By Rafiu Ajakaye
Public confidence in democracy is waning across West Africa and elsewhere as people become increasingly frustrated at the failure of the system to address their basic concerns, warned the region’s top civil rights campaigner Idayat Hassan.
Head of the West Africa-based Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Hassan said optimism that had spurred calls for democracy were now ebbing because political and civil rights were "regressing" while poverty and disrespect for human rights were on the rise across the region.
“Rather than see gains, we are actually seeing lots of negatives [...] in terms of democratic development across the region,” she told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
“What democracy itself entails to the people basically is the delivery of public goods and services. If their expectation is not for better life, then it is for security and these are just not there and people are beginning to lose confidence in the system,” she added.
Hassan said the trend was worsened by political leaders making decisions that do not advance public interest, culminating in low turnouts during elections because voters have no trust in the politicians fulfilling their campaign pledges.
“Faith is actually waning in democracy when it takes so long to make decisions, when people are not seeing core and basic infrastructures in place, when people see a lot is actually said but the political will to actually implement is missing,” she said.
“All this evokes frustration and hopelessness [to the people], especially when they see that inequality continues to rise, democracy has brought no efficiency in particular to their lives, and otherwise, what they see is the government just playing to the gallery,” she added.
Hassan also urged the Nigerian authorities to review their handling of ethnic agitations in the country, especially the call for secession in the mainly Igbo southeast region, insisting that government's proscription of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra may not end the agitation.
“The government’s high-handedness and brute force in addressing security crises have often led to a proliferation of conflicts in Nigeria. Boko Haram is one good example. It was proscribed and then it mutated and became a monster,” said the activist.
Nigeria is currently mired in secessionist agitations led by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which want a separate homeland for Igbo, the country's third-largest ethnic group.