Today’s Democracy Day celebrations has provided a fertile ground for President Muhammadu Buhari; presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, to set the pace for their campaigns ahead of the 2023 general election.
They all invoked the spirit of June 12 to inspire Nigerians to look towards the major political parties in the country for the gains of democracy.
June 12 was declared democracy day by the Buhari administration to celebrate the late Chief MKO Abiola’s victory in the presidential election of June 12, 1993.
In his broadcast to the nation at 7am today morning in commemoration and celebration of Democracy Day, President Buhari called on candidates aspiring for different offices in 2023 to run issue-based campaigns and to treat opponents with dignity.
Buhari, who noted that this was his last Democracy Day speech as president, said by June 12, 2023, exactly one year from today, Nigeria will already have a new pesident.
He restated his commitment and determination to ensuring that a new president is elected through a peaceful and transparent process.
President Buhari stressed that it was important for all Nigerians to remember that June 12, 2023 will be exactly 30 years from the 1993 Presidential elections.
According to him, in honour and memory of one of national heroes for democracy, including Chief M.K.O Abiola, Nigerians must all work together to ensure this transition is done peacefully.
Expressing hope that Nigerians can achieve this, the president said the signs so far are positive as recently, all registered political parties conducted primaries to select their candidates for the 2023 general elections.
He said, “These primaries were peaceful and orderly. Those who won were magnanimous in their victories. Those who lost were gracious in defeat. And those aggrieved opted to seek judicial justice as opposed to jungle justice.
“I followed the party primaries closely from the state level to the Presidential level. I was very impressed to see across all the political parties that, most candidates ran issued-based campaigns. The language and tone throughout were on the whole measured and controlled.
“Another positive that came from the 2022 party primaries was the significant increase in women and youth particularly across all parties. I was very pleased to see this development. This augurs well for the future. These trends clearly show the level of maturity our democracy has achieved in the last 23 years.
“As we move into the general election campaign season, we must sustain this mature attitude to campaigning and ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a “do or die” affair. We must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.
“I will therefore take this opportunity on this very special day to ask all candidates to continue running issue-focused campaigns and to treat opponents with dignity.”
The president asked all candidates to, as leaders, showcase their high character and never forget that the world is watching them and Africa is looking up to Nigeria to provide an example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated in your followers.
He continued: “For the voters, I am pleased to inform you that in the last 7 years, our government across all tiers, has made significant investments to reform and enhance our electoral laws, systems, and processes to safeguard your votes.
“The Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary were and still remain united and committed to ensuring these reforms are fully implemented in the 2023 general elections. Fellow Nigerians, your right to choose your government will be preserved and protected.
From 1999, President Buhari noted that the country had consistently celebrated Democracy Day to mark the end of military rule and the return of power and control into the hands of those freely elected by the people.
On this day, he said, Nigerians recommit themselves to ensuring we protect and preserve the ideals of democracy.
“In 2018, we moved Democracy Day from 29 of May to the 12th of June. This change was to remind all Nigerians of one free election after which the presumed winner along with Nigerians was denied their rights and their choice.
“On June 12th, 1993, Nigerians saw the best in our citizens as we all went out to vote peacefully. By June 24th, 1993, we also saw the worst of our leadership as the elections were annulled.
“We must never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of Nigeria’s democracy during 1993. Their patriotism and peaceful struggle should guide our actions especially when it comes to electing our leaders and holding them accountable, now and in the future,” he added.
President Buhari also stated that many Nigerians are concerned with the rise in insecurity due to terrorist activities in parts of the country, adding however that “as a government, we are working hard to contain and address these challenges. And ensure that the 2023 general elections are safe and secure for all Nigerians.
“To achieve this, however, we must all contribute. It is not the job of the government alone. I ask all citizens to support and cooperate with our security agencies by reporting any suspicious characters and activities to law enforcement agencies.
“We can only have a safe country if we are able to prevent a crime, not after the crime has been committed,” Buhari noted.
On this special day, the president called on Nigerians to put all victims of terrorist activities in their thoughts and prayers.
On his part, the presidential candidate of APC, Tinubu, said on this Democracy Day, he will dedicate himself and his upcoming campaign to the spirit of June 12 and what it best symbolises for today’s Nigeria.
