DEMOCRACY DAY 2020: CELEBRATING MUHAMMADU BUHARI’S LEGACY OF HOPE

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    On the 29th of May 1999, a democratically elected
    President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was
    sworn-in at Eagle Square Abuja. The event in itself
    represented one of the most significant moments in
    the history of our nation’s leadership after decades
    of military dictatorship. As Nigerians celebrated and
    looked forward to a new era of governance rooted
    on equity, justice and rule of law, there was still an
    air of uncertainty noticeable among many as a
    consequence of certain events that transpired in our
    recent past. A lot were skeptical if this “new
    experiment” would work, while others believed there
    were still a lot of unanswered questions that needed
    closure. Unfortunately for those who belonged to
    the latter group, those questions were never
    answered even as the larger population eventually
    settled in to a new world of democratic governance.
    To better understand the significance of democracy
    day in relation to who we are, it is important for us
    to take a little step back into our history.
    In June 1993, Chief Moshood (M.K.O.) Abiola, a
    muslim businessman and philanthropist, ran for the
    presidency of Nigeria and was widely adjudged to
    have won the popular vote in what was considered
    the freest and fairest election in Nigerian history. It
    was unprecedented simply because his message of
    “hope” resonated across the length and breath of
    the nation, breaking barriers of ethnicity and
    religion. Unfortunately, the elections were annulled
    by the then Nigeria’s military leader, Gen. Ibrahim
    Babangida on the basis that the election was
    fraudulent. When Abiola rallied support to claim the
    presidency he believed he rightly won, he was
    arrested for treason by the military regime led by
    General Sani Abacha and sent to prison.
    In June 1998, General Abacha was found dead
    under mysterious circumstances. One month later,
    on the day that Abiola was to be released from
    prison, he met with a U.S. delegation in Nigeria
    which included Assistant Secretary Susan Rice and
    Under Secretary Thomas Pickering to discuss the
    country’s planned transition to democratic rule.
    During the July 7 meeting Abiola suddenly became
    ill, collapsed and later died in a hospital.
    Following the accepted layout of a transition to civil
    rule chaperoned by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar,
    there were deep rooted yearnings among Nigerians
    for national reconciliation to take place following
    the way M.K.O Abiola died without being allowed
    to exercise the mandate he was freely given by
    Nigerians. It eventually became an informal
    consensus of sorts. The narrative advocated for
    compensation for the south-west region for the
    presidency of Nigeria, which eventually paved way
    for the election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as
    President.
    Between 1999 and 2014, the party that brought
    Obasanjo to power, PDP began an inglorious task of
    trying to rewrite our history. With no recourse to
    reason, Obasanjo declared May 29th, the day he
    was sworn in, as Nigeria’s Democracy day. By
    making it a day set aside to celebrate and
    appreciate the struggles of all those who laid their
    lives to ensure civil rule in Nigeria, Obasanjo’s aim
    was simply to rewrite history in such a way as to
    make him the only focus of democracy in Nigeria. It
    was absolutely important to him that he alone took
    all the glory. In the list of the heroes championed
    by his government, the likes of M.K.O Abiola, Gani
    Fawehinmi, Kudirat Abiola to name a few were
    purposely never recognized and their memory
    systemically wiped off. National recognitions and
    awards were rather given to those who did
    Obasanjo’s bidding to help his quest to perpetuate
    himself in power as life president.
    Now priding themselves as the largest party in
    Africa, the PDP went ahead on a self aggrandizing
    campaign to recognize itself as the only foundation
    of democracy in Nigeria. They prided themselves as
    the be all and end all when it comes to good
    governance in the region. This singular act of
    wickedness opened up a new way of life where
    impunity and disregard for the rule of law became a
    norm among the ruling class. For the first time in
    public service, we began to hear strange phrases
    like “family affair” where criminality was pardoned
    and pampered once you were a member of the
    ruling party. The resultant effect? Nigeria was
    stripped and raped beyond measures, from the
    presidency to the local councils. Those entrusted to
    govern became Olympian gods, the treasury became
    their purse to lavish and please, and corruption
    became a household name in Nigeria. Nigeria lost
    her identity among the comity of nations, laws were
    made to suit personal whims, and the youths were
    denied any opportunity to be inspired by their
    history. Our Democracy became a mockery of the
    ideals for which it set off to achieve in 1999.
    Reality
    After President Olusegun Obasanjo’s quest for life
    presidency failed and he was forced to vacate office
    in 2007, successive governments after him failed to
    seize the moment in building a democratic identity
    that would be a reflection of who we are. Following
    the sad death of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua,
    Goodluck Jonathan became President. Whereas
    corruption under his tenure became a monster that
    could no longer be tamed and our infrastructure
    decayed, his administration refused to appreciate
    the significance of a true democracy day. It was
    once again a date to celebrate PDP as a party. His
    administration brushed aside calls for Mr Abiola to
    be nationally recognized and honoured and in the
    process created a deeper disconnect than that left
    by Obasanjo between his government and people of
    the south-west. His half hearted attempt to rename
    the University of Lagos founded in 1962 to
    Moshood Abiola University on 29th May 2012 was
    vehemently rejected by the region, because the
    motives were simply perceived as patronizing.
    Amongst many reasons, erudite scholars asked how
    sincere the government was when they refuse to
    recognize the sacrifices of the individual and the
    role he played for democracy to thrive in Nigeria
    through reaching out to members of his family still
    alive, yet wanting to name an institution after him.
