By Chukwudi Nweje and Molly Kilete, Abuja
Thirty years after the annullment of the June 12 presidential election adjudged as freest and fairest poll in the country’s political history, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, elder statesman and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, Prof. Jerry Gana, former Minister of Information and National Orientation, the Afenifere and others have expressed divergent views.
While Gen. Babangida who headed the government that annulled the election in the “interest of Nigeria” knocked the nation’s political leaders in succeeding elections for not ignoring its gains, Atiku said political leaders must be committed to the principles of fairness in election conduct, to avoid a dictatorship society while Prof. Gana said the annulment was a tragic mistake that should not have happened. Amidst the divergent views, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, said June 12 should serve as commitment and conviction that a new Nigeria is possible.
The Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) under the leadership of Babangida annulled the election adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the country.
In a statement, yesterday, IBB tasked Nigerian leaders to explore the gains of June 12, 1993 presidential election toward deepening democracy in the country.
IBB, who spoke through his media aide, Kassim Afegbua, said although Nigeria’s democracy had recorded some growth, there was still many grounds to be covered.
“There is thuggery in politics in Nigeria, too many litigations in Nigeria, too many issues that transparent elections ought to have addressed,” he said.
Babangida decried increasing voter apathy in Nigeria’s election, attributing it to insincerity by the leaders resulting in lack of trust by the electorate.
“June 12 should naturally encourage more voters to endorse democracy and election, but the number of turnout during our election is gradually declining.
“Right now there is voter apathy, that’s the more reason why something must be done to ensure mass participation in election,” he said.
He said the country’s democracy had got more advanced with some achievements and urged Nigerian politicians to work toward making it better.
“Nigeria’s democracy is getting more and more older. Democracy has come to stay but despite the imperfections, we can still get our arts together to correct some of the issues and continue on that trajectory. It is a learning curve and a work in progress. Our leaders must continue to invest their time, energy and resources to deepen democracy and sustain democratic ideals,” he said.
Democracy in bondage in Nigeria
In his reaction, former vice-president, Atiku said for democracy in Nigeria to come of age, incumbent political officeholders must stop influencing election outcomes.
The former PDP presidential candidate said his observation of how democracy is run in Nigeria has convinced him that “a lot of work still lies ahead.”
He added that democracy in the country “remains in bondage.
“On this occasion of Democracy Day, it is time for us to reflect as a people and a country on our journey to becoming a democratic society,” the statement reads in part
“For Nigerians who were around during the dark days of military dictatorships, it is important that we appreciate the successes that we have achieved in making democracy the norm of politics in Nigeria.
“But democracy without a corresponding commitment to the principles of fairness and fidelity to the rule of play by stakeholders in the processes of conducting elections still leaves the people prostrate to tendencies of dictatorship.
“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.
“Democracy and the process of democratisation is a constant work in progress. While what we celebrate today is a return to civil rule in Nigeria, the desire to make our democracy self-sustaining and independent of anti-democratic elements is the new frontier of participation by all democrats.”
Nigeria should be crisis-free – Clark
Elder statesman and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, tasked Nigerians to ensure the country remain peaceful and crisis-free in spite of its numerous challenges.
“We all desired that we live in a country that is peaceful, that is free from crisis, security and economic challenges and the low corruption level.
“Corruption in the country is so high which I always say since 2014, that government should declare a state of emergency on corruption.
“The rate at which corruption is going on in the country is terrible where every arm of government cannot be trusted,” he said.
The 96 year-old national leader called for a peaceful country were all Nigerians were equal before the law.
“We want a Nigeria where all of us live together peacefully and there is no discrimination and we should all obey the provision of the Constitution which states there should be no state religion.
“There should be no promotion of a particular religion over and above others.
“When we were in the 2014 National Conference as an elder statesman, we made a lot of recommendations for the survival of Nigeria as a country.
“A united country free from crisis, where all the citizens are equal before the law and anyone of them can rise to any position you want to lead.”
June 12 historic, deserves to be celebrated – Peter Obi
Mr. Obi has described June 12 as a historic day that deserves to be celebrated.
