At Democracy Day, Buhari Promises Nigerians Free, Fair, Transparent Elections in 2023
*Wants candidates to run issue-based campaign
*Knocks Babangida’s govt for annuling June 12, 1993 presidential poll
*Atiku, Gbajabiamila, Tinubu, Obaseki, Sanwo-Olu, others urge Nigerians to remain hopeful
*Akeredolu cancels Democracy Day celebration over Owo carnage
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Gboyega Akinsamni, Segun James in Lagos and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
With less than a year to the end of his eight-year tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari has promised Nigerians that his administration will conduct a free, fair and transparent general election in the country in 2023.
While charging candidates in the scheduled polls to run an issue-based campaign, the president emphasised that his government would do everything possible to address the issue of terrorist attacks in some parts of the country.
President Buhari also gave hard knocks to the retired General Ibrahim Babangida-led military government for annulling the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by the late business mogul, Chief M K O Abiola.
Also on the occasion of the Democracy Day, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election, Atiku Abubakar; his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Senator Bola Tinubu; the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki; Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and human rights activist and President of Women Arise, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, have urged Nigerians not give up on hope.
This is coming as the Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu has cancelled the celebration of Democracy Day in the state due to last Sunday’s attack on the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo.
In a national broadcast this morning to commemorate the celebration of this year’s Democracy Day, President Buhari assured Nigerians of a free, fair and transparent electoral process come 2023, while also pleading with all citizens to come together and work with the government to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.
He charged the citizens to also support the electoral process that would deliver the desired results, especially in honour and memory of the June 12 icon, the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He stated that he would remain committed and determined to ensure that the new president is elected in 2023 through a peaceful and transparent process.
He charged Nigerians, especially those who would be involved in electoral campaigns, to ensure that the process is sustained in maturity, devoid of the ‘do-or-die’ spirit.
President Buhari also charged politicians and their followers to run their campaigns with a high sense of maturity and dignity, which had been sustained throughout the various parties’ primaries.
He said: “As we move into the general election campaign season, we must sustain this mature attitude to campaigning and ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a ‘do or die affair. We must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.
“I will therefore take this opportunity on this very special day to ask all candidates to continue running issue-focused campaigns and to treat opponents with dignity. As leaders, you must all showcase the high character and never forget that the world is watching us and Africa looks up to Nigeria to provide an example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated in your followers.
“For the voters, I am pleased to inform you that in the last seven years, our government across all tiers, has made significant investments to reform and enhance our electoral laws, systems, and processes to safeguard your votes,” Buhari explained.
Commenting on security challenges facing the nation and how they could affect the coming elections, President Buhari said the government was working to contain the issues so that the 2023 elections could be preserved and secure.
His words: “I know many of us are concerned with the rise in insecurity due to terrorist activities in parts of the country. As a government, we are working hard to contain and address these challenges. And ensure that the 2023 general elections are safe and secure for all Nigerians.
“To achieve this, however, we must all contribute. It is not the job of the government alone. I ask all citizens to support and cooperate with our security agencies by reporting any suspicious characters and activities to law enforcement agencies. We can only have a safe country if we can prevent a crime, not after the crime has been committed.”
“On this special day, I want us all to put all victims of terrorist activities in our thoughts and prayers. I am living daily with grief and worry for all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnapping. I and the security agencies are doing all we can to free those unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen safely.
“For those who have lost their lives, we will continue to seek justice for their families against the perpetrators. For those currently in captivity, we will not stop until they are freed, and their kidnappers are brought to justice. If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction,” Buhari added.
Buhari also flayed the administration of former military president, General Babangida, which annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential poll adjudged as the freest election ever conducted in the electoral history of Nigeria.
“On June 12, 1993, Nigerians saw the best in our citizens as we all went out to vote peacefully. By June 24, 1993, we also saw the worst of our leadership as the elections were annulled.