He prayed that Nigerians from all walks of life and all parts of the country should unite to build a more industrious and peaceful society such that all Nigerians might enjoy a greater future.
According to him, today’s occasion also compels Nigerians to again thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his successful efforts to name June 12 as Democracy Day for their beloved republic.
He said, “Just like democracy finally won against dictatorship, I know that prosperity shall overcome poverty, peace shall outlast violence, compassion will conquer hatred and good will defeat evil.
“Justice, security and economic development will visit and reside in every hamlet, household, village, and city in our nation.
“The spirit of June 12 shall expand to become the spirit of Nigeria and our national greatness and destiny.
“My prayer, on this day, is that people from all walks of life and all parts of the country unite to build a more industrious and peaceful society such that all Nigerians may enjoy a greater future.”
Tinubu noted that on this day, Nigerians will be celebrating democracy and commemorating those who had sacrificed so much to establish this most benign and noble form of governance in the land.
The former governor added that Nigerians should never treat this day as just another holiday on the yearly calendar.
“We must remember why June 12 is Democracy Day and why all Nigerians should honour it,” he stated.
He noted that the June 12, 1993 election would remain the freest and fairest election Nigeria had experienced up to that moment and it yet remains as one of the best elections the nation had seen.
Tinubu said a new way has come to the country even though the present democracy would not have been established without greater struggle, adding that dictatorship would not recede willingly and without struggles.
The former Lagos governor continued: “The annulment compelled the nation into an epic struggle of democracy versus dictatorship, choice versus coercion, and people versus power.
“In this confrontation between a bright future and bleak past, goodness and the belief that we can become our better selves triumphed over cynicism and the blatant disregard of a powerful few for the collective welfare of the many.
“Democracy won but it did so at a high price. The man who should have been president lost his life while suffering in an unlawful detention. Other democratic patriots suffered the same fate.
“Lives and livelihoods were endangered and shattered. But the love of the human spirit for freedom and justice is unstoppable.
“No amount of weaponry, no measure of suppressive force and no amount of propaganda can no longer restrain the cry for liberty and the rightful demand for a voice in how society is governed. That election, though almost 30 years ago, provides vital and reassuring lessons to Nigeria today”.
The APC presidential candidate said first, it showed that Nigerians were capable of democratic excellence and conducting elections as good as anywhere else on earth.
Tinubu noted that secondly, Abiola won a truly national mandate, his victory and mandate, though unfairly and unlawfully stolen, showed Nigeria’s unity was not an impractical dream.
The former governor said this year’s democracy Day holds greater significance because they just concluded fair, transparent, and open primaries in his party.
Tinubu congratulated all the other candidates for their nominations and their parties for doing their part to sustain democratic processes as the mainstay of their political life.
For his party, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku, implored Nigerians to reject an inept, unpopular and insensitive and clueless APC government by next year.
In his Democracy Day message, he urged Nigerians not to despair but rally together to sack the All Progressives Congress (APC) which has failed to keep its promises.
He said, “A ruling party that offers crass opportunism and cronyism can never elevate nor uplift a diverse and secular country as ours.
“The APC that couldn’t offer Nigerians honesty on their pledged manifestos with regards to security, economic growth and anti-corruption; shouldn’t be honoured with another wasteful tenure of pillage, brigandage and carnage!
“A government that impoverish us, divides us along our fault lines, make us insecure, make us hungry, starve us of public amenities like electricity and fuel and perpetually shut down gates of universities against our undergraduates, due to no fault of the students and causing untold sorrow to their parents and sponsors; such a party should never be allowed to occupy esteemed offices in government at any level in our country.
“At this juncture, the most pertinent tribute that we can effectively pay to our heroes past, those who struggled to enthrone and sustain Democracy in Nigeria, is to kick out the APC; a tainted government that was given a valuable mandate, but came unprepared about what to do. They squandered a precious political opportunity, by dashing the hopes of a trusting majority of the electorate. Not again, we should all clamour. Say no to the doom of bad governance; say yes to the prospect of a better Nigeria in 2023.
“Let’s work together to fix our country and return the boom of days of yore. Let’s kick out the APC. I stand with you all on the drive to reposition our country for greatness.
