From Tony John, Port Harcourt

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has stated that ascension to political offices does not empower incumbents to destroy the policies and programmes of their predecessors.

He spoke on Thursday, at the International Conference on ‘Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security in Nigeria’ in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

Obasanjo said it does not matter the party a predecessor belonged to, new leaders should sustain the policies and projects of their predecessors in as much as the programmes are in the interest of the people.

Former President Obasanjo said democracy is not a one-day wonder, noting that there must be continuity and predictability of policies despite changes in leadership.

“In Nigeria, each new government behaves as if Nigeria is a newly found country. In fact, during campaigns, some leaders sound as if they plan to reinvent Nigeria and create new Nigerians overnight. That is because they miss the aspect of democracy that emphasises continuity, stability and predictability,” he said.

“One regime can lay the foundation; but, it requires many regimes to continue to build positively and constructively on the foundation.

“It is largely because we overlook and often disregard the basic principles of democracy. And somehow, we do not appreciate the damage that we do, individually and collectively, to the fabric of the nation.”

Obasanjo lamented that electoral litigations have now become a thing of luck because political actors do not play by the rules.

He said: “We fail to understand that democracy is not a one-shot game. It is evolutionary and it takes time to ground the practice. It is not for a quick change and indeed, if we play by the rules, we would all realise that regimes or governments can change but the tenets remain constant.

“We would not be so bitter with election results or overload the courts with litigations, very many of which are like ‘try your luck’.

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“When we learn to play by the rules and respect the principles of democracy, we recognise that ascension to office does not empower incumbents to destroy all policies and programmes initiated by the predecessor,” he said.

He warned that without retracing the nation’s political steps to the right direction, the current process will either not produce the right leaders or it would leave so many broken blocks on the path to governance.

He expressed: “The result will be a democratic quagmire, increased corruption, insecurity and survival of the fittest, richest and better connected with little or no recognition of merits.”

The former president commended the Rivers State governor for organising the describing it as critical and timely in the present democratic dispensation, saying that democracy could still work in Nigeria.

Obasanjo noted: “We sure need more opportunities to interrogate and understand our past and present, to design and plan our future. As you all know, a nation that does not engage in conversations, self-analysis, self-criticism, and regular reading and interaction cannot make meaningful and sustainable progress.

“Democracy is possible in Nigeria and we have the capacity to build a culture of democratisation. However, we must recognise and accept the fact that it is an evolutionary process with principles. We must also appreciate the fact that it does not mean that all problems will disappear overnight, rather, with strengthened and independent institutions, a democratic system will empower us to effectively and efficiently manage the contradictions and challenges in the system.”

Earlier, the state governor, Nyesom Wike, said the success or failure of the forthcoming elections would have substantial implications for the future of the country.

“The 2023 general elections are barely one month from today. This election is another opportunity for Nigerians to elect a new president of the federation and governors in 30 of the 36 federating states,” he noted

The success or failure of these elections would have substantial implications for the country. Success will add value by consolidating and strengthening all the roots of our democracy.

“A failure may increase political polarisation, exacerbate our social fault lines and set our democracy backwards.”

He noted that after 24 years of democratic rule, “we are yet in a position to take credible democratic elections for granted in Nigeria.”