“We must never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of Nigeria’s democracy during 1993. Their patriotism and peaceful struggle should guide our actions especially when it comes to electing our leaders and holding them accountable, now and in future,” Buhari explained.
Atiku, Gbajabiamila, Tinubu, Obaseki, Others Urge Nigerians to Remain Hopeful
Meanwhile, in a statement Atiku signed as part of the 2022 Democracy Day message, the former vice president said the celebration should provide Nigerians with no room to stomach rhyme and rhetoric, but salient facts, sobriety and the promise of a better tomorrow.
He described it as an auspicious period to rally around all compatriots, to think and work in concert for the unity, security, equity, inclusivity, socio-economic prosperity and equitable development of our country.
“Let’s gather the numbers and commitment to kick out APC – the borrowing and sorrowing party. Let’s remember that Nigeria’s current debt burden stands at over N41 trillion with less than $40billion reserve”.
On his part, Tinubu in his June 12 message, said although Nigerians are diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion, everyone seeks good governance, better life and the positive things that result from sustained good governance.
According to him, “on this day, June 12, we celebrate democracy and commemorate those who have sacrificed so much to establish this most benign and noble form of governance in our land.”
On his part, Gbajabiamila said Nigerians have a lot to celebrate as the country’s democracy has developed in the past twenty-three years.
He expressed delight at how the citizens have embraced democratic governance in the past two decades, saying there is a lot to come in the coming years in terms of dividends of democracy.
In his message, Obaseki tasked Nigerians to uphold the ideals of the nation’s founding fathers, who fought assiduously for the realisation of an independent country rooted in the values of justice and equity.
The governor urged citizens to recommit to the process of “renewing ourselves and work in unison to make our country live up to its promise as the greatest black nation on earth.”
On his part, Sanwo-Olu urged Lagosians to let Democracy Day be a reminder of the importance of joining hands to build the future they want.
He said since the ultimate goal of democracy is to improve the lives of the people, his government has resolved not take this responsibility lightly at all.
Similarly, human rights activist and President of Women Arise, Dr Okei-Odumakin, in a statement, warned that as the scramble for 2023 gathers speed, the import of June 12, 1993, must remain in the mind of Nigerians as nothing has changed.
Akeredolu Cancels Democracy Day Celebration over Owo Carnage
In another development, Ondo State Governor, Akeredolu has cancelled the celebration of Democracy Day in the state due to last Sunday’s attack on the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo. Akeredolu announced the cancellation on his official Twitter handle, @RotimiAkeredolu yesterday.
In his tweet, Akeredolu said: “In honour of the victims of the terror attack at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, the Ondo State Government has cancelled this year’s June 12 celebration.”
“The cancellation is to enable the people of Ondo State to mourn their loved ones who lost their lives in the horrific attack.”
On their part, the South-west Speakers have condemned the gruesome attack on Owo Catholic church.
In a statement by the Chairman, South-west Speaker’s Conference, Hon. Bamidele Oleyelogun also commiserated with Akeredolu.
Oleyelogun, who is the Speaker Ondo State House of Assembly, said the ancient town of Owo, which was known for peace before the strike by terrorists caused havoc to many households affected by the ugly trend.
Nigeria is Being Handed over to Looters, ASUU Cries Out
Meanwhile, ASUU has warned that the exclusion of best brains in Nigerian politics through high nomination forms would place the future of the country in the hands of looters.
The Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter of the union, Prof. Ayoola Akinwole, gave the warning in a June 12 message issued yesterday in Ibadan.
“It is a strategy of handing over the country to those individuals who have looted the country in the past. If this practice goes unchallenged, Nigerians are in for not just another regime of poor governance but that of extreme corruption and looting.”
He disclosed that it will take a Nigerian Professor who earns N416, 000 per month but saves 20 per cent of his salary over 100 years to be able to purchase the presidential nomination form of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and over 40 years to buy the form of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Akinwole maintained that the 23 years of the return of democracy have been characterised by “leadership of empty promises and dashed hopes.”