“I will unify all and sundry, enforce solid security nationwide, create jobs through private sector unhindered participation and inclusivity, break government monopoly to give wings for business to thrive, provide enabling infrastructural environment to reduce cost of production, cut governance cost through devolution of powers to other tiers of government, and provide incentives to hardworking and entrepreneurial Nigerians.
The former vice president described June 12 as one of the most epochal political events in the country, saying it is an auspicious period to rally round all compatriots; to think and work in concert for the unity, security, equity, inclusivity, socio-economic prosperity and equitable development of our dear country.
He charged Nigerians to seize this unique opportunity of Democracy Day to reinforce firm commitment to the sacrifices made by the pioneers of the country’s independence, and salute the courage and selflessness of the pathfinders of the current freedom and liberty; by pursuing with vim and vigor the fundamentals of the Constitution, the pillars and principles of rule of law, of electoral transparency and equity and unity in diversity.
He however promised to unify the country. “Let’s not despair by folding our arms in hapless helplessness. The last thing that should die in a person is hope.
“Meanwhile, let’s continue to do our civic duty and responsibility to salvage our dear country together; saving her from falling off precariously from current socio-economic cliff into abysmal catastrophic end of a failed state, as predicted by some naysayers!
“Thus time is ripe for all adult Nigerians to register to vote; vote and defend their votes. For people’s participation is the beauty of democracy.
“Let’s gather the numbers and commitment to kick out APC – the borrowing and sorrowing party. Let’s remember that Nigeria’s current debt burden stands at over N41 trillion with less than $40billion reserve.
“It is visible that the Buhari administration has brought upon our commonality the worst form of government, where insecurity, disunity, inequity, lack of job opportunity, dwindling economic prosperity and hyperinflation stare us all in the face,” Atiku noted.
APC, PDP, Labour Party Presidential Flag Bearers To Lay Wreaths On Abiola’s Grave Today
Meanwhile presidential candidates of the APC, Bola Tinubu; PDP Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party, Peter Obi, and other prominent Nigerians as well as pro-democracy activists will today lay wreaths in memory of acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late MKO Abiola.
Chairman of the organising committee of June 12 Democracy Day celebrations, Professor Anthony Kola, disclosed this in a statement yesterday.
He said, “In commemoration of the anniversary of the June 12 Democracy Day, the June 12 Democracy Movement of Nigeria, convened by eminent pro-democracy compatriots in Nigeria, wishes to announce that it shall be hosting eminent Nigerians and pro-democracy activists on Sunday, June 12, 2022, at the residence of MKO Abiola, the winner of the presidential election of June 12, 1993, who died in military incarceration for refusing to renounce the historic mandate freely given to him by Nigerians.
“This historic event, which will be hosted at MKO Abiola family compound in Lagos named as Nigeria’s Democracy Centre by the June 12 Movement, is aimed at complementing the official recognition of June 12 by the Federal Government as Nigeria’s Democracy Day arising from the martyrdom of MKO Abiola.
“To this end, the historic event is expected to witness prayers, tributes, roll calls of honour to heroes and heroines of Nigeria’s democracy and the laying of wreath of honour in memory of the martyrdom of MKO Abiola, who sacrificed his precious life to defend the mandate of the Nigerian people freely given to him on June 12, 1993 in birthing the current democratic rule in Nigeria.
“Some of the eminent Nigerians invited to speak and pay tributes at the event themed ‘Hope 93 and June 12 Elections: Lessons for Credible Elections in 2023’ are Professor Wole Soyinka, chairman of the occasion; Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Waziri Atiku Abubakar, Mr Peter Obi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, General Alani Akinrinade, Professor Pat Utomi, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, Mr Femi Falana, Mr Mike Ozekhome, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Senator Shehu Sanni, Chief Dele Momodu, among others already invited to the event.
“Similarly, invitations have been sent to all pro-June 12 governors and stakeholders to speak and pay tributes at the event with the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the chief host. “
Stakeholders List Gains Of June 12 In Nigeria’s Democratic Governance
Meanwhile, 29 years after its annulment, various stakeholders who will today attend events to celebrate the June 12 Democracy day across the states in the south west zone have listed the gains of the democratic struggle, urging the government to imbibe the ideals of struggle.