“On that day in 1993, we the people of Nigeria stated our unreserved preference for true democracy. Though under military rule, we freely chose 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.
“It is these qualities that added up to make June 12 special in our search for true democracy.
“Our collective choice of late Chief M. K.O AbIola as a worthy leader for nation was saluted by Nigerians and governments and peoples across the world.
“Therefore, June 12 underpins our long collective journey to nationhood as a true democracy.
“However, the current state of our politics tells a different story. Our democracy is deeply troubled while our nation’s destiny remains uncertain and precarious.
“We remain a nation in search of solutions to too many basic problems. One of these is the search for a credible electoral system that would command the trust, confidence and belief of ALL Nigerians just like June 12 did.
“We should, therefore, use the commemoration of June 12 as an occasion to return to the true virtues of a truly democratic nation. We achieved that feat on June 12, 1993.
“In the spirit of June 12, therefore, we need to emplace an electoral system that commands the trust of the people. This is in recognition of the tenets and core values of democracy, which rests on respect for the wishes of the people as expressed in their ballots.
“Above all, government must respect and protect the institutions of the democratic state by respecting the social contract with the people by meeting their needs, obeying their wishes and fulfilling the responsibilities of responsible governance as contained in the constitution. A cardinal responsibility of government in this regard is respect for the rule off law.
“Regrettably, we 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.”
Annulment tragic mistake – Gana
Prof. Gana said the annulment was a tragic mistake that was not supposed to have happened.
“It was a tragic mistake, it should not have happened but since it happened may God help us to get out of it,” he said.
The former minister said the election was a period Nigerians united against evil forces but along the line the people that never meant well for Nigeria had their way.
He averred that democracy was better than any other form of government across the globe.
“Therefore, we must stay with democracy in order to better Nigeria because it delivers freedom, human rights and a good number of other things,” he said.
Gana said in all Nigerians needed to thank God for keeping the people and the country together especially, from 1999 to 2023 because the nation’s democracy had had many challenges. What happened since all these years destroyed other countries when it happened there but we are still living together as a people,” he said.
Foundation urges action against divisiveness
Senator Polycarp Nwite Foundation for Democratic Accountability (SPNFDA) said Nigeria would not make any realistic progress in her democratic journey if systemic failures that enable divisiveness, nepotism and avarice be allowed to continue without decisive action by the Nigerian leadership.
The foundation named after the late third republic senator, Polycarp Nwite, democracy advocate and former senior presidential aide who, like President Bola Tinubu, was incarcerated by the military junta, during the June 12, 1993 political crisis, made the assertions in a statement in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
“We are absolutely convinced and confident that President Tinubu, being one of the courageous fighters for the enthronement of Democracy in Nigeria, as the current man in the driving seat of Nigeria’s democratic leadership, is not only conversant with the democratic principles, norms and nuances, but is also willing and courageous enough to lead Nigeria to the future that would abhor divisiveness, fight nepotism, ethnic and religious bigotry, government indifference and insensitivity to the plight of the people and glaring injustice of unequal distribution of opportunities and common wealth of the nation.
“We are most glad, and I believe that our late father, Senator Nwite would’ve shared the same sentiments, were he to be alive, that President Tinubu, who he fondly called ‘Bola’,, now has the opportunity to fix Nigeria for the good of the people, in a democratic setting, like they had dreamt about, both in the trenches and in detention camp at Alagbon Close, Lagos state, where they were next-door cell mates in the dark days of military dictatorship.
“The tough decisions President Tinubu has made right from his first day are indicative of a president who will lead from the front and make tough calls for the overall good of the people.
“Nigeria deserves a leader that will be bold and decisive in policy formulation, implementation and declarations that guarantee democratic dividends and accountability to the Nigerian people.”
The Foundation implored the president to also take decisive action in education, health and electricity power generation/distribution to essentially curb unproductivity, youth unemployment, current mass migration to foreign lands, in search of better livelihood.
