The power of truth to set men free from the limiting chains of falsehood and limiting superstitions is one of the most poignant spiritual verities that has proven to be valid across time and space over the last two millennia. In the realm of politics, the most fundamental truth that man has discovered is that power can be the handmaiden of progress and accelerated development only if it flows from the will of the electorate as determined in regular, free, fair and credible elections.
This is why, in spite of its many flaws and failings, man is yet to invent a form of government superior to democracy – the famed government of the people, by the people and for the people-. It is thus understandable and indeed justified that Nigerians are elated that the country has recorded 20 years of unbroken democratic rule since 1999.
Today, we commemorate the country’s emergent democracy in a way that is certainly more spiritually fulfilling and psychologically satisfying than has ever been the case since 1999. For, thanks to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the assent of the National Assembly, we are for the first time today celebrating our democracy as a nation on a historic day, June 12, which coincides with the day that the seed of today’s democratic sprouting was sown 26 years ago.
What we had been commemorating on May 29th of every year since the democratic restoration of 1999 has been the day of the handover of power from the military regime to the elected civilian administration. As important as it certainly is, May 29 does not carry the weight of significance that June 12 does in Nigeria’s democratic evolution. May 29th is at best an arbitrary date on which the military chose to hand over the reins of power to an elected civilian government in 1999.
Observing May 29 as democracy day delinks the country’s democratic experience since 1999 from the protracted and bitter struggle against military dictatorship from June 12, 1993, till the forced exit of the military in 1999. Without those who stoutly stood on June 12 and sacrificed life, limb, freedom, economic ruin, psychological devastation and more in the battle against tyranny, there would most certainly not have been any May 29, 1999, handover to commemorate.
The democracy we enjoy today was not won on a peaceful and comfortable “platter of gold”. It was not gifted to Nigerians by a benevolent military regime. It is the product of the sweat, tears, blood, pain, toil and anguish of millions of Nigerians. That is why we can never afford to take it for granted or do anything to threaten its existence.
June 12 must serve as a continual reminder to Nigerians on the imperative of pursuing the cause of justice in all spheres of our lives at all times as a necessary condition for peace, prosperity and progress. As we kick off from today the annual celebration of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, let us renew our commitment to utilizing democracy as a vehicle for eliminating poverty in our land as well as providing prosperity and life more abundant for the teeming millions of our people.
It was indeed his deep aversion to poverty and the avoidable suffering of the majority of our people that compelled Chief MKO Abiola to contest Nigeria’s presidency and thus his campaign slogan was “Farewell to Poverty”. The problem of poverty remains primal and fundamental in our land today. Indeed, at the root of the severe existential challenges, which confront the country today such as religious extremism, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, cultism, ritual killing, armed, robbery, communal violence and herdsmen/farmers clashes among other is the protracted economic crisis that has worsened poverty, unemployment and inequality in Nigeria over the last four decades.
It is indeed incumbent on us all, particularly those in positions of authority at all levels, to vigorously support President Muhammadu Buhari administration as it invests massively and on an unprecedented scale in the renewal and expansion of infrastructure as well as its various social intervention programmes aimed at uplifting the vast majority of our people out of dehumanizing poverty, political instability and insecurity.
We must take concerted efforts to banish poverty from Nigeria. To rid Nigeria of poverty is indeed a task that must be done. As the historic restoration of June 12 to its proper place by the Buhari administration sets democracy free to soar in our land, let us rededicate ourselves to the challenge of utilizing democracy to set Nigeria free from poverty. God bless our fatherland.
-Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the National Leader of the APC