What started as the struggle for the actualization of the mandate given Bashorun Moshood Abiola at the June 12, 1993 presidential election by the military junta has continued to shape the country’s democratic experience being celebrated annually.
June 12: A weight On Our Collective Conscience Okei-Odumakin
Commenting on the relevance of the day to the present democratic governance in the country, the president, Women Arise Dr. Joe Okei Odumakin said the day remains a heavy weight in the nation’s collective conscience.
She said, “In the scramble for 2023 ahead, the import of June 12, 1993 manifests but to few eyes.
‘’No doubt we will remember heroines, heroes, even zeros, but as the years roll by us, we couldn’t possibly miss the most strident question…what changed?
‘’The answer is both nothing and everything! June 12 was a struggle against election fraud. That fraud has since become our political culture. It has been institutionalized. It has been legalized. Otherwise, why would you apply the resources of the executive and legislative arms of government to establishing vagaries like, direct, indirect and consensus options? All of which were in existence but at the mercy of stakeholders’ freewill.
‘’How far has election cases come from Justice Ikpeme’s midnight ruling in her candle-lit court? When you consider the curious possibility of a candidate ending up in the governor’s office from the fourth position on the ballot?
‘’Today, the election space has been totally militarized and monetized, as indeed the entire society. People speak about hundred million naira like sachet water and thousands of dollars for delegates in the face of an impoverished populace.
‘’June 12 is asking us questions we must answer quickly. We don’t have much time left. It presents itself to us as a status mark on the global timeline where we have been left behind even by some African countries.
She added that the transformation of MKO Abiola is unforgettable. “History has also recorded the rest of us and our roles. But now, we who draw breath must find one more fight in us. One more fight to redeem our beloved country.
“That fight is titled restructuring. No region of the country could do it alone, but those who have seen the vision couldn’t afford waiting for those who have not,” she noted.
Also, a prominent player in the June 12 struggle, Chief Olusegun Osoba said Without June 12 the current democratic set up wouldn’t have been in place.
He said, “June 12 is the mother, father figure and the foundation of this democracy, it is the fallback of June 12, the insistence by democratic forces, over the June 12 situation that created the present democratic structure that allowed us to have, whether good or bad, transition from civilian to civilian from 1999 to date.
“It has never happened in the history of Nigeria that we have had for over 20 years now, transition from one civilian to the other, before now there would have been silly military intervention. It was June 12 that created a situation for democratic stability in the country.
“Whether you like the government or you don’t like it, at least what we have had since 1999 is a civilian government and the successful transition from one civilian to another civilian.’’
“The fact that the dream for a better Nigeria, where the masses will enjoy a good standard of living has not been realized but I am talking about significance of June 12, I am not talking about the government, the significance of June 12 and the big sacrifice that Chief M K O Abiola made. Nobody taught Nigerians to embrace civilian government, what we can call our own. That is the significance of Abiola sacrifice and that is the significance of June 12.’’
Don’t Abandon Nigeria To Those Messing It Up, Obasanjo Tells Youths
Meanwhile, former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday charged Nigerian youths not to abandon the country for those messing it up.
He said it is high time they braced up and make necessary contributions towards addressing the plethora of challenges confronting it as a nation.
Obasanjo who spoke at an event tagged, “OBJ @85 Free Keke Programme”, as part of activities marking his 85th birthday celebration, distributed 85 tricycles to 85 youths, drawn from across the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The tricycles valued at N1 million each and donated through the Youths Development Centre of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) were targeted towards ensuring that unengaged youths are kept busy and self – reliant without necessarily depending on anybody for survival.
Admonishing them to reject the famous cliché that ‘youths are the leaders of tomorrow’, the former president said the youths needs to hold the firm belief that “today is their day” and as such, the younger generation must to take advantage of the opportunity galore which abound in the country to better their lots.
He emphasized that if the youths leave things to those who are messing it up, and who are saying they are the leaders of tomorrow, they will never have that tomorrow.
He said, “The first thing we want to prove is that there are opportunities galore in this country. Yes, things are not what they should be but you, as youths, individually and collectively, must make up your mind, make contributions in order to make things the way they should be.
“If you leave things to those who are messing it up for you and who are saying you are the leaders of tomorrow, you will never have that tomorrow. Today is your day.”