Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has decried the pervading culture of political intolerance and impunity in the country despite the end of military rule over a decade ago.
The former Vice President, who was speaking in Switzerland as a Guest Speaker of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations on Monday, regretted that in Nigeria and other parts of Africa opposition members are treated as enemies of the state.
In his paper entitled “Deepening Democracy in Nigeria: Implications for Africa,” Mr Abubakar said as a result of such lip service to democratic principles, “disregard for rules and regulations and the utter impunity with which they are committed,” has led to what he called “the militarization of democracy.”
According to him, many retired military chiefs, who came into power as politicians entered the democratic arena without being able to shed their military mind-sets, thereby exacerbating the culture of intolerance and entrenching impunity, which characterises today’s political reality in Nigeria.
The former Vice President, however, admitted that despite these democratic challenges, the freedom of speech, of association, of the right to organise politically and the liberty to criticise the government were restored with the return of democratic rule.
He also acknowledged that with the new democratic order in Nigeria, the courts in the country are more relatively independent in addition to freedom of the press that came with it.
However, the former Vice President regretted that these democratic gains are being threatened by the persistent perception of political opposition as an enemy that has to be crushed “rather than patriots who happen to disagree simply because they hold different political views.”
He noted that legitimate disagreement with attempt to extend the tenure of sitting leaders beyond their constitutional term limits had met with the harassment and humiliation of those dissented against such moves.
Mr Abubakar also lamented that members of the ruling parties that opposed lack of internal democracy or abuse of power by those occupying executive political offices were either repressed and harassed, thereby undermining the institutions of democracy.
Despite these negative features of Nigeria’s democratic order, the former Vice President said the performance of the economy, particularly in the first eight years of the democratic experiment, has provided a flipside to these unpleasant realities.