As Nigeria celebrates over two decades of uninterrupted democracy since 1999, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu today morning implored Nigerians to make a little bit of sacrifice as government strives to yield to the growing calls for good governance.
This is coming just as the citizens have intensified advocacy for governance that is focused on the people, their safety and welfare, the optimal allocation of scarce resources and the effective implementation of policies for service delivery.
The latest of such agitations for good governance came from the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which urged Tinubu to implement the Mallam Nasir el-Rufai Panel report that recommended the fulfilment of the All Progressives Congress (APC) manifesto on the return of Nigeria to federal constitutional governance.
But in a national broadcast to mark his first Democracy Day as president air in national televisions and radio stations at 7am today morning, Tinubu reiterated his commitment to social and economic justice, promising massive investment in transportation infrastructure, education, power supply, healthcare, and other public utilities to improve the lives of Nigerians.
He also emphasised the significance of June 12 as a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s history, just as he called on citizens to protect and nurture the country’s hard-fought democracy. Tinubu paid tribute to Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and other heroes who sacrificed their lives for the cause of democracy.
Implicitly linking the idea of good governance to the recent removal of subsidy in petroleum product, the president explained the recent decision to remove fuel subsidy, acknowledging the burden it places on the people and assuring them that their sacrifice would not be in vain.
He said, “It is for this reason that, in my inauguration address on May 29, I gave effect to the decision taken by my predecessor-in-office to remove the fuel subsidy albatross and free up for collective use the much-needed resources, which had hitherto been pocketed by a few rich.
“I admit that the decision will impose an extra burden on the masses of our people. I feel your pain. This is one decision we must bear to save our country from going under and take our resources away from the stranglehold of a few unpatriotic elements. Painfully, I have asked you, my compatriots, to sacrifice a little more for the survival of our country. For your trust and belief in us, I assure you that your sacrifice shall not be in vain. “The government I lead will repay you through massive investment in transportation infrastructure, education, regular power supply, healthcare and other public utilities that will improve the quality of lives.”
Tinubu acknowledged the thirty-year anniversary of Nigerians exercising their right to elect a president in the transition from military rule to a representative government. He reflected on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which sparked a prolonged struggle that ultimately led to the democracy enjoyed since 1999.
“The opposition to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the pro-democracy movement it unleashed mirror the battle against colonial rule by our founding fathers,” Tinubu said .
He emphasised the enduring validity of Arnold Toynbee’s notion that societies progress through challenges, even as he revered the memory of Chief MKO Abiola, President Tinubu lauded his unwavering commitment to democracy, even at the cost of his own life. “Abiola demonstrated that certain ideals and principles are far more valuable than life itself,” the president declared, urging Nigerians to honor the sacrifices made by Abiola and others.
Tinubu further acknowledged the contributions of Kudirat Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane, and Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd), who paid the ultimate price in their pursuit of democracy. He urged citizens never to take democracy for granted, emphasizing the need to protect and cherish it.
Drawing on Nigeria’s history, President Tinubu reflected on the distinctions between the dignity of freedom and the humiliation of tyranny. He stated: “True, rancorous debates, electoral contestations, and quarrels may be perceived as unattractive features of democracy. But they also testify to its merit and value.”
Addressing the recent elections, the president recognised the intense competition and emphasised the positive evidence of a robust democracy. He encouraged those who lost to seek redress through legal channels, highlighting the importance of constitutional provisions.
Tinubu said, “This year, we held the seventh in the cycle of elections that have become sacred rituals of our democratic practice in this dispensation since 1999. That the polls were intensely contested is in itself positive evidence that democracy is well and alive in our land. It is only natural that even as those who won and experienced victory in the various elections are elated and fulfilled, those who lost are disenchanted and disappointed.
“But the beauty of democracy is that those who win today can lose tomorrow and those who lose today will have an opportunity to compete and win in the next round of elections. Those who cannot endure and accept the pain of defeat in elections do not deserve the joy of victory when it is their turn to triumph.
“Above all, those who disagree with the outcome of the elections are taking full advantage of the constitutional provisions to seek redress in court and that is one of the reasons why democracy is still the best form of government invented by man.”
The president underscored the significance of the rule of law and a vibrant judiciary as essential pillars of democracy. He emphatically stated that Nigeria would no longer tolerate unnecessary illegal orders that undermine democracy and affirmed his commitment to bolstering the rule of law.
Tinubu highlighted the recent harmonization of the retirement age for judicial officers, which he described as a crucial step towards fortifying the rule of law. He pointed out that this reform was just the beginning of a comprehensive effort to strengthen Nigeria’s legal system.
