Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has described poverty as a major threat to democracy in Nigeria.
Dogara who stated this while delivering an address during the 13th Convocation and 16th Foundation Anniversary of Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State, noted that the threat poverty poses to democracy was evident in the level of vote-buying and use of money to compromise electoral and security officials during the recent elections in the country.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives however urged President Bola Tinubu, state governors and all leaders to address the feeling of hopelessness and despondency among Nigerians due to worsening poverty in the country.
‘’I have said before that poverty is by far the greatest threat to our democracy. Those who doubted me have seen that threat manifest itself in vote buying and in the use of money to compromise electoral and security officials.
‘’On account of the sense of despondency and powerlessness that poverty breeds amongst the poor, the poor have and will always remain ever ever-ready in the hands of tyrants and demagogues, who in the course of history, have always found it easy to mobilize for to subvertocratic institutions.
“I challenge Tinubu, state governors and all leaders to rise to the responsibility of their offices to eliminate poverty, starting with the twin evils of underemployment and unemployment, which he described as bedmates of poverty
‘’If we don’t ever make it to the point where we can have a rational conversation about economic justice, it would not be because it’s impossible to achieve but because we lack the right leadership. We have talked so much about ending so many things in Nigeria, now is the time to talk about creating wealth and ending poverty.
‘’Permit me to also say that for all elected officials, including Mr president, who ran for something as opposed to running against someone; this is the moment they ought to be bothered because we are living in a deeply troubled democracy as nearly all Nigerian families are hurting.
‘’Only God knows how many Nigerians go to bed hungry each night. Although no rational individual would attribute our present deprecating decay to Tinubu’s administration which is still in its infancy, the truth is that he knew about it and promised to find solutions before assuming office.
‘’If he does not resist the temptation to continue blaming others for our national decay rather than concentrating on the solutions he promised, what would be the distinguishing mark of his Presidency beca was what other presidents before him specialised in – outsourcing the blame and never taking responsibility.
‘’My unsolicited counsel to Mr President is to confront these challenges head-head-on at once for nothing can be conquered unless it is confronted” he said
Dogara also serves as the Chancellor of the institution, criticising the new order in Nigeria’s democracy where disagreement is taken for disloyalty, while further emphasising that all healthy democracies are noisy because disagreements lead to progress in democracy.
‘’Sadly, strong leaders and executive imposed leaders of the legislature, most more than not, interpret disagreement as disloyalty. Now that we live in a tamidandemic of sycophancy, by modern-day standards, disagreement is synonymous with disloyalty.
‘’How can the legislature discharge its constitutional functions without let and hindrance when active collusion is seen by the Executive as a precondition for maintaining a seat at the table?
“Sadly, nothing hurts a democracy more than conflict avoidance and selective blindness. In any case, all healthy democracies are noisy because we have to disagree as much as we agree in order not to stymie progress.
‘’So much can be said about the abounding constitutional powers of the legislature which are never fully exercised, just for us to appreciate the reasons why the legislature is necessary in the first place and why it must never allow itself to be suborned by the executive into abdicating its constitutional role.
‘’If you don’t understand the purpose of a thing, you are condemned to abuse it and in this case, if the legislature does not understand its role, it will continue to be the President/Governors’ houses with the Senate President and Speakers at all levels just living in them as tenants.
‘’Enabling the executive, no matter how kind and well well-intentioned may be, to exercise legislative powers through entrenched proxies in the legislature, is not an act of fidelity but apostasy to our constitutional order,” Dogara said.
He however appealed to the Federal Government to consider the plight being faced by students of tertiary institutions and include private university students in its student scheme which he commended the present administration for.
‘’I join my voice in the call for the inclusion of Private University Students in the Student Loan scheme of this administration as part of the palliative measures since they are also Nigerians.
“The scheme should also be properly managed for the benefit of the teeming youths of this country,’’ he added.