Afenifere charges Tinubu to enhance people’s welfare
Afenifere has said this year’s Democracy Day celebration is significant because President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the leading lights of the June 12 struggle is in the saddle.
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi noted that Tinubu played a prominent role in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the coalition of pro-democracy groups that fought the military with the aim to actualise the late MKO Abiola’s mandate.
Afenifere said the celebration of the 30th anniversary of June 12, 2023, is a landmark victory for democracy as it offers Tinubu the opportunity to actualise the vision both lath Chief Obafemi Awolowo and MKO Abiola nursed for Nigeria.
“Tinubu incidentally was part of Hope 93, the trajectory mounted by Abiola who contested the 1993 presidential election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Thus, Tinubu was very much aware of the plans Abiola had for transforming Nigeria had he become the president of the country. Herein, among other areas, lies the significance of Tinubu mounting the saddle exactly 30 years after the historic election that would have seen Abiola in Aso Rock. Tinubu now has the onerous responsibility of actualising the noble dreams of Abiola for Nigeria and the Africa continent.
“Just as he is familiar with the life-transforming programmes of his older political icon, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, now, he has the responsibility to harmonise the big projects of these two men and integrate them with his own plans with a view to making Nigeria fulfil its destiny. The destiny of being the leading light for the Black Race all over the world. A destiny the country was on the path to fulfil but for the unfortunate military incursion of 1966.”
Submitting that the theme for this year’s Democracy Day celebration which is ‘Hope Reassured’ is apt, Afenifere spokesman urged President Tinubu to ensure that his government does not dash the hopes of Nigerians as many previous administrations did.
“From the actions he has taken so far, we are confident that this administration will reset Nigeria back on the path of glory in which the people will truly be happy under an atmosphere of good governance.”
AANI calls for constructive dialogue
The Alumni Association of the National Institute (AANI) has described June 12 as significant in the nation’s political history as it marks the resilience and determination of the Nigerian people in their pursuit of democratic governance.
President of the association and former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, who made this known, called on Nigerians to embrace the new government by engaging in constructive dialogue and working together to address our challenges.
Abubakar, in a statement by the association’s national publicity secretary Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman (retd), said “as policy and strategic leaders, it is our responsibility to lead by example and promote the values of democracy. We must support initiatives that promote inclusivity, transparency, and accountability. By doing so, we can foster an environment conducive to national development and create a better society for all.
“Embracing love for one another and fostering national unity is essential for the progress and well-being of our great nation, Nigeria. On this Democracy Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to these ideals and work towards a more harmonious and inclusive society.
“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the security forces and all those who diligently strive to maintain sustainable peace, uphold democracy, and promote national reconciliation and stability. Their unwavering dedication and sacrifice contribute to the safeguarding of our nation’s progress and prosperity.
“By valuing and respecting one another, irrespective of our differences, we can build bridges of understanding and create an atmosphere of unity. Together, let us celebrate our diversity and leverage it as a strength that unites us in our pursuit of a brighter future for our country.
“On this Democracy Day, let us also cherish the principles upon which our forefathers founded our nation and strive to uphold them. May this day serve as a reminder of the power of democracy and our collective responsibility to safeguard it.
“May love, unity and peace guide us as we forge ahead on the path of progress. Let us stand united for the betterment of Nigeria. Together, we can build a brighter future for Nigeria. May this Democracy Day bring renewed hope, unity, and prosperity to our great nation.
CSO coalition plans protest over petrol subsidy
However, a coalition of organised civil society groups and some pro-democracy counterparts have
A statement by Olawale Okunniyi on behalf of the CSOs and pro-democracy groups stated that June 12 would be marked as ‘Day of National Protests over Petrol Subsidy Fraud and Hike in Fuel Price.’
Okunniyi said the nationwide protest is to ensure “that the elite consensus to remove the fraudulent fuel subsidy in Nigeria does not become another opening for state cartel to manipulate and exploit the subsidy removal policy to further dis-empower and pauperize the vulnerable and poor in Nigeria.”
Okunniyi condemned what he termed the lack of consultations and the dictatorial tendencies exhibited by the government in removing the subsidy.
He said the removal of subsidy would plunge working Nigerians into further hardship
“In a decisive resolve to compel the government to reverse its latest controversial and unbearable fuel prices back to the former official price of N167 per litre and also to enter into immediate consultations and negotiations with key segments and stakeholders of country, including labour, private sector and the organised civil society to agree on a national consensus on how to deal with fuel subsidy question in Nigeria, the coalition have decided to mobilise and lead the collective intervention of Nigerian citizens, youths and the masses to ensure that the elite consensus to remove the fraudulent fuel subsidy in Nigeria does not become another opening for state cartel to manipulate and exploit the subsidy removal policy to further dis-empower and pauperize the vulnerable and poor in Nigeria in order not to plunge the vast majority of Nigerians into deeper economic crises, crimes and insecurity.”
The CSOs asked the government to also investigate other subsidy regimes outside petroleum products with a view of getting rid of corruption in those areas.
“Since there seems to be a national elite consensus that the Fraudulent contraption called fuel subsidy should be removed, it is therefore obvious that all other subsidy regimes in Nigeria are plagued with the same disease of corruption and official mismanagement. Targeting just the fuel subsidy is anti-people. all corrupt/ phantom subsidies must be removed”, Okunniyi said.
Nigeria needs sincere leadership to grow – Mali-Gubio
Dr Bulama Mali-Gubio has Nigeria needs sincere leadership to grow and attain its full potential as the giant of Africa.
The spokesperson for the Borno Elders Forum said Nigerian’s approach to leadership was wrong, noting that the primary goal of many leaders in the country was self-enrichment.
“Leading a country involves making policies and finding solutions to problems, ensuring stability of the polity, and guiding the country to prosperity.
“But a large number of Nigerian leaders lacked the vision, passion, and the character to effectively govern and deal with the economic situation.
“In order to achieve the Nigeria of our dreams, we as citizens must first change our values, attitudes and orientation.
“This is because values are the building blocks of national development and no nation can achieve its developmental aspirations unless her citizens embrace and espouse the right values and attitudes,” he said.
Mali-Gubio blamed Nigeria’s socio-economic problems on lack of value orientation.
“Like other nations of the world, Nigeria has always had its own set of values which are expected to shape behaviors and drive the process of development.
“These values, also known as national ethics are enshrined in chapter two, Section 23 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). They include discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self reliance and patriotism.
“These core values were greatly cherished by traditional Nigerian society and they formed the basis for the unity, stability and cohesion of our society.
“Because our values were right, the generality of our people exhibited positive attitudes of love of neighbor, commitment to hard work, team and community spirit, love of country, respect for elders and constituted authorities, respect for the sanctity of human life, among others,” he said.
Mali-Gubio added:”Unfortunately, our value system has degenerated over the years, the family institution has collapsed. Community spirit has given way to individualism while indolence has taken the place of hard-work.
“Merit is now sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity, cronyism and nepotism. Wealth, no matter the source, is now celebrated in place of honesty and integrity.
“It is clear that no nation can make any meaningful progress in the face of these social vices arising from negative values and dysfunctional attitudes.”
He said that the advent of internet which made the world a global village, had further eroded Nigeria’s cultural values and identities of the people.
He said that Nigerian youths were daily fed with values that were at variance with their culture, making them to internalise strange and alien cultural traits.
“Nigerian society has become a testing ground for all forms of violent crimes disseminated to our youths through a deliberate and sustained programme of indoctrination, ethno-religious militia insurgency engaging in mindless destruction were brought upon us.
“Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic on May 29 1999, Nigeria has continued to struggle with the delivery of democratic governance and democracy dividend – social welfare, justice, equity, and equal access to resources and power.
“After a decade of the current epoch, there is the need to identify concrete challenges to democratic governance in Nigeria with a view to contextualizing the core factors that continues to obfuscate democratic governance.
“A reflection on the above calls to question certain issues that stands as challenge to democratic governance in Nigeria,” he said.