Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Wednesday declared that June 12 demanded something bigger than merely declaring it a Democracy Day and carpeted the federal government for wasting resources in the celebration when Nigerians were hungry.
Though Atiku acknowledged that June 12 remained a threshold in Nigeria’s national life, he demanded some soul-searching from Nigerians.
He said in a statement in Abuja that the day was one to ask the salient question of “How better off are Nigerians?”
According to him, June 12 demands something bigger than merely declaring it a Democracy Day.
“June 12 is at the soul of our democratic struggle; a threshold in our national life.
“The significance of the celebration of June 12, 1993, presidential election is a reminder of our history to becoming a democratic country.
“On this day 26 years ago, Nigeria voted for democracy against the jackboot notion of oppressive totalitarianism.
“The collective decision by Nigerians to elect democracy on that day was not to aggrandise the political elite or to replace military dictatorship with civilian autocracy. No.
“The choice of democracy was to restore power to the people,” he said.
According to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the last general election, there is still disrespect for the rule of law and disregard of court orders on issues that border on fundamental human rights.
Atiku said that it was not enough to declare June 12 a work-free day when ordinary Nigerians still didn’t have the freedom to find a better life from the grip of poverty.
“It is not enough to declare June 12 a work-free day when a disproportionate number of citizens are not sure of where their next meal will come from and when the sanctity of their lives is not guaranteed.
“It is not enough to declare June 12 a work-free day when freedom of the press, and of speech, fundamentals of democracy is being assailed.”
Atiku said that as a compatriot who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the icon of the June 12 struggle, the late Chief MKO Abiola, he knew first-hand that the choice of HOPE as his campaign slogan wasn’t “merely a populist tokenism.”
He said Abiola did not mean to deceive Nigerians with a hope he could not deliver upon.
“Today, the minimum requirement for any June 12 convert is to demand of them wherever they may be – either in government or in private lives – to deliver on the promises they made to the people.”
Atiku said that being a lover of June 12 was to believe in the common good of the people. “June 12 is about the political leadership having the focus to retool the Nigerian economy.
“It is about having the skills to create wealth and jobs for the teeming mass of unemployed. It is not about the inclination for shared pains; it is about shared prosperity.
“As we celebrate yet another episode of the June 12 struggle, the desire for hope is more preponderant today much as it was 26 years ago. “So, for all true lovers of democracy, let us keep the hope alive.”