    When President Goodluck Jonathan decided to run
    for re-election in 2014, he belatedly understood the
    folly of his type of leadership. The country by then
    had been deeply divided along regional lines, and it
    was obvious his administration was a failure. His
    concerted efforts during the campaigns to reach out
    for support to the south-west through billions of
    naira given as campaign bribe to certain individuals,
    was an exercise in futility. At a stage, Jonathan
    relocated to the south-west, pleading and begging
    for support from the very region he refused to
    acknowledge their requests for 6 years. The writing
    was on the wall, everyone else saw it but him.
    When he lost at the polls, there was a sigh of relief
    even from the grave, as Nigeria and Nigerians knew
    things simply had to change.
    Hope
    Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as President on
    29th May 2015. In his inaugural speech, he made it
    known to all that he belonged to everybody and
    belonged to no one. His election into office had
    given Nigerians a new breath of air. The monster
    called PDP which had become a machinery of
    oppression, profligacy and intimidation had finally
    been overcome by the people. Even Obasanjo at a
    stage during the 2014 campaigns accepted that the
    monster he helped create had become a disaster
    that needed to be killed. How ironic.
    Buhari’s leadership has above everything else
    opened up a new discuss on Nigeria. Since 2015,
    Nigeria has undergone committed infrastructural
    development like never seen even through the 16
    years the PDP were in power. True to his words, the
    president has belonged to everybody. His honesty,
    sincerity and impeccable integrity has been the
    foundation upon which Nigeria is currently being
    rebuilt. Despite meeting an empty treasury and the
    dwindling price of oil which has grossly affected
    revenue, his administration has remained focused
    and committed in delivering democracy to the
    people.
    President Buhari right from day one has refused to
    meddle into the affairs of the different arms of
    government. He has stood by the dictates of rule of
    law, and today we are seeing the benefits. His
    commitment towards strengthening institutions has
    led to new laws that will outlive his administration
    and set Nigeria back on course for greatness.
    In the development of infrastructure, the president
    has remained fair and focused. A clear example can
    be drawn from the south-eastern part of the country.
    Despite the opposition, reject and refusal by a larger
    population of the region towards him since 2015,
    his administration to date has done more in 5 years
    for the region than the PDP has simply dreamt of
    ever accomplishing over the past 16 years. The
    international airport in Enugu for instance was never
    upgraded to meet the status by the past
    government despite huge sums approved and
    diverted, but this administration has remodeled and
    invested enough to enable people from the region
    access international routes effortlessly. The 2nd
    Niger bridge which has been used as a political
    campaign tool since 1999 saw no single
    investment allocated to it until President Buhari
    came into power. To appreciate how wicked the
    past administrations were, this current dilapidated
    Niger Bridge is the only singular route that connects
    the south-east to the south-west, and if that bridge
    collapses the region is completely cut off. You then
    wonder, how could the PDP have claimed to love
    the south-east when for 16 years they could not
    muster the political will to build a new bridge?
    Today, the 2nd Niger Bridge is at more than 60%
    completion and work is ongoing. Yet the people
    claim that the president hate them? Also the Port-
    Harcourt – Enugu – Onitsha expressway is receiving
    unprecedented reconstruction and a portion of the
    road has even been increased to 8-lanes! The sea
    port in Calabar is now functional allowing traders
    from the region options to bring in their goods
    outside Lagos, while plans are almost at advanced
    stage for dredging of the River Niger to commence.
    These are just to mention but a few.
    Fiscal discipline and prudent management of
    national resources aside, this administration also
    understands the importance of history and justice. It
    is to this essence that Nigerians must above
    everything commend President Muhammadu Buhari
    for his magnanimity in refusing to follow the
    footsteps of his predecessors and deciding to
    revisit our history to make amends for the good of
    our future.
    “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been
    celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day. That was
    the date when for the second time in our history, an
    elected civilian administration took over from a
    military government. The first time this happened
    was on October 21st, 1979. But in the view of
    Nigerians, as shared by this Administration, June
    12th, 1993, was far more symbolic of Democracy in
    the Nigerian context than May 29th or even the
    October 1st. June 12th, 1993 was the day when
    Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic
    will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and
    most peaceful elections since our Independence.
    The fact that the outcome of that election was not
    upheld by the then military Government does not
    distract from the democratic credentials of that
    process.
    Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal
    government has decided that henceforth, June 12th
    will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore,
    Government has decided to award posthumously the
    highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO
    Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993
    cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice
    President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also
    to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the
    tireless fighter for human rights and the
    actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed
    for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani
    Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded the GCON.
    The investiture will take place on Tuesday June
    12th, 2018, a date which in future years will replace
    May 29th as a National Public Holiday in
    celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day.”
    In those few words, history was re-written in
    Nigeria. Justice played itself out in the most
    unlikely of scenarios, where courage and honor
    stood out for the sake of posterity.
    Today, our democratic clock has been rightly reset
    and 2020 marks the beginning of a new decade of
    hope for Nigerians.
    Muhammadu Buhari GCFR has left behind him a
    legacy that for centuries to come, generations
    unborn will understand the struggles we went
    through as a people to attain democracy in Nigeria.
    The significance of this action by the president is
    one that maybe will only be better appreciated after
    he leaves office. It is a selfless act of leadership. It
    is a proper foundation on which accountability and
    good governance can be better appreciated over
    time. It is a celebration of who we are, because
    until we appreciate where we came from, it will be
    difficult to understand where we are going to as a
    people.
    As we celebrate democracy day, let us reflect upon
    the past and the significance of this date and
    moment in our history. Let us appreciate the
    sacrifices of those who laid their lives for us, to
    make sure we had a say in our lives. It is very
    important to always teach our children the essence
    of today and what it represents in our collective
    existence as Nigerians.
    Let us also never forget the courage and sacrifice
    of Muhammadu Buhari, for he it was that gave
    Nigerians hope for a better future.
    Happy Democracy day

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