Recently, precisely on June 12, we celebrated National Democracy Day. This is quite significant from many perspectives. First, it signals the official recognition of June 12 as a milestone in our political landscape. Second, considering that we have had 21 years of unbroken democratic experience since 1999, it could be safely affirmed that democracy is steadily becoming an entrenched political culture here. Third, the supreme price paid by many Nigerians over the annulled June 12 election is not in vain. Fourth, our country could be a better place, if we all chose to play our role rightly.

Certainly, we have not really had it so smooth since independence in 1960. But then, no nation ever really has it smooth. The most developed nations of the world today equally had their evolving phases, but they were resolute and focused on their preferred destination.

Thus, every Nigerian has a role to play in moving the nation forward. There is no point in passing the buck. We should stop the blame game. We must all have a rethink about the future of our nation. If some are building and others are pulling down, the building will definitely collapse. No matter what happens, this is the only country that we can call our own.

Politics, religion and ethnicity should not be used as platforms to divide us. It doesn’t matter where we are, we can get to where we ought to be if we are determined to build a stronger and better nation. We can do it. We have the potential. We have the resources. All we need is a strong resolve to start afresh. Let nothing diverts or deters us from this noble course.

That we have remained as one indivisible entity for almost 60 years in spite of all odds is quite impressive. With steady economic growth, a stable democratic government and broad support from development partners, the Nigeria of our collective dream and aspiration could be attained.

To consolidate democracy, restore a functioning economy, and promote sustainable economic growth, we need to strengthen the various organs of government and other institutions of governance. We must keep focusing; keep doing the right things for our country. We must do all we can to escape the condemnation and damnation of history and posterity.

We cannot be the people and the generation that gave up even as others fought to save their own countries. Nigeria is our country, it is the one we truly own. Let us be united in saving our nation. Our outward expression of unity will reflect our inward unity of purpose.

All levels of government must become more committed to the welfare of the people, especially through the provision of basic infrastructure and amenities that would make life better for the citizenry. Perhaps, this may reduce the pressure on the people for daily survival.

For the progress of our nation, it is imperative to raise a critical mass dedicated to restoring the destiny of Nigeria by living above corruption, fighting corruption and conquering corruption. When every Nigerian is ready for positive change and truly live for such, our collective aspiration for a better country would not be disillusioned.

Against the backdrop of a growing population of idle youths, especially in the northern part of the country, we need to come up with a clear-cut youth policy that will channel the youthful vigour of our youth into proper use. If not, the army of the unemployed youths in the country could constitute a time bomb, waiting to explode anytime.

The renaissance of June 12 must be a lesson for us on the need for national cohesion. We should not allow needless tribal and ethnic sentiments to keep dividing us. If we do, we would only be making a mockery of our 60 years of nationhood. Individuals and organisations with influence and means should educate the masses on the imperative for national unity, harmony and cohesion.

Lee Kuan Yew, architect of modern Singapore, visited Nigeria a few days before the military struck on Saturday, January 15, 1966. His visit was in connection with the Commonwealth Conference held in Lagos on Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. His conclusion about Nigeria in 1966 is contained in a book he wrote in 2000 titled: ‘From Third World to First’. In the book, he concluded thus: “I think their tribal loyalties were stronger than their sense of common nationhood”. Years after the iconic leader made that remark, can we in all honesty say we have overcome tribal prejudices?

One would like to close with the enduring words of Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States of America: “Even though this is late in an election year, there is no way we can go forward except together and no way anybody can win except by serving the people’s urgent needs. We cannot stand still or slip backwards. We must go forward now together”.

Tayo Ogunbiyi, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja