President Muhammadu Buhari celebrated his seven years in office as Nigeria marked yet another Democracy Day on June 12, 2022. By the next Democracy Day on June 12, 2023, he will be handing over to his successor. He said it was “an occasion to celebrate freedom and unity of our Nation,” a day for Nigerians to “recommit themselves to ensuring we protect and preserve the ideals of democracy.”
It was the fifth time Nigeria was celebrating Democracy Day on June 12. Since the returrn of Democracy in 1999, Nigeria observed May 29 as Democracy Day but Buhari and the National Assembly changed it to June 12 to honour late Moshood Abiola, winner of the June 12 presidential election, which was annulled by then head of military junta, Major General Ibrahim Babangida.
“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,” Buhari recalled. “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 future.”
Analysts say this emphasis on June 12 suggests that Buhari is planning to conduct a free and fair election. Another pointer to this is the amendment of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly to allow the transimission of results electronically. Results are altered by politicians in transit; but in 2023, results will upload automatically from the polling booth.
“I remain committed and determined to ensure that the new President is elected through a peaceful and transparent process,” he assured Nigerians.
He said democracy has made progress in the last 23 years, and the peaceful conduct of party primaries from ward to national level, supported this view. Another positive, he said, was the active participation of women and children in the party primaries. They participated but they were crushed eventually by the staus quo.
He admonished politicians not to approach alection with the do-or-die mindset. “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. As leaders, you must all showcase high character and never forget that the world is watching us, and Africa looks up to Nigeria to provide example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated in your followers.”
He assured Nigerians that the electoral reforms carried out in the last seven years will guarantee that their votes count in 2023. “Fellow Nigerians, your right to choose your government will be preserved and protected.”
He said that government was working hard to ensure security for Nigerians to exercise their franchise. “To achieve this however, we must all contribute. It is not the job of 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 crime, not after the crime has been committed.”
The President harped on unity after seven years of mismanaging the country’s diversity through tribalism. “If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction..”
He raised hope of improved results against insecurity. “We have reformed some of our security structures. Some of the defence assets we procured three years ago have arrived and have been deployed. Our cyber security and surveillance systems are being upgraded to further enhance our ability to track and trace criminal elements. We are also recruiting and training new personnel across all our security and intelligence agencies to strengthen the country’s over-all security.”
He reaffirmed his “commitment to protect Nigeria and Nigerians from all enemies from within and outside. I am also promising you a free, fair and transparent electoral process. And I am pleading with all citizens to come together and work with government to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.”
While The President was making his speech, terrorists reinforced their criminalty across the country, including Katsina, his home state, where eight persons were kidnapped.
Dino Melaye, a former Senator from Kogi State, said Buhari has failed in three important areas: economy, security and anti-corruption.
“From the speech, it is even glaring that the dividends of democracy are yet to be felt by Nigerians under this administration. From the speech, I sincerely expected Mr. President to succinctly enumerate the dividends the citizens had gained under his administration. But unfortunately, the speech was full of promises to get things right. Mr. President, after how many years in office? Are you not tired of these promises? Well, be informed that Nigerians are tired and fed up with your promises.
“For the avoidance of doubt, and for the umpteenth time Mr. President, the dividends of democracy Nigerians are yet to reap and are clamouring for under your administration include, but not limited to good governance, rule of law, respect for human rights and social justice, fight against corruption, economic empowerment, and a better standard of living. But it is disheartening that this administration has failed on all fronts, more specifically, on these three- insecurity, corruption and economy you promised to tackle in 2015. People are killed or kidnapped on daily basis, and having their carcasses littered on the street. We can no longer travel to any part of this country with the hope of arriving safely
“As I stated sometime last week, the corruption scandals oozing out of his government have never been witnessed before in the history of Nigeria. Transparency International revealed that Nigeria is more corrupt today than it was in 2015. The United States’ 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the US Department of State, has described the scale of corruption in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as massive, widespread, and pervasive.
“My fellow Nigerians, as we celebrate our Democracy Day today, let it be our resolution not to continue this way. Let it be a wake-up call. We cannot afford to get it wrong come 2023. We must vote this government out and remind them that supreme power is vested in the people. The year 2023 will be a year we decide whether to continue wallowing in the valley of the shadow of death by allowing APC to continue, or we want to be taken to the promised land by a Nigerian who can unify this country and transform the economy.
“I therefore encourage Nigerians to get their permanent voters card; make sure we vote come 2023, protect our votes, and save this country from these economic cankerworms and scavengers, and have the economic transformation we all longed for,”