The rising threats to democracy across the world have left most democratic nations struggling to preserve and sustain the promise of democracy. Over the last two decades, African countries have experienced democratic transitions with the conduct of regular elections. However, this has not translated to sustainable development, democratic leadership and strong institutions. More worrisome is the rise of polarization and populism during elections. For both new and older democracies, the challenge of preserving the fabrics of democracies are apparent and the opportunities for revival will be dependent on the ability to influence the level of citizens satisfaction with democracy.
Notably, the world’s most populous and developing democracies, like the United States, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico have made significant contributions to the rollback of democracy across the world. According to the Global Satisfaction with Democracy 2020 Report, in the United States for instance, levels of dissatisfaction with democracy have risen by over a third of the population in one generation. While in Nigeria, 20 years of democracy has regrettably proven to produce more attempts to limit the voice of the people, abuse of democratic principles, human rights and liberties. As noted in the CIVICUS Report on ‘People, Power under Attack’ 2019, Nigeria experienced a decline from having an obstructed civic space to a repressed civic space. This is a country rated by the ‘Democracy Index 2019’, released by The Economist Intelligence Unit as having, “a rapidly growing population of over 200 million, [not only is Nigeria] the world’s fifth-largest democracy, but will potentially be the second -or third- largest within the next generation. Its future represents not only the future of Africa – but that of the world as a whole.” Accordingly, the more democratic dissatisfaction and decline in democratic values experienced in large democracies, the greater the threat to the future and viability of democracies.
At its most basic level, there are certain attributes of a democracy which include but are not limited to; periodic, fair and free elections, universal adult suffrage, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of association, inclusiveness and participation that inspires confidence in the viability of democracy. Therefore, as democracy spreads around the world, the focus must be in investing in democratic attitudes and ensuring citizens’ satisfaction with the outcome of the practice of democracy. Such outcomes must be visible and reflected in the level of equality and justice in the society, existence of transparent and accountable leadership, independent and responsive institutions as well as guaranteed rights, freedoms and credible elections.
In view of the critical role Nigeria plays in Africa and its leadership influence in determining the future of democracy in Africa, Yiaga Africa is hosting a series of Democracy talks in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden to provide a platform for dialogue on the future of democracy in Nigeria. The Democracy Talks Series is part of Sweden’s Drive for Democracy initiative proposed to be implemented locally in 2020 towards the ‘Stockholm Democracy Talks’ in 2021.
The purpose of the Democracy Talks is to use Sweden’s strong voice and agency in democracy issues to highlight the condition of democracy globally and locally – in Nigeria. The Talks is expected to create engagement and strengthen the positive narrative of democracy.