The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday in Abuja, promised to facilitate a “free, fair and transparent electoral process” in next year’s general elections.
This, he said, would be a way to honour the memory of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late MKO Abiola.
Buhari made the pledge on Saturday in his 2022 Democracy Day speech.
The President called on political parties, candidates and the electorate not to regard the elections as a do-or-die affair, adding that democracy is about the will of the majority and therefore, “there must be winners and losers.”
Speaking in a televised broadcast, Buhari expressed his satisfaction with the primary elections conducted across various political parties ahead of next year’s general elections, saying the primaries had set the tone for peaceful polls next year.
He said, “Fellow Nigerians, this is my last Democracy Day speech as your President. By June 12, 2023, exactly one year from today, you will already have a new President. I remain committed and determined to ensure that the new President is elected through a peaceful and transparent process.
“It is important for all of us to remember that June 12, 2023 will be exactly 30 years from the 1993 Presidential elections. In honour and memory of one of our national heroes of democracy, Chief M.K.O Abiola, GCFR, we must all work together to ensure this transition is done in a peaceful manner. I am hopeful that we can achieve this.
“The signs so far are positive. Recently, all registered political parties conducted primaries to select their candidates for the 2023 general elections. 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 issue-based campaigns. The language and tone throughout were on the whole measured and controlled.
“I am 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.”
Buhari called on candidates in next year’s elections to imbibe issues-based approach and desist from character assassination as campaigns officially begin in September.
“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. 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,” Buhari said.
He said his government, in the last seven years, had made “significant investments to reform and enhance our electoral laws, systems, and processes to safeguard votes.”
While saying that his government was doing all within its power to safeguard the nation and protect citizens, Buhari urged Nigerians to play their part as security agencies could not shoulder the burden alone.
He added, “On this special day, I want us all to put all victims of terrorist activities in our thoughts and prayers. I am living daily with the grief and worry for all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnapping. The security agencies and I are doing all we can to free those unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen safely.
“If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction. I will conclude this Democracy Day speech, my last as President, by assuring you of my commitment to protect Nigeria and Nigerians from all enemies from within and outside.”
Nigeria’s democracy now fraudulent – Okei-Odumakin
Meanwhile, sociopolitical activist and President of Women Arise, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, said on Saturday that electoral fraud might have become legalised and institutionalised in Nigeria, despite being the very thing that the June 12 struggle was against.
The activist, who this on Saturday in a statement to commemorate the June 12, decried the widespread monetisation of the nation’s electoral process.
She said, “Today, the election space has been totally militarised and monetised as indeed the entire society. People speak about N100m 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.”
Okei-Odumakin demanded that the history of Nigeria and the June 12 struggle should be taught in schools.
“June 12 must be taught. Approval should not be sought to teach kids their past. Conscientious authorities should find ways around attempts to keep generations of Nigerian youths ignorant,” she said.
Obaseki, Yahaya Bello, Lagos speaker preach fidelity to democratic ideals
The Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, and his Kogi counter, Yahaya Bello, in their separate Democracy Day messages, urged citizens to recommit themselves to democratic ideals and work in unison to make the country live up to its promise as the greatest black nation on earth.
Obaseki, in his message, said, “Since our return to democratic rule in 1999, we have continued on a very crucial task of engendering development in Nigeria, even with the attendant daunting challenges.
“We are at a crossroads, as it appears we are yet to get the full dividend of democracy and feel unsure sometimes of the gains of democracy. It behoves us to keep faith and trust the process, as democracy is a self-renewing process and we are definitely sure to get it right if we stay the course.”
On his part, Bello, who was an aspirant in the just concluded presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress, recalled that “I was in secondary school in 1993, when the struggle began and almost 30 years after, we are here to bear the torchlight of that struggle.
“Today, we are commemorating and remembering June 12, championed by our father, our hero, our legend, our icon, Chief MKO Abiola, and Hajiya Kudirat Abiola.
“I appreciate God Almighty and all those who stood firm, saw a vision, sacrificed and are still sacrificing for the cause of democracy in Nigeria.
“Chief MKO Abiola represents hope for this country for the current and future generations and that is why I am happy that his prodigies, not only immediate family but all of us are carrying on with that struggle, and by the special grace of God, our struggles shall never be in vain.”
Also speaking, Abiola’s daughter, who was Director-General of Yahaya Bello Presidential Campaign Organisation, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, said she believed the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, would help to actualise MKO Abiola’s ideals.
She said, “Twenty-nine years after June 12, it is still a message of hope. Yesterday (Friday), we had the pleasure of being in the important meeting where His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello received presidential flagbearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu at our campaign secretariat.
“Based on the conversation, there is hope for Nigerian women, there is hope for Nigerian young people, Nigerians with special needs.”
Similarly, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, said as current bearers of the baton of democracy, lawmakers remained steadfast in their resolve to make democracy work for all Nigerians.
Obasa this in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Eromosele Ebhomele, on Saturday.
He said, “We thank Nigerian leaders, the civil society and citizens who joined in the struggle for the emancipation of the country from the military and remain steadfast in our resolve to make our democracy truly work for us all as Nigerians.
“History will forever be kind to those who made Nigeria’s democracy possible. They are our country’s real heroes. We are honoured to be the current bearers of the baton of democracy and we look forward to upholding the labour of these heroes.”
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