In his Democracy Day broadcast on Monday, President Bola Tinubu disagreed with retired General Ibrahim Babangida’s claim that democracy is “declining” in Nigeria because successive political leaders have neglected the true essence and beauty of credible elections.
In what appears to be an indirect response to IBB’s Democracy Day message to Nigerians, where the former Head of State blamed the political class for ‘voter apathy’ in elections because of electoral malpractices, Tinubu said “democracy is well and alive in our land”.
Babangida had voiced his concerns over the way democracy has been implemented and managed by political leaders in the country.
He criticized their alleged disregard for the fundamental principles that underpin a thriving democratic system.
Babangida said political thuggery, litigations and voter apathy in subsequent elections are evidence that successive leaders have failed to exploit benefits of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election that was later adjudged the ‘freest and fairest’ in the country.
“The gains of June 12, 1993 presidential election have not been exploited by political leaders in succeeding elections in Nigeria.
“It was adjudged the freest and fairest election in Nigeria, yet politicians have blatantly ignored that beauty; the beauty of credible elections.
“There is thuggery in politics in Nigeria, too many litigations in Nigeria, too many issues that transparent elections ought to have addressed.
“June 12 should naturally encourage more voters to endorse democracy and election, but the turnout during our election is gradually declining.
IBB added, “Right now there is voter apathy, that’s the more reason why something must be done to ensure mass participation in elections.”
However, President Tinubu, who is widely regarded as a key contributor to growth of the country’s democracy, offered a contrasting perspective during his speech broadcast live Monday.
President Tinubu declared that, “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 (2023 elections) 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.”
The June 12, 1993 presidential election ended in a controversial annulment that left the nation in turmoil.
Despite the apparent democratic victory of Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the hopes of millions of Nigerians were shattered when the then military head of state, General Babangida, announced the annulment of the election results, citing electoral irregularities.
The lingering June 12 crisis led to the resignation of Babangida in August 1993 and eventual declaration of June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day, celebrated annually.