June 12 became the official Democracy Day in Nigeria from today, following the signing into law of the enabling bill to that effect by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday. This was in fulfilment of a promise he made last year to make June 12, instead of May 29, to be marked as Democracy Day.
June 12 is being celebrated this year 26 years after the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was presumably won by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale [MKO] Abiola of the Social Democratic Party. The election was subsequently annulled by the military regime, which plunged the country into chaos. Since then, many civil and political activists have agitated for June 12 election to be recognized and possibly revalidated. The contemporary political history of Nigeria cannot be written without reference to June 12, 1993 elections, which was a watershed in this country’s political history.
To put it in proper perspective, June 12 is very significant because it symbolises the kind of unity that the country had desired since Independence. It would be the first election whose result defied ethnic, regional and religious divides. The result declared before it was annulled by the military junta showed that Chief MKO Abiola triumphed all over the country, including in Kano State, the home of his National Republican Convention (NRC)opponent Alhaji Bashir Tofa.
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Abiola’s victory was also significant because both the Chief and his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, were Muslims. Their victory demolished the earlier assumption that a presidential ticket must be “religiously balanced.”
Now that Buhari has fulfilled his pledge to mark June 12 as Democracy Day, it has become imperative to remind Nigerians, especially the political class, that democracy is precisely about the people and their welfare. It is not in vain that the preamble of the 1999 Constitution provides a cardinal focus on the populace. It says, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”It went on to reflect the purpose of the existence of the country thus, “[for] promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people.” It is, therefore, not enough for Nigerians to mark June 12 as Democracy Day. Rather, those in power should shun greed, avarice, nepotism, corruption and other vices that combine to make life unbearable for the people.
It is not clear if President Buhari would disclose his plans for the next four years during today’s activities. Nigerians waited in vain on May 29, 2019 when he was sworn in for a second term to hear what his agenda would be. Even if he does not disclose his plans in the new dispensation it is necessary to remind the president, governors, National Assembly members and others elected and appointed into various offices that the country is in dire straits as we mark this Democracy Day. There is grinding poverty all over the country; unemployment has reached a tipping point. The Central Bank has already warned that the country could relapse into economic recession.
The ordinary citizen is hardly in a celebratory mood because the activities of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and insurgents have made life very miserable in Nigeria.These insecurity issues are compounded by the fact that the economy is growing at a snail’s slow speed, while population growth is galloping ahead. Health facilities are poor, making it difficult for Nigerians who live in rural areas to access primary health, while tertiary health institutions in the country are overstretched.
Therefore, while the country’s leaders are celebrating June 12 as Democracy Day, they must use the occasion productively to reflect on the teething problems facing the country and its people. For Democracy Day to have a real meaning in this country, we must rededicate ourselves to securing the country, improving its infrastructure and launching it on a path of sustained, rapid economic growth.
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