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Failed Democracy in Pakistan and Nigeria Essay

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Updated: Jul 27th, 2021

Democracy remains one of the fundamental core values promoted by the United Nations (UN). It is believed to be a powerful model for promoting people’s rights, development, security, and welfare. When countries pursue this concept, chances are high that the level of accountability will increase whereby the people enjoy good governance, the presence of strong institutions, and fair elections. Throughout the 20th century, many countries in the developing world began to pursue this critical value in an attempt to promote economic development and empower their citizens to achieve their potential. However, this goal remained a mirage for most of the nations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. A detailed understanding of the major obstacles to the realization of democracy can guide political leaders to put their states on the right path. Since independence, both Nigeria and Pakistan have experienced numerous challenges and hindrances that explain why democracy has failed over the years, such as prolonged periods of military rule, coups, corruption, absence of strong institutions, and the ineffectiveness of different leaders. The purpose of this paper is to give a detailed comparative analysis and description of the reasons why democracy has failed in Nigeria and Pakistan.

Why Democracy Failed in Pakistan and Nigeria

The founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, embarked on a new journey aimed at making the country a democratic state in 1947. However, this initiative or strategy failed since it took over six decades before similar ideas could become a reality in this nation. Several reasons can be presented to explain why this objective remained hard to achieve. Firstly, the first government after independence failed to implement powerful measures and structures to ensure that elections were conducted smoothly (Haq & Akbar, 2015). This kind of weaknesses created the best environment for leadership to change hands between the military and the civilian population. Such an occurrence is a clear indication that different rulers have been focusing on the most appropriate strategies to amass and maintain power, thereby making it for democracy to develop. Due to political instability, this country continued to record increased cases of corruption and civil-military conflicts. The military has managed to overthrow existing weak civilian governments three times in this country’s history. These events occurred in the years 1958, 1977, and 1999 (Alkifaey, 2019).

The leadership of the military resulted in martial law that made it impossible for the people to pursue their democratic rights and liberties. The absence of powerful political institutions since independence made it impossible for democracy to thrive in this country. However, some liberties and rights have been recorded in the recent whereby the citizens are allowed to elect their leaders. Unfortunately, the only successful transfer of political power from a democratically elected president to another one took place in 2013 (Haq & Akbar, 2015). The occurrence of military coups in the past is something that explains why those in leadership positions have failed to implement powerful mechanisms to support democracy and meet the demands of the greatest number of citizens (Jaffrelot, 2015). With such occurrences, the transition governments that have been in place over the years have failed to provide high-quality public services. The people of Pakistan have lacked new opportunities that can empower them to make evidence-based decisions and eventually realize their potential.

In Nigeria, the idea of democracy has remained a complex issue that many people do not enjoy. After gaining its independence in the year 1960, the leaders of this African country wanted to establish powerful institutions and set the stage for fast economic recovery and growth. However, this dream was short-lived since the first coup occurred in 1966 (Egbefo, 2015). This development resulted in a civil war that affected Nigerians for over 12 years. The concept of democracy would be experienced or restored in the year 1979 (Adekoya, 2019). However, this was a short period of a reprieve since the country was soon in the hands of military juntas (Odo, 2015). After the adoption of a new Constitution in 1999, Nigeria held its first general elections whereby Olusegun Obasanjo became the duly elected president (Adekoya, 2019).

This new change brought a taste of democracy to this country since regular elections have been held since then. The notions of civil liberties, empowerment of the people, and press freedom have become common in the recent past. Unfortunately, the idea of democracy has failed significantly since cases of human abuse, torture, and oppression are still high. Some researchers indicate that Nigeria continues to encounter numerous roadblocks towards the empowerment of all citizens. For instance, this nation is troubled by terrorism and the presence of radical groups, such as Boko Haram. Corruption remains a major problem that makes it impossible for this country to experience the benefits of democracy. The existing government institutions fail to promote evidence-based practices for supporting the demands of this country’s population. Many people find it hard to pursue their economic goals due to the absence of adequate capacities and incentives. Nweke (2015) believes that most of the regular elections conducted in this country tend to be unfair. This malpractice allows unwanted leaders to continue leading the people. Civil society organizations lack adequate resources to engage the government and empower more people.

From these descriptions, it is evident that democracy is a value that can empower nations to achieve their potential and meet the needs of their citizens. The discussion has revealed that both Nigeria and Pakistan have encountered more or less the same barriers towards the realization of their democratic aims. There are outstanding similarities that explain why democracy failed in these states. Firstly, the founders of these two countries wanted to pursue democracy and deliver positive results. Regrettably, they encountered sharp criticisms or inadequate support from different stakeholders. Secondly, military coups have been common in these states, thereby making it impossible for the people to elect their favorite leaders. Thirdly, military governments that have been in power have made it impossible for the people to embrace emerging ideas and practices in an attempt to improve the level of democracy (Yagboyaju & Akinola, 2019). The majority of the “intellectuals and messes of Pakistan are in favor of dictatorship rather than democracy” (Ali, Latif, & Kataria, 2015, p. 100).

Fourthly, most of the recent leaders have failed to support the establishment of superior institutions that can ensure that all citizens have the right to choose their leaders. These challenges explain why these countries have taken long before having duly elected presidents. On the other hand, some specific differences or obstacles are unique to each country. For instance, the problem of terrorism continues to discourage more Nigerians from engaging in economic activities or pursuing their democratic rights. This is not the case in Pakistan since the number of criminal attacks has remained quite low (Kakar, Waheedullah, & Sultan, 2017).

Corruption remains prevalent in Nigeria, thus making it hard for the established institutions to function optimally, such as courts, the electoral organization, and government-sponsored committees. In Pakistan, the main form of corruption revolves around the established or existing political classes. Additionally, the Pakistani government has been keen to support the press and ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected (Ali et al., 2015). These goals are yet to be recorded in Nigeria whereby media freedom is still a dream for many. With these observations, it is evident that the identified countries have encountered unique challenges while trying to realize the fruits of democracy. Many citizens find it hard to lead high-quality lives or receive exemplary services from the established governments. Present-day leaders in these countries should, therefore, consider these issues and examine the gains recorded in other countries to improve the level of democracy.


The above discussion has presented convincing arguments and reasons that explain why democracy has failed in the states of Nigeria and Pakistan. Since independence, these two nations have experienced numerous challenges and hindrances that have made such a goal a mirage. Over the years, the leadership recorded in these states has shifted from the military to the civilians and vice-versa. This has been the case since coups have remained common in such countries. Cases of corruption, the absence of strong institutions, and the ineffectiveness of different leaders are critical factors that have worsened the situation. Despite the above differences, there is a need for present leaders to collaborate with key stakeholders and introduce superior practices and initiatives that will ensure that democracy becomes a reality in these nations. The result is that more people will be empowered to lead better lives, pursue their aims, and eventually transform economic performance.


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