“It is about the rule of law and a vibrant judiciary that can be trusted to deliver justice and strengthen institutions,” President Tinubu affirmed, adding that “the unnecessary illegal orders used to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated.”
Citing MKO Abiola’s vision for a democratic Nigeria, President Tinubu called for a renewed dedication to strengthening the government of free people. He urged elected officials to fulfill their electoral promises and deliver concrete democracy dividends.
NADECO Asks Tinubu To Implement El-Rufai Panel Report
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) has urged President Tinubu to implement the Mallam Nasir el-Rufai Panel report which recommended that the governing APC should fulfill its manifesto promise of returning Nigeria to Federal Constitutional Governance.
In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja to mark the 30th anniversary of June 12, 1993, NADECO asked President Tinubu to accurately capture the national mood and implement the report of the el-Rufai Panel.
LEADERSHIP reports that the el-Rufai’s panel had recommended that the APC should fulfill its promise of returning Nigeria to Federal Constitutional Governance, a system that was the basis upon which Nigeria secured its independence and true federalism.
According to NADECO, the practice of federal constitution in the past led to visible developments and lifted people out of poverty, making Nigeria the envy of the black world and even its colonizers, Great Britain. It argued that retaining an unsustainable system that negates transparent and modern governance practices is unacceptable.
It said President Tinubu, as an activist and pro-democracy leader, is expected to bring Nigeria back to the path of sanity and establish a productive government. Acknowledging that a return to Federal Constitutional Governance will not immediately solve all the infractions imposed by the military, NADECO observed that most of the aberrations at the national and sub-national levels can be resolved.
It also dismissed fears that states created to satisfy selfish interests will be reverted, emphasising that regions will determine what is best suited for their needs, as seen in other countries like Germany, Canada, and Belgium. NADECO reminded President Tinubu of his place in history and the critical timing of his actions.
While socio-political, economic, and infrastructural upgrades are desirable, NADECO stated that the most lasting and worthy legacy for President Tinubu to pursue is the restoration of Nigeria back to federal constitutional governance.
Our Democracy In Bondage, Says Atiku
For his part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, said democracy in Nigeria has remained in bondage, and it will need the energy of all the citizens to rescue it. The former vice president who stated this in his Democracy Day message to Nigerians said the desire to make Nigeria’s democracy self-sustaining and independent of anti-democratic elements is the new frontier of participation by all democrats.
He further stated that what is celebrated today is a return to civil rule in Nigeria, adding that today’s Democracy Day celebration is “time for us to reflect as a people and a country on our journey to becoming a democratic society.”
He however added that it is important to appreciate the successes achieved in making democracy the norm of politics in Nigeria, considering the experience of Nigerians who were around during the dark days of military dictatorships. “For our democracy to be fully fledged, it must constantly evolve away from the current practice where the governing elite determines the outcome of elections.
I Disagree, Gbajabiamila Replies
But the chief of staff to the president and outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, disagreed with Atiku that the country’s democracy is still in bondage. He said his joy stems from the fact that Nigerians are set to appreciate the true meaning of democracy because the man in the saddle today is a product of democracy and someone who understands and appreciates the tenets of democracy and the value it brings to the table of the populace.
He congratulated Nigerians for their unwavering support for the nation’s democracy as they mark this year’s Democracy Day. Gbajabiamila said this year’s Democracy Day is worth celebrating because it is a unique milestone in the nation’s democratic journey with the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a thoroughbred democrat, who is noted for his tenacious defence of democracy. The CoS said these in a democracy statement signed by his special adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi on Sunday.
According to him, as a true democrat who was involved in the struggle for the return of democracy to the country and who has finally assumed the position of authority, President Tinubu will not shy away from bringing to bear the dividends of democracy Nigerians have been yearning for. Gbajabiamila also expressed his appreciation to Nigerians as they continue to support the country’s return to democracy by building its processes without wavering since 1999.
He urged Nigerians to remain united in the face of the socio-economic and political challenges facing the country, Gbajabiamila and called for prayers for the country’s leaders for God’s guidance and wisdom to overcome the many challenges confronting the country.
Let’s Correct Errors Of Recent Elections – Obi
In his part, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, said June 12 Democracy Day celebration should inspire Nigerians to correct the errors of February 25, 2023. Obi, in a Democracy Day message, said, “the challenge of June 12 and a dedicated Democracy Day is to inspire us to correct the errors of our recent elections. This is the surest way to restore the confidence of our people in the future of our nation and the promise of true democracy.”
The presidential candidate described June 12 as “a historic day that deserves to be celebrated,” noting that the people of Nigeria stated their unreserved preference for true democracy on this day, in 1993. “Though under military rule, we freely choose a transparent voting method. Our votes reflected our true choice as a people. Our choice on that day defied divisions of ethnicity, religion, and region,” he added.
