· Canvasses return to ideals of founding fathers
· Adegbenro wants Rewane, Tinubu immortalised
Segun James in Lagos
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday lamented the prevalent culture of manipulating the electoral process in Nigeria, urging civil society organisations (CSOs) and progressive political parties to join forces and prevent the country from outright descent into a failed nation.
In a similar development, Chief Executive Officer, Balmoral International Limited, Chief Adejare Adegbenro urged Nigerian authorities to immortalise his maternal grandfather, Chief Alfred Rewane and other symbols of democracy in the country.
The party made the pleas in a statement its Acting National Chairman, Chief Olasupo Shonibare issued yesterday to mark Democracy Day, emphasising the need to remember the country’s founding fathers, who worked to usher in a democratic, federal, independent nation.
Bashorun MKO Abiola contested the June 12, 1999 presidential election on the platform of the SDP. But the election, which Abiola was adjudged to have won, was annulled by the administration of former President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, thereby sparking protest and unrest nationwide.
After 26 years of sustained agitation, President Muhammadu Buhari finally declared June 12 as Democracy Day and recognised MKO Abiola as the President-elect in 2019.
SDP, a centre-left political organisation, also noted that the country should return to the ideals of the founding fathers – Mr. Ernest Ikoli, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, among others, to set the country on the path of progress.
SDP, however, lamented that Nigeria travelled along the path of entrenching an independent democratic culture for a short period of six years, but the nation departed from the covenant when the First Republic was abruptly terminated.
Citing events that had worked against the development of the country in the last 54 years, the party urged CSOs and progressives “to stand up to be counted to prevent the collapse of the Nigerian project. We must return our country to the path and spirit of June 12. Those who emerge from rigged and contrived elections may be our rulers, but they are not our elected leaders.
“We need to build up forces in the civil society groups and progressive political parties and the nation at large, to unite to found a political vehicle capable of championing the need to quickly evolve a united federal democratic culture, able to rescue the nation from the downward slide into the precipice of being a failed nation, with the attendant chaos and breakdown of law and order which that portends.”
Six years after the country’s independence, the party observed that this same tendency to dominate was re-enacted in the Second Republic, when anti-democratic tools were used to subvert the electoral process, the only tool available for a democratic culture to determine its leadership.
It said: “The blatant manipulation of the electoral process tainted the credibility of the results. Once we embark down that dark alley of falsifying the mandate of the electorate when determining those whom we elect to safeguard our wellbeing and generally superintend our collective wealth on our behalf, we depart from the path of being a democratic nation.
“The June 12, 1993 presidential election has set the benchmark for free and fair elections in Nigeria. That election demonstrated our capacity for unity in diversity – diversity in religion and ethnicity, among so many other factors. Nigerians were united in voting for a democratic culture and in their desire to consign the military to the barracks.”
Contrary to the spirit of June 12 election, the party lamented that Nigeria had digressed from the path of building on the electoral credibility to a polity characterised by electoral malpractices, allegations of involvement of security agencies supporting candidates and curious judicial electoral victories.
It said all these factors “negate the concept of one person one vote. We have also departed from the federal structure bequeathed on us and have strayed towards a unitary structure with its attendant fault lines, which our founding fathers had counselled was capable of halting the quest to found a stable united federal state in a multi-ethnic nation.”
In a statement he issued yesterday, Adegbenro called on all lovers of democracy in Nigeria and beyond to accord Rewane and other symbols of democracy, both alive and dead constant recognition through honour and immortalisation.
Adegbenro, a grandson to former Premier of the defunct western region, the late Chief Dauda Adegbenro made the call in Lagos at the weekend where he said Pa Rewane and others like him deserve prayers for their roles and sacrifices that led to the entrenchment of a civil rule in Nigeria.
Adegbenro observed that his maternal grandfather, Rewane and others like him paid supreme prizes for their love for a self-rule.
He added nothing is too much to honour heroes and martyrs of democracy in this country. Their memories, luckily still remains ever green in the peoples mind.
He said late Pa Alfred Rewane was the financier of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), that fought the military to a stand but was later assassinated by unknown gunmen suspected to be agents of the state.
He said said while the martyrs deserved immortalisation, the living heroes/heroine also deserve honour, respect and recognition, warning however that the tree of democracy nurtured with sweat and blood should not be allowed to derail through undemocratic conducts.
Other martyrs and heroes of democracy asides from Pa Rewane were Bashorun MKO Abiola, his wife, Kudirat Abiola, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Pa Solanke Onasanya, Lam Adesina and Pa Adekule Ajasin among others.
And the living ones are, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Dan Sulaeman, Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Professor Wole Soyinka, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), the Mr. Yinka Odumakin, his wife Dr. Joe, Alhaji Balarabe Musa Hon Wale Oshun, Col Umar Dangiwa and Senator Sheu Sani among others.