to use the occasion to remind everyone of the essence of a democratic culture, assess the extent to which it is being imbibed by the institutions of state and the citizenry at large; and then take stock on performance, policy thrust and national development. Presidency sources also say that the theme of the ongoing national centenary celebrations, “One Nation, Great Promise”, presents a context within which this year’s Democracy Day is being celebrated, noting that 100 years of togetherness cannot be wished away or ruined by temporary challenges of nation building.
The idea of a Mid-Term Performance Review Report of the administration is a way of bringing governance issues within the purview of responsible accounting to the people. This will give Nigerians a perspective on the extent to which The President has succeeded in the implementation of the policies, programmes and projects making up the administration’s Transformation Agenda (2011 – 2015). The review will also show that the economy has not only recorded an impressive GDP growth, with the government surpassing and its annual targets in 8 out of the 14 broad areas of the Transformation agenda, but that this has actually translated into measurable impact on the lives of the citizenry – even as Nigeria’s global ranking by GDP has jumped from the 44th position in 2010, to the 36th.
President Jonathan, according to our source, is determined to show Nigerians that we must “see democracy beyond the mere form and focus on the content, which is actually a way of life that combines good governance with economic efficiency.” some of the major gains in view are the reduction of the overall fiscal deficit-to-GDP ratio to 2.41%, the growth of our fiscal reserves (ECA/SWF) to US$9.5 billion. There is also the increase of Nigeria’s external reserves to US$48.8 billion; as at the first quarter of 2013 – besides the giant strides in agriculture, aviation, social infrastructure, financial sector reforms, etc.
The mood of the Presidency, according to our source, is that May 29 must cease to be a day filled with empty ceremonies, set aside to remember the swearing in of an elected government after many years of military rule. May 29 should celebrate democracy as an ideal and still show its material and non-material dividends, including the gains of consultation and the resulting national consensus.
The occasion should be used to understand how the leader is protecting the democratic space, allowing the people to make free decisions and guaranteeing their choices.
Our source also said that the Presidency wants to put the perceived current marginal security challenges in context, pointing out that democracy thrives in spite of dissent and that it is such dissent that leads to national cohesion, once issues are ironed out.