Obi noted that it’s the qualities of votes reflecting the true choice of the people “that added up to make June 12 special in Nigeria’s search for true democracy. “Our collective choice of late Chief M. K.O Abiola as a worthy leader for the nation was saluted by Nigerians and governments and peoples across the world,” he stated.
Obi regretted that Nigerians are now in “an era where these foundational pillars of democracy are undermined by prevalent impunity and pervasive violence and bloodletting. “The trust deficit between the leaders and Nigerians continues to expand. The deficits of trust and efficiency in our last elections demonstrate this malady quite boldly.
“On behalf of himself, his Vice, Datti BabaAhmad, his party, the Labour Party, and the Obidient Movement worldwide, Obi congratulated Nigerians for the celebration and urged all not to lose faith in the inbuilt design of our democratic system to self-correct,” he added.
Obaseki, Oborevwori, Gbagi Urge Nigerians To Be Optimistic
Also, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, has urged Nigerians to keep faith with democracy despite setbacks experienced in the country’s democratic sojourn. In a statement to commemorate the 2023 Democracy Day, the governor hailed the resolve of Nigerians to work collectively for the advancement of democratic ideals.
He said, “As we mark this year’s Democracy Day, it is imperative to underscore the unwavering resolve of Nigerians to work collectively for the advancement of democratic ideals in our nation. Despite the challenges faced, we have held strongly to the vision of our forebears to build a united and strong nation that presents an opportunity for all to aspire, dream and prosper without letting in a free society. We have shown our preference for democratic rule, time and again and I urge all to continue to play their role in consolidating on our democratic journey”.
His Delta State counterpart, Sheriff Oborevwori, and governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Barr Kenneth Gbagi, felicitated with Deltans and Nigerians on this year’s Democracy Day. They called on Nigerians, particularly Deltans, to be optimistic about the future of the country, particularly when they have what it takes to overcome today’s threats and trials.
Oborevwori, in a goodwill message through his chief press secretary, Festus Ahon in Asaba, said Deltans and Nigerians should celebrate this year’s democracy day in view of the smooth, peaceful, and successful transition from one civil administration to another.
Also, Gbagi who made his appeal in his goodwill message issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Kenneth Orusi, encouraged President Tinubu and the citizens to re-dedicate themselves to the virtues of equity, justice, tolerance and strive to give their best for the good of the nation.
The former minister of State for Education described Independence Day as a day to celebrate the freedom and unity of Nigeria that provides an opportunity to reflect on the country’s progress, its humble attainments and ponder over those dreams yet to be fulfilled.
Nigeria Has Made Progress, EU Declares
Meanwhile, as Nigeria marks this year’s Democracy Day, the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) cohort, has congratulated the country for the strides it has made along democratic path since its return to democracy rule in 1999.
While pledging to continue to work assiduously towards strengthening Nigeria’s democracy and deepening the gains that come with it, the EU-SDGN said the National Democracy Day serves to remind Nigerians of how far the country has come since June 12, 1993 and underlines the significant progress and achievements of democracy in the country.
The cohort noted that the country’s democracy, although not perfect and still growing with pockets of stormy and smooth sails, has brought with it many gains. It acknowledged the strides made by the country in entrenching democratic values, promoting inclusivity, upholding the principles of good governance, and in respecting human rights and the rule of law, which are fundamental pillars for democracy all over the world.
The EU-SDGN cohort, therefore, calls on all relevant stakeholders, including the government, political parties, civil society, and citizens, to continue their efforts in upholding democratic principles and protecting democratic gains, which are critical condiments for fostering peace, stability, and sustainable development in Nigeria.
June 12 Symbolises Nigerians’ Desire For Democracy, Justice – NILDS
The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) said beyond the celebration, June 12 symbolises Nigerians’ desire for democracy, justice, and respect for the will of the people. The director-general of NILDS, Prof Abubakar Sulaiman, said this in a message to Nigerians on the occasion of this year’s Democracy Day anniversary.
Sulaiman said June 12 represents the struggle against military dictatorship and the fight for the recognition of the people’s choice in governance. “On this momentous occasion of Democracy Day, we celebrate the strength and resilience of our democracy, which has been the bedrock of our nation’s progress and development.
“Our democracy has come a long way since its restoration in 1999. We have witnessed the peaceful transition of power from one administration to another. This is a testament to the maturity and wisdom of our citizens and the tireless efforts of those who have championed democratic principles.
“However, we must not be complacent. Democracy is not a destination but a continuous journey. It requires our collective participation, vigilance, and dedication. As we celebrate the progress we have made, we must also recognize the challenges that lie ahead,” he said.