Nigeria's Democratic Gains Have Stalled

This year Africa's largest democracy celebrated its Democracy Day on the 12th of June. Every year, since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the 29th of May has been previously set aside as a public holiday to celebrate the virtues of democracy. The Fourth Republic is the longest stretch of uninterrupted democratically elected administrations that the African giant has experienced since it gained its independence from the British in 1960.

Two years ago, the Buhari administration decided to the new date to the 12th of June. This a day formerly known as Abiola Day, previously just celebrated in Lagos, Nigeria and some south western states of Nigeria in remembrance of what many consider to freest and fairest presidential elections till date held in the country in 1993 and won by Moshood Abiola. The elections were annulled by the autocratic regime of General Babaginda before the full results were announced.

This brought about a series of events that delayed the return of democracy for another 6 years when another set of elections were held in 1999, ending multiple decades of military rule that began in 1966 and had been interrupted only by a brief period of democracy from 1979 to 1983.

The results and fruits of democracy have been mixed for many with some quarters citing that only the political class seems to have enjoyed any benefits from 18 years of uninterrupted civilian rule.
More so, Nigeria was once looked upon as a beacon for spearheading the message of democracy on the African continent. However, preceding this year’s democracy day celebration was a bitter row the Presidency and former President Jonathan about Nigeria being viewed in a negative light amongst the international community, especially with criticism coming from other African countries.

We decided to have a look at how ingrained our democracy is as compared to the rest on the continent.

We started off by looking at the data from the Democracy Index, an index compiled by the UK-based company the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which looks to measure the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states.

The index was first produced in 2006, with updates for 2008, 2010 and subsequently every year since then. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.

The five category indices, which are listed in the report, are then averaged to find the Democracy Index for a given country. Finally, the Democracy Index, rounded to two decimals, decides the regime type classification of the country, which could be one of the following: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime or authoritarian regime.

We took the data from the 2019 Index, which is the latest release and used that to draw up the map shown below, along with the data table for the African countries ranked in the Index.