Not quite 9am on Democracy Day. It’s been fourteen years since khakis were traded for kaftans, since Decrees became Acts, and since a 29 year old man tried to sneak into the National Assembly with an altered birth certificate and a doctored foreign degree. We wait for the sleep-inducing Presidential address, while the students of prestigious federal universities across the nation hope and pray that the name of their institution doesn’t get substituted with the name of a dead national hero seldom remembered during his lifetime. The weather seals the mood, and for those who’ve got their heartthrobs to exchange breaths with, there’s more reason to sail in bed. It’s a national holiday, and unless you don’t have an ATM card and forgot to make your withdrawal across the counter the day before, that should be something to smile about. Temporarily confined to my blanket, I felt the need to scribble this down out of boredom before sourcing for breakfast.

True, ‘Companies and Allied Matters Act’ sounds more humane than ‘Companies Decree’. It definitely sounds less tense having your state controlled by a Governor than by a Military Administrator. Multiple and random arrests are no longer made for having a dirty compound on Environmental Sanitation day. The editor of Vanguard need not entertain (too much) fear of a parcel bomb delivery. But on this day, how free do you feel as a citizen of this country? Can you truly post freely on the Internet? Can you boldly criticise and lambast erring leaders without the fear of being watched? Are those in power the ones you wanted there? Can you buy what you want without being at the mercy of a economic monopoly? Can you go just about anywhere you want? Can you even love who you want?

Where even an election among Governors can’t be conducted in a manner free from controversy, that says a lot about the kind of democracy we practise. The fact that journalists still live in fear of being physically assaulted portrays the kind of democracy that prevails here. We still await a cogent explanation for the murder of students in Nasarawa state by security operatives, whose only crime was that they were protesting the lack of water, a basic amenity that shouldn’t be an issue in a true democracy. Special prayers have to be conducted at the last quarter of every year due to the nature of our major roads, a dividend of the kind of democracy we practise.

True democratic societies enable you to maximise your potential, they help you live without the fear of hunger and make you broaden your perspectives. Down here, you’re finished if you aren’t pursuing a professional career or in Showbiz. Friends and family would scoff and sneer if you choose to be a painter or florist, no thanks to the mental ‘conditioning’ we endure here. I remember the horror on my father’s face when I mooted the idea of acquiring a major in History about two years ago. Believe it or not, the kind of democracy practised in a given society, genuine or not, goes as far as influencing ideas about friendship and Love. People are conditioned to draw closer to those they ordinarily wouldn’t want to be identified with, all because of the favour and financial advantage they can gain, no thanks to the economic disparity caused by our kind of democracy. What’s more, she can’t stay around him for too long if he can’t change her wardrobe regularly and if his monthly earnings don’t read at least six figures, since the democracy on show here means his genius doesn’t amount to much.

In a true democracy, people my age would be proferring solutions to national challenges and harnessing our skills to build the nation, not trying to impress the opposite sex. I need not comment about the alarming rate of political apathy in my generation, allowing those who have no ideas about true leadership to keep dragging us, slowly but gradually, to a political cum economic precipice. As Governor Rotimi Amaechi opined, you don’t expect leaders who didn’t get to power via your votes, to act like they are responsible to you. But still it’s Democracy Day, so let’s mark it, each in his own special way. Bask in the social freedom and political shift this day is remembered for, help yourself to a few pints of beer, indeed feel free, but don’t forget that the nation has a Criminal Code as one of its laws. For the philosophers and those of great intellectual depth, a little reflection and constructive criticism won’t be out of place, but please don’t forget to think up long-lasting solutions to the clogs that hinder our country’s wheel of progress. Except for the meals which would get me past the door, I think I’ll probably mark it in bed!

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