BEING AN ADDRESS PRESENTED BY GLORIA MABEIAM BALLASON ESQ, C.E.O. HOUSE OF JUSTICE, AT THE 2022 SUMMIT & BANQUET HELD ON FRIDAY 2 DECEMBER,2022 AT EPITOME EVENTS CENTRE, BARNAWA KADUNA.

NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: It was Winston Churchill who said while addressing the House of Commons in 1947:
‘Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…’

Churchill’s cynical aphorism, causes us to reflect on the Nigerian situation and to ask: What promise does democracy hold for Nigeria and what does it deliver to us? In a country where Nigerians curve under the heavy yoke of insecurity, adverse economic policies characterized by inflation, divisiveness on the basis of religion and tribe, inequitable distribution of resources and a future that increasingly look bleak for ourselves and our children, what would we say are our dividends of democracy?

To be sure, no other form or system of government has been found to be as effective or possessing of the ability to cross correct as democracy. Governments have existed in some form for at least 5,000 years and throughout history, we have seen many approaches to running civilizations such as oligarchy which gives power to a few, autocracy which puts absolute power to rule in an individual, constitutional monarchy which inherits power and shares it at its pleasure but only democracy gives the power to rule to the citizens.

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Churchill knew this all too well for he spoke of ‘insurance’ as the most potent benefit of democracy.
And indeed, democracy insures. It insures the weak from being victimized by the strong. It prioritizes and protects the interests of citizens, ensures equality before the law and the ballot, and ensures that elected officials carry out the will of those who elected them. Through direct democracy, citizens get the chance to vote on the outcome of a decision as was the case with the UK’s Brexit referendum in 2016. Through representative democracy, citizens choose those who would make decisions on their behalf.

Having enumerated what democracy should look like, it should immediately be apparent that when elected officials abuse power and invest in conscripting blindly devoted political armies ready to shoot down any voice of dissent online or offline, that is not democracy. When houses and business premises are demolished and thousands of civil servants and teachers are sacked or denied their emoluments and those in government insist that the actions done without recourse to rule of law must not be questioned, that is not democracy. When a leader in government unilaterally decides to change the names of villages and identity of a people, proscribe chiefdoms or traditional institutions and forces identities on people that is not theirs, that is tyranny and not democracy.

When government knocks down homes and insist that beautiful incomplete roads and bridges are of priority than providing security and welfare for the people, that is not democracy. When at the centre the principle of separation of powers is treated as a byword and the judiciary which should be the fulcrum of democracy and the last bastion of hope for the citizens is used by the executive to validate what is unconstitutional, then that again is not democracy.

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Democracy puts the people at the centre and not at the edge or on edge. Democracy ensures the protection and preservation of the sacredness of the Constitution and the rule of law. It amplifies the voices of the people. It does not seek to elevate a section of the citizens over others by virtue of region, religion or any other primordial sentiments. Democracy believes, protects and enforces the fundamental rights of the people. Democracy delivers on its promise.

It is no coincidence that the 2022 theme for the House of Justice Summit and Banquet is DEMOCRACY & POLITICAL PARTICIPATION. Nigeria is in the eve of an election year. Citizens now face another opportunity to choose those who believe in democracy and who they want. Indeed, Nigerian citizens need to realize that democracy cannot work until they participate in it. This means ensuring political parties, principalities and powers do not present the worse choices from which the people must vote from. This means demanding accountability at all cost until the law speaks the same language at all times. This means exercising the constitutional powers to recall any elected representative who fails to deliver no matter how highly placed they deem themselves to be.

Nigeria has chosen democracy as its form of government, it is our collective duty as citizens, political parties or government officials to make it work for whether we be citizens, politicians or government officials, we have just one country and we are bound by fate to rise together or fail together.

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On our own part, House of Justice will continue to deliver on its promise to put the power to demand for justice in the hands of the people so they can insist on the force of law and not the law of force. We will not stop until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness as a never failing stream.

And on that note, it is my wonderful and sincere privilege to welcome you to the 2022 House of Justice Summit and Banquet. Please join in making real the benefits of this event through the expose on the role of citizens in a democracy, national interparty panel discussions, gubernatorial debate and the side event of the book presentation of Bavoshiya Gloria Nyan, a lawyer who beat multiple cancers in wild triumph. I look forward to receiving you in the evening for the Pink Ball Banquet where we shall wine and dine and build bridges where they have been broken.

And now we say it as we love to say it: Welcome to House